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George Russell says Mercedes will ‘go for victory’ after taking pole in Canada

George Russell claimed only his second career pole (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)
George Russell claimed only his second career pole (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)

George Russell immediately set his sights on victory after taking only his second career pole position during a scintillating Canadian Grand Prix qualifying.

Russell set an identical time to Red Bull’s three-time world champion Max Verstappen amid changeable weather on Montreal’s Ile Notre-Dame but will line up first by virtue of having set his lap time earlier.

His pace confirmed Mercedes’ recent progress as the sport’s once-dominant team bid to secure a first win since Russell took his maiden Formula One victory in Sao Paulo in 2022.

Only two thousandths of a second separated the top three, with McLaren’s Lando Norris lining up third ahead of his team-mate Oscar Piastri.

Russell is anticipating a long race but is thrilled to be back among the challenging pack.

“So much hard work at the factory has gone into this and we said it in Monaco, we hope this is the start of something for our season, and I think it is,” Russell said on the track.

“I’ve missed this feeling.”

The 26-year-old added in the press conference: “Such a buzz. Been a while since we experienced this feeling.

“Been a little while to get back in the fight. It sort of felt like that hard work was not paying off but these last few weekends have really shown it.

“We have been so fast all weekend. It bodes well for tomorrow.

“We are going to go for victory, the car is genuinely fast at the moment but it is going to be a long race.”

Lewis Hamilton, who said on Thursday he felt Mercedes – who have a new front wing – were closing in on a first podium of the season, set a blistering pace in final practice to underline Mercedes’ pole potential.

The seven-time world champion fell away to finish seventh but Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is delighted with his team’s progress.

“As we’ve said for a while, we’re going in the right direction,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

“We’ve brought lots of little bits over the last few races, some more visible than others, but definitely heading to a more performant car.”

Championship leader Verstappen had played down Red Bull’s chances here after struggling in Monaco, believing the aggressive kerbs would not suit their car.

He was on the pace to match Russell’s time but team-mate Sergio Perez, who signed a new contract with the team this week, suffered a second successive Q1 elimination.

There was also shock disappointment for Ferrari, who arrived as favourites with many after Charles Leclerc’s win in Monaco, with both drivers knocked out in Q2 to line up 11th and 12th on Sunday.

Daniel Ricciardo delivered a thumping riposte to Sky pundit Jacques Villeneuve’s asking ‘why is he still in F1?’ by putting his RB fifth on the grid.

Verstappen and Norris were second and third in qualifying
Verstappen and Norris were second and third in qualifying (Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press via AP)

Under three tenths separated the top eight in one of the best qualifying sessions of the season.

McLaren have remarkably not scored points in Canada since Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen finished in the top 10 in 2014.

Norris, who won his first F1 race in Miami last month, is confident of challenging for another win.

“We have had great race pace the last few races. It is so close but we are in the fight,” Norris said.

“Sunday is the day we have performed well in the last couple of months.

“I’m excited to see what we can do.”