Formula One: Max Verstappen claims pole for Canadian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso on front row

Max Verstappen shakes hands with Fernando Alonso after the qualifying session.
Max Verstappen shakes hands with Fernando Alonso after the qualifying session. Photo credit: Getty Images

Red Bull's Formula One leader Max Verstappen has shone in the wet to take pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix, as Alpine's evergreen Fernando Alonso celebrated his first front row in a decade.

Verstappen's main title rivals sunk out of sight, with Mexican teammate Sergio Perez crashing and qualifying 13th, while Ferrari's Charles Leclerc ended a run of four poles, dropping to 19th with engine penalties.

"I still expect it not to be a straightforward race," said Verstappen, after his second pole in nine races. "But today, with the tricky conditions, we stayed calm and didn't make mistakes."

His qualifying time of 1m 21.299s was 0.645s faster than Alonso's surprising best.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz was third fastest on a drying track and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton fourth for Mercedes on a weekend dominated by talk of bouncing cars and driver safety.

"I can't tell you how happy I am," said Hamilton of his best Saturday showing so far this season.

"On pure pace in the dry, we're still a long way off, but to get top four in qualifying in those conditions is awesome."

Monday's race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will be the first in Canada since 2019 and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with sunny and dry conditions forecast.

Verstappen has won four of the last five races, with Red Bull chasing a sixth in a row. He leads  Perez by 21 points, with Leclerc a further 13 behind.

Double world champion Alonso, 40 - the oldest man on the grid - had been fastest in final practice and Monday will be his first appearance on the front row since 2012, when he was on pole for Ferrari in Germany.

The wily Spaniard said with a grin that he planned to attack Verstappen into the first corner and hoped to lead at least momentarily.

Haas's Kevin Magnussen qualified fifth, with teammate Mick Schumacher a career-highest sixth. Alpine's Esteban Ocon lines up seventh and Mercedes' George Russell eighth.

McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo qualified ninth and Chinese rookie Zhou Guanyu lines up 10th for Ferrari-powered Alfa Romeo.

Qualifying was halted in the second phase, when Perez went straight into the Tecpro barrier between turns three and four, and could not reverse out.

The car had to be craned off and the barriers repaired, before the session resumed.

Perez qualified one place ahead of McLaren's Lando Norris, who failed to set a time in the second stage, after reporting an issue with the power unit that the team could not fix.

Aston Martin's four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and Canadian Lance Stroll failed to progress through the rain and spray of the opening phase, after they had raised hopes in final practice.

Nicholas Latifi completed a miserable afternoon for Canadian drivers in 19th place, although the Williams driver will move up a slot, after Leclerc's demotion.