Home » Russell gets the edge over Verstappen to take pole position at Canadian Grand Prix

Russell gets the edge over Verstappen to take pole position at Canadian Grand Prix

Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press

Published Saturday, June 8, 2024 2:44PM EDT

Last Updated Saturday, June 8, 2024 7:21PM EDT

MONTREAL — George Russell edged Max Verstappen to take the pole position in a thrilling qualifying session filled with surprises Saturday at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Now Russell faces the challenge of keeping Red Bull’s Formula One leader behind him in Sunday’s race.

He says he’s up for it.

“Why not? Of course. Let’s go for it,” Russell said from the track. “The car has been feeling amazing. Since we bought some upgrades to Monaco, we’ve sort of really been in that fight now.

“We’re going for it tomorrow.”

Russell and Verstappen drove around Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in an identical lap of one minute 12.000 seconds, but the Mercedes driver secured his spot at the front of the grid for setting the time first. It’s only the second time qualifying has ended in a tie since F1 started timing to three decimal places.

The 26-year-old Russell claimed his second career pole — his first since the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2022. His best finish this season is fifth place, but the Mercedes is showing pace this weekend.

“Such a buzz. It’s been a while since we’ve experienced this feeling,” Russell said. “So much hard work going on behind the scenes … we’ve almost felt like all of that hard work hasn’t been paying off. But I think these last two race weekends has really shown that.”

The pole winner has crossed the finish line first in each of the last seven Canadian GPs. Only Sebastian Vettel didn’t win the race in 2019 due to a five-second penalty.

Verstappen earned pole last year and led every lap of the race amid a historically dominant season. This year, he’s facing more challengers.

“When you look at the whole grid, there are quite a few surprises,” Verstappen said. “Just shows that everyone is closing up, and it’s really details that make the difference.

“It’s good for Formula One.”

McLaren’s Lando Norris finished third (1:12.021). Otherwise, there were some shocking results.

Both Ferraris failed to reach the third qualifying session (Q3) for the first time since 2021.

Charles Leclerc, who won the Monaco GP two weeks ago, will start the race in 11th while teammate Carlos Sainz begins in 12th.

“We are just not fast enough,” Leclerc said. “I don’t have any explanations for now.

“Very surprising, I did not expect that, it’s obviously disappointing but we’ve got a race tomorrow and I believe in the race the issues we had in qualifying will be a little different.”

Coming into the weekend, Norris put the pressure on Ferrari by identifying the Italian outfit as the favourites. The McLaren driver changed his tune after qualifying.

“George has been the favourite all weekend,” Norris said, while Russell laughed next to him at the news conference. “Mercedes have been very quick, and George has done a great job coming into qualifying.

“But Sunday is always a day we’ve performed very well … if we can do the same again tomorrow, then I’m excited to see what race we can put on.”

Earlier, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was knocked out in Q1 for the second race in a row and will start in 16th on Sunday. Perez signed an extension through 2026 on Tuesday.

Seven-time Canadian GP winner Lewis Hamilton placed seventh, qualifying outside the top five for the first time in Montreal. Montreal’s Lance Stroll was ninth for Aston Martin.

“The Q3 was very difficult, I didn’t feel good in the car,” Stroll said. “In the end we couldn’t improve enough.”

After a wild, stormy Friday in Montreal, the mix of sun and clouds made for more favourable conditions Saturday. The rain rolled in briefly before qualifying but subsided.

It remained a risk throughout qualifying but didn’t significantly impact the session, although the drivers said the conditions were tricky — especially with the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve’s 4.361-kilometre track resurfaced this year.

“It was really challenging, to be honest,” Russell said. “All weekend, every single session and every lap has been changing, the sun comes out, the track temperature warms up, then the clouds come in, it’s spitting, and it’s just really, really difficult to find that sweet spot.”

Russell found a way on Saturday, and the weather could be a factor again Sunday.

The Canadian GP is the ninth stop of the 24-race championship. Red Bull is 24 points clear of Ferrari for the Constructors’ Championship, while Verstappen leads the drivers’ standings by 31 points over second-place Leclerc. Russell ranks seventh.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2024.