Russell beats Verstappen to pole in a Canadian dead heat

George Russell took a shock pole position at the Canadian Grand Prix in a dead heat with Max Verstappen after both Ferrari drivers bombed out of qualifying in Q2 and Sergio Perez was knocked out in the bottom five.

The Mercedes car came alive in Saturday’s dry conditions, and Russell seized his chance. Fastest in Q2, he took provisional pole at the beginning of Q3 with a time of 1m12.000s to lead teammate Lewis Hamilton by 0.28s.

The entire top 10 took to the circuit on used soft tires for their first runs, saving their last fresh sets for the final shootout for pole, but neither Mercedes driver was able to improve despite what should have been greatly improved grip.


The surprise underperformance opened the door to Max Verstappen, who was 0.358s adrift after his first lap, to close the gap. The Dutchman was fastest in the first sector but lost time in the final two splits to Russell to set an identical 72s lap.

Russell, who set the time first, claimed the second pole position of his career and Mercedes’s first since last July’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

“It feels so good,” he said. “So much hard work back at the factory has gone into this. We hope this is the start of something for our season, and I think it is. I’ve missed this feeling.

“The car’s been feeling amazing. Since we brought some upgrades to Monaco we’ve sort of been in that fight now, so we’re going for it tomorrow.”

Verstappen bounced back from a power unit problem that curtailed his seat time on Friday to contend for pole at a circuit Red Bull Racing expected to struggle at, and the Dutchman expected more twists on Sunday.

“The whole weekend has been a bit tricky for us, but to P2, I’ll take it — going into qualifying, I would have definitely taken [it] then,” he said.

“This weekend we didn’t have a great build-up to today, but I think it will be quite an interesting race with the tires tomorrow, how they’re going to fare, and the weather as well. It keeps on coming in and out, the rain.

“Hopefully it will be very exciting.”

Lando Norris vaulted from an uncompetitive ninth after his first lap to run within 0.021s of Russell and Verstappen to claim third for McLaren, 0.103s ahead of teammate Oscar Piastri.

“I’m super happy,” Norris said. “When it’s so close you always think, ‘Could I have jumped in the car for that little bit more?,’ but third is a good job by us, so I’m happy and excited for tomorrow.”

Daniel Ricciardo will start fifth in his best qualifying performance since last year’s Mexico City Grand Prix. The Australian was just 0.178s short of pole in his RB and pipped Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin to the head of the third row by 0.05s.

Hamilton dropped to seventh with an unimproved time by the end of Q3 ahead of the freshly re-signed Yuki Tsunoda, home favorite Lance Stroll and Alex Albon, who put Williams in Q3 for the second race in a row.

The tight climax to qualifying featured five different constructors in the top six and seven different teams in the top 10 after both Ferrari drivers slumped to 11th and 12th in Q2.

The Scuderia had been optimistic after Friday practice that it could be competitive in all conditions, but the Italian team was shown up by the dry track on Saturday, with neither Charles Leclerc nor Carlos Sainz finding any speed on slicks.

The team didn’t help itself with tire strategy either, with both drivers out on used soft tires for their final laps of Q2, leaving Leclerc and Sainz stranded in 11th and 12th respectively.

The under-pressure American Logan Sargeant qualified 13th in his first Q2 appearance of the season ahead of Kevin Magnussen in 14th for Haas and Pierre Gasly in the lead Alpine in 15th.

Perez was eliminated in Q1 for the second consecutive round, lapping 0.966s slower than teammate Verstappen in the opening qualifying segment. The Mexican will line up 16th ahead of Valtteri Bottas.

Esteban Ocon qualified 18th, but his five-place grid penalty for causing a first-lap crash with teammate Gasly in the Monaco Grand Prix will drop him to the back of the grid behind Nico Hulkenberg and Zhou Guanyu in 18th and 19th respectively.

Story originally appeared on Racer