Nico Rosberg takes pole in Canada

NICO Rosberg left no-one in any doubt as to the validity of his pole position to leave Lewis Hamilton choking with begrudging respect.

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg and his team practise a pit stop. Picture: Getty Images

A fortnight ago, post-qualifying, the air over Monaco was thick with acrimony and accusation after Rosberg had claimed top spot on the grid in contentious circumstances.

Hamilton implied Rosberg had deliberately thwarted his final hot lap to deny him the most important pole of the season, an incident that proved crucial as the latter went on to claim victory and return to the top of the title race by four points.

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Fast forward two weeks and on to the Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a track where Hamilton has triumphed three times in seven years, as well as claiming pole on three occasions.

Hamilton was up by seven tenths of a second after Q1, and four tenths following Q2, but come the top-ten shoot-out it was Rosberg and not the Briton who proved fastest.

The margin in Rosberg’s favour after the first flying lap was just 0.068secs, a gap that improved marginally after the second and final flyer to 0.079secs.

Fully aware of Hamilton’s excellent record at this circuit, Rosberg said: “I know it’s a track where Lewis is really strong, so I’m very happy it has worked out.

“It has been a fantastic day, and through the weekend we have been progressing all the time and I’m in the best position for tomorrow.”

Unlike Monaco, pole is not the be all and end all in Montreal as only four times in the past ten years has the man at the head of the field gone on to take the chequered flag.

Rosberg, though, is full of confidence, adding: “I’ve come here having won the last race and it helps a bit. Lewis had that winning streak (four successive victories) and to bring that to an end was important.”

As to where he has gained the upper hand, the 28-year-old said: “It’s just working at it all the time. I’m looking at the data, working with my engineers and trying to understand areas where I can do better.”

Knowing he had been beaten fair and square on this occasion, Hamilton said: “Nico did a fantastic job, so congratulations to him.

“My final lap was not particularly bad. It just wasn’t the greatest qualifying. Sometimes you have a good qualifying, sometimes you have bad qualifying. Nico just did a better job, so I need to work hard to make sure I do better tomorrow.”

“But it’s great to get a one-two for the team. Let’s hope we can make history tomorrow,” – a reference to the fact a one-two in the race will set a new F1 record for Mercedes of six in a row. Reigning four-times champion Sebastian Vettel was the best of the rest, albeit seven tenths of a second adrift of Rosberg.

Williams pair Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa will start fourth and fifth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in his Red Bull. Ferrari pair Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, who had seemed set to challenge here, could only manage sixth and tenth.