George Russell clinched pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix by the narrowest of margins, setting an identical time of 1:12.000s with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in Saturday’s qualifying session.

The Mercedes takes pole by virtue of being first to set the time, with Verstappen having to settle for a front row spot on tomorrow’s grid.

The team had been looking strong from the start with Russell second quickest on Friday and Lewis Hamilton setting the pace in a final practice, when both drivers had the upgraded Mercedes front wing on their cars.

Russell went on to top the times in changeable conditions in Q2, and was ahead again after completing his first flying laps in Q3. This time was just enough to see off Verstappen who put in an identical lap at the very end.

It’s Russell’s second pole with the team, the first coming in Hungary in 2022. The last time Mercedes took pole was at the came circuit in 2023 when Hamilton was quickest.

“Amazing, it feels so good,” said Russell when interviewed in parc ferme after the end of qualifying. “So much hard work back in the factory has gone into this.

“We said in Monaco that we hope this is the start of something for our season and I think it is. I’ve missed this feeling!” he admitted.

George Russell (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: Batchelor / XPB Images

It’s the first time this season that Mercedes has looked strong enough to really challenge Red Bull for a race victory, although it will all come down to whether Russell can hold the lead into turn 1.

“We’ve sort of really been in that fight now so we’re going for it tomorrow,” Russell said. “The car’s been feeling amazing since we bought some upgrades to Monaco.”

Asked if he felt he could claim his second career win tomorrow, Russell replied “Why not? Of course! Let’s go for it,” adding: “Obviously the first step is done, but now we’ve got our eyes on that win.”

It won’t just be Verstappen out to stop him, with McLaren’s Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri starting from right behind them on the second row. Norris has already claimed his maiden career F1 win this season in Miami.

But Russell won’t have to worry about Ferrari at the start, after Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz missed the final cut meaning they will start tomorrow’s race from outside the top ten.

George Russell (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

Russell won’t have Hamilton on hand to support him after the seven-time world champion was unable to put in a proper time on his final Q3 lap leaving him in seventh place on the grid.

But Verstappen is even worse off after Sergio Perez failed to get his Red Bull through to the second round after another disastrous qualifying session for the Mexican.

All of which delighted the Canadian fans in the grandstands at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve who roared their approval at the long-awaited confirmation of Mercedes’ revival in fortunes.

“It’s awesome here every time we come to Montreal, so it’s good energy from all the fans and excited for tomorrow,” Russell said. “So

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