Bringing You the Daily Dispatch

George Russell claims Canadian F1 GP pole for Mercedes
F1 Sport

George Russell claims Canadian F1 GP pole for Mercedes

The drought at Mercedes has been a long, arduous affair. Little wonder, then, that they revelled in the chance to slake their thirst in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix where George Russell claimed pole by the tiniest of margins, indeed, by no margin at all with a time exactly matched by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

This was perhaps the most tense session thus far this year and at the death, Russell had the top spot with a time of 1min 12.000sec, a lap then equalled by Verstappen at the circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The world champion was denied pole by dint of Russell having set the time first.

Russell and Mercedes were not concerned by how close it had been, simply returning to the top spot was an achievement for the team which has struggled so hard since the new regulations of 2022. It is the team’s first pole since Hungary in 2023 and they have now not taken a victory since Brazil 2022 when Russell took the flag. Sunday’s race in Montreal is their best shot at another since then, with the pace of the car genuinely impressive.

They had brought their new front wing to Canada, after a series of small upgrades over recent races amid optimism they might make a genuine step forward and so it proved. The car looked in better balance, handling with more confidence than it has all season and both Russell and his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, were enlivened in finally having a decent ride beneath them. They had real pace in the low-speed corners and crucially in the chicanes on the straights where an ability to attack the kerbs can make a lap, although Hamilton, who had been close to his teammate throughout, could not improve on his final run and he dropped down the order to seventh.

There was nonetheless a real sense that a corner might have been turned at Mercedes.

“Every lap we have done this weekend the car has been feeling good,” Russell said. “This is the first two races we have had with the upgrades and it is looking good so far.

“As we have entered the last six months we have been able to fine tune what we want from the car. Let’s see if this performance is sustainable but I don’t see any reason why not and I think we have more to come.”

A beaming Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal who has presented a stern visage for so long, also conceded with a grin that they were at last “going in the right direction”.

Red Bull mechanics work on Max Verstappen’s car.View image in fullscreen

It was a qualifying session where timing was crucial after the rain over the weekend as the track was rubbering-in, gaining grip on every lap. The times improved as the clock counted down, with the final laps proving absolutely crucial as Mercedes, for the first time in more than a year, looked like the favourites. Once a staple of the sport, that it felt almost out of the ordinary was testament to their fall from grace.

skip past newsletter promotion

They knew the car was good but Russell still had to deliver and he did so with admirable finesse and calm on a demanding track.

On the first final runs Verstappen had opened with the top spot but Russell and Hamilton had the edge on their opening laps, within two-tenths of one another, with Russell three-tenths clear of Verstappen setting the 1min 12sec time.

With new tyres on, Verstappen came back at him, quickest in the first sector as he threw the car at the lap and matched the British driver to the thousandth of a second. Russell did not improve but he had done enough. Indeed, potentially enough if he can hold his lead into turn one to offer Mercedes a well of victory from which they can drink deep on Sunday.

Source: theguardian.com