Rain lashed the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve all day, upending Friday’s dry-weather form book, but Verstappen remained the man to beat, his well-known wet-weather prowess helping him maintain a stranglehold over the field.
The Dutchman’s last three laps of Q3 were all good enough for the two four, and either of his last two laps would have been good enough for pole, but his final attempt but him a comfortably 0.645 seconds ahead of Alonso to deliver him just his second pole position of the season.
“Of course I still expect it not to be a straightforward race [in the dry], but today with the tricky conditions we stayed calm and didn’t make mistakes,” he said.
But it was Alonso’s front row-grabbing performance that most impressed, the 40-year-old Spaniard winding back the clock for his best qualifying result since taking pole at the 2012 German Grand Prix.
The Alpine car has been quick in the dry and the wet this weekend in Alonso’s hands, and he wielded it to perfection late in Q3 to pip Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz to second place by 0.15 seconds.
“It feels great,” he said. “It was an unbelievable weekend for us.
“Thanks to the wet conditions today the car was mega. I was so comfortable with this car.”
Sainz was almost 0.8 seconds slower than Verstappen as Ferrari’s lone standard-bearer, though he expects to be a better match for the championship pleader on what’s forecast to be a dry Sunday.
“That’s the target,” he said. “I think we’re in a good position for tomorrow. I think it’s going to be good fight with Max up front, and let’s see what we do with Fernando, because he’s been quick all weekend.”
Lewis Hamilton was a relieved fourth at the end of Q3 after a “disaster” of a Friday struggling to come to terms with his difficult 2022 Mercedes. He was still 1.5 seconds off the pace, but he found his car to be more pliable in the wet to keep him at the head of the midfield.
Kevin Magnussen led Haas teammate Mick Schumacher to fifth and sixth, the latter’s best ever qualifying result in Formula 1.
Esteban Ocon was seventh in the second Alpine ahead of George Russell, who risked slick tyre late in Q3 but almost immediately spun off the track and into the barrier.
Daniel Ricciardo qualified ninth ahead of Zhou Guanyu in the Alfa Romeo rookie’s first top-10 appearance.
Valtteri Bottas was knockout out 11th ahead of Thai driver Alex Albon, whose car survived a low-speed crash halfway through Q2 to power him to 12th.
Sergio Perez lost his qualifying session to a heavier front-on collision with the barriers at turn 4. Unable to extricate the car under his own power, he caused a red flag that left him 13th on the grid
Lando Norris qualified 14th with technical problem ahead of Charles Leclerc, who will drop to the back row of the grid for using too many power unit parts.
Pierre Gasly will start 15th ahead of Aston Martin teammates Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll, the latter more than a second slower in the slick conditions.
Canadian Williams driver Nicholas Latifi will start 18th ahead of the penalised Leclerc and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.