George Russell edges Max Verstappen to claim first Mercedes pole of season at Canadian GP

British driver and Red Bull's world champion clocked identical lap times in Montreal

Mercedes driver George Russell celebrates after taking pole in the qualifying session for the Canadian Grand Prix. AP
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George Russell secured Mercedes' first pole position of the season on Saturday after edging Max Verstappen at the front of the grid for the Canadian Grand Prix.

Russell and Red Bull's world champion Verstappen shared a best lap time of one minute and 12.000 seconds, but it was the Briton who took the prime starting spot because he set his lap time earlier in the session.

In a dramatic conclusion to a closely-contested qualifying session, the Mercedes driver was unable to improve on his Q2 time while Red Bull's series leader and three-time world champion shaved more than a second off his lap.

It was enough to lift the Dutchman to the front row of the grid alongside the Briton, who secured his second career pole to give a boost to Mercedes as they emerge from a long period in the doldrums thanks to successive upgrade packages.

"Amazing, amazing!" said a delighted Russell on Mercedes team radio. "Right, now we've got a race to win! I've missed this feeling, So much hard work back at the factory has gone into this."

Verstappen, who was chasing a third successive Montreal pole, was philosophical, saying: "It is what it is. Going into qualifying, I would have taken that."

Lando Norris was third just 0.021 seconds off their pace ahead of McLaren teammate Oscar Piastri, RB's Daniel Ricciardo, two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes.

"Congrats to Mr Russell," said Norris. "I am happy with third. A good job by us so I am happy and excited."

Yuki Tsunoda was eighth in the second RB ahead of Lance Stroll in the second Aston Martin and Williams Alex Albon with the two Ferraris failing to make the top 10 shootout.

Charles Leclerc, an emotional home winner of the Monaco Grand Prix two weeks earlier, qualified 11th and teammate Carlos Sainz 12th. It was the first time since the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix that Ferrari had both cars eliminated without reaching Q3.

With dark clouds threatening over the Ile Notre-Dame, Verstappen set the early pace before Norris and Russell took command. A flurry of fastest laps in the final minutes left Perez facing early elimination just days after extending his Red Bull contract.

Teammate Verstappen topped the session in 1:12.360 ahead of RB's Tsunoda, Hamilton and Albon while Valtteri Bottas of Sauber, Alpine's Esteban Ocon, who has a five-place grid penalty for his crash in Monaco, Haas's Nico Hulkenberg and Zhou Guanyu, in the second Sauber, went out.

Russell was quickly on the pace to start Q2 as spectators reached for their hooded ponchos and light rain began falling. He went top until teammate Hamilton took over and then Piastri.

On their final flying runs, Norris went top and Tsunoda second while Verstappen, down in 14th, saved himself and secured a place in the top ten shootout, but both Ferraris failed to make it.

Leclerc wound up 11th ahead of teammate Sainz, both running on used tyres, and went out with Williams' Logan Sargeant, Kevin Magnussen of Haas, and Alpine's Pierre Gasly

In a tense Q2 finale, Russell and Hamilton were first and second and the only two drivers in the 1:11s – Russell clocking 1:11.742 – ahead of Norris and the impressive Tsunoda. Verstappen was seventh.

Piastri led the queue out of the pitlane ahead of Verstappen for Q3 while both Mercedes remained 'at home', sitting in their garage until the sun emerged.

Verstappen went top initially in 1:12.358, but both Mercedes men topped him on their first runs, Russell in 1:12.000 and Hamilton in 1:12.280, all of them running on used slicks.

When their final runs began, Piastri and Norris both improved for McLaren to go second and third on new tyres before the final drama.

Updated: June 09, 2024, 5:28 AM