Lewis Hamilton looked set to fight it out for pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix with his Mercedes team mate George Russell in Saturday’s qualifying session, only to end up dropping to P7 in the final round.

It was particularly surprising given that Hamilton had been the quickest driver in the dry final practice earlier in the day, and was in the top three in both of the first two rounds of qualifying.

But when it came to the crucial top ten pole shoot-out, which took place in changeable wet conditions, Hamilton suddenly found himself struggling for pace while Russell went on to secure pole position.

“The car was feeling great all weekend and as soon as we got to qualifying, that kind of vanished for me,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1 in the paddock at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.

It’s the first time in Hamilton’s career that he has failed to qualify inside the top five in Canada. He ended up 0.280s slower than Russell who finished in a dead heat for pole with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen who takes P2.

“The conditions were great,” Hamilton explained to the media after the end of the session. “The conditions were perfect. Just for some reason the tyres weren’t working the whole session, I just didn’t have grip.

“[In] FP3 I had plenty of pace, then get to qualifying and the tyres don’t work,” he continued. “I had like an easy half a second advantage in FP3 and that was gone.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15 leaves the pits.
08.06.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 9, Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, Canada, Qualifying Day.
- www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Price / XPB Images

“It was a tough session on my side,” he lamented. “I found it difficult to get the tyres working throughout and that was the same on my final lap in Q3.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff shared Hamilton’s bafflement at what had happened. “It seemed that Lewis was actually having the upper hand and both cars comfortably beating everyone,” Wolff told Sky.

“Then at the end it got so tight, and for George and Lewis the time didn’t show up. We can’t comprehend at the moment why it wasn’t a little bit more in our favour.

“Our final laps in Q3 weren’t actually our best. Neither driver could improve on the new tyre, so it was very tight at the end. We will look into the data to try and understand why that was.

“George found himself just able to hold off Max, but obviously Lewis was more unfortunate. Nevertheless, they’ve both showed great speed this weekend so we will see what we can do tomorrow.”

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15. 08.06.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 9, Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, Canada, Qualifying Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

“It’s a shame that we didn’t get Lewis further up the grid,” commented Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin. “It’s particularly disappointing for him as he’s looked so strong all weekend.

“Obviously the goal tomorrow with George is to keep him in front. Lewis also has a good opportunity to fight for a podium given his pace looked so strong on the long run in FP3 today.”

Despite his personal disappointment at the outcome, Hamilton was happy to see how the team’s hard work developing major upgrades such as a new front wing had paid off, and for Russell to claim his second F1 career pole.

“Congratulations to George for a great job. It’s really great for the team,” he said. “Everyone has worked so hard to bring upgrades back at the factory, so this will be a real huge boost for everyone.”

And Hamilton certainly isn’t giving up when it comes to his expectations for the race. “Despite starting P7, I hope we can have a decent race,” he said.

“It’s tough to overtake here and the cars ahead are quite close so it will be challenging, but I’ll be doing my best,” he added. “Let’s see what tomorrow brings and if we can make progress.”

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