Nico Rosberg has thrown down the gauntlet to team-mate Lewis Hamilton after claiming pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix.
The German’s 1:14.874 was just enough as Hamilton made a minor mistake on his final lap costing him top spot. Beating Lewis is huge for Rosberg because Montreal is seen as the Briton’s strongest track on the calendar and so a victory in tomorrow’s race could see the pendulum swing back in Nico’s favour.
Behind the fierce Mercedes battle another mighty scrap developed between Williams and Red Bull as the more powerful Mercedes power unit allowed the Grove team to fight nearer the front.
In the end the four drivers were covered by just four hundredths of a second with Sebastian Vettel producing his best qualifying lap of the year to take third ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa as Daniel Ricciardo had to settle for sixth.
In the earlier segments it looked as if Williams could even challenge the Mercedes duo but as the Silver Arrows ramped up the power both Rosberg and Hamilton held around a half second advantage over the rest of the field.
Ferrari’s early weekend promise was unfulfilled as Fernando Alonso could only qualify seventh, three tenths shy of the Williams – Red Bull duel.
Kimi Raikkonen endured a scruffy lap, which was out of sync with those around him, and as a result finished tenth of the ten cars in the final session.
Jean-Eric Vergne has been strong at Montreal in the past and impressed again taking eighth for Toro Rosso with Jenson Button also hauling the McLaren into the top 10 in eighth.
The disappointing team of the weekend so far has been Force India and the theme continued into qualifying with both cars failing to make Q3.
Nico Hulkenberg was most people’s bet for a podium earlier in the week, however, the German was only 11th quickest with team-mate Sergio Perez in 13th.
Kevin Magnussen was squashed between them in 12th with the Renault powered cars of Romain Grosjean and Daniil Kvyat in 14th and 15th.
Adrian Sutil continued Sauber’s poor form in 16th but it was worse for Esteban Gutierrez who was unable to take part after a crash in morning practice, he will start last.
Joining him and the two slower teams is Pastor Maldonado as the Venezuelan was not quick enough on his first lap using the super-soft tyres before stopping out on track.
He will start 17th ahead of the two Marussia’s as Max Chilton beat his team-mate Jules Bianchi. Caterham were again the slowest team overall with Kamui Kobayashi in front of Marcus Ericcson who ended the session in the wall after losing the rear of the car exiting turn nine.
At the front, however, the battle lines are being drawn ahead of what promises to be another big confrontation between Rosberg and Hamilton.
The Briton has been the faster of the two throughout practice and may still go into the race as favourite given overtaking is much easier in Montreal than in Monaco.