The moment of happiness for Formula 1 rain artist Nico Hülkenberg after his sensational drive to second place on the grid in Canada burst in front of the racing judges. Because of a violation of the rules in qualifying, the race stewards deprived the Haas driver of his place in the front row next to world championship leader Max Verstappen in Montreal on Saturday. Hulkenberg had driven too fast in the decisive phase when the red flags were given. That’s why he’s downgraded to fifth on the grid for the eighth round of the season on Sunday (8 p.m. / Sky). It’s still his best starting position before a race this season.

Instead of the 35-year-old, Fernando Alonso is now second in the Aston Martin. In the rain chaos on the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, pole position was once again secured by the overwhelming defending champion Verstappen in the Red Bull.

“It was a wild qualification, pretty crazy,” said Hülkenberg, still delirious with joy about the unexpected result. As it first appeared, the Rhinelander had benefited from the fact that qualifying was interrupted immediately after his fastest lap due to an accident by McLaren driver Oscar Piastri. Because the weather didn’t improve, none of the competitors was able to overtake Hulkenberg on the wet track.

But then the rule guards stepped in. Shortly after his top lap, Hülkenberg had not complied with the speed limit now in force. In their verdict, the stewards accepted mitigating circumstances for Hulkenberg and weakened the planned penalty of a transfer of ten starting places. But for the veteran it was the second blow of the weekend. In Friday practice he had to give up early after major engine failure.

Formula 1 is experiencing a changeable weekend in Montreal. Already on Friday the pilots had to deal with some adversities. The first practice session had to be interrupted after four minutes for safety reasons and finally canceled because the video surveillance of the track wasn’t working. A power failure was probably the cause of the technical breakdown.

In the final practice session on Saturday, the constant rain presented the drivers and teams with a new challenge. On the very uneven track, many drivers had trouble steering their company car over a fast lap without having an accident. Spaniard Carlos Sainz lost control of his Ferrari in turn one and crashed heavily into the gang. In the two hours before qualifying, however, his mechanics were able to get the car roadworthy again.

Once again the question was whether the competition could slow down the series winners from Red Bull. The world champion team has won all seven races of the season so far this year, five of them by Verstappen alone. With three wins in a row, the Dutchman extended his lead in the overall standings over team-mate Sergio Perez to 53 points. Only at the guest appearance in Baku at the end of April was a driver from another racing team on pole position in Ferrari star Leclerc.

Double world champion Verstappen can celebrate his 41st Grand Prix victory in Canada and thus catch up with Brazilian legend Ayrton Senna. On a wet track, however, a difficult qualification initially stood in the way. Shortly after the start there were red flags because the Chinese Zhou Guanyu stopped in his Alfa Romeo with a technical defect.

In the hustle and bustle after the restart, Verstappen stayed cool and raced into the second lap with the best time. For Hülkenberg, 15th was just enough for the next section. There, the events finally became a gamble with tires and weather. The big losers were Vice World Champion Leclerc and World Cup runner-up Perez. Both gambled their choice of tires and missed out on a place in the top ten. Hulkenberg advanced in eighth place.

When things got really serious, Verstappen showed his class. “I’m from the Netherlands, we’re used to rain,” said the 25-year-old.