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George Russell takes Canadian GP pole after dead heat with Max Verstappen

George Russell claimed pole position (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
George Russell claimed pole position (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

George Russell claimed only the second pole position of his career after setting an identical time as Max Verstappen during a scintillating qualifying session at the Canadian Grand Prix.

The British driver, who was on pole in Hungary in 2022, proved Mercedes’ progress and beat Verstappen by virtue of having set his time first as the pair could not be separated by the timing charts.

The top three were separated by just two thousandths of a second, with Lando Norris lining up third.

Lewis Hamilton fell away at the end to finish seventh after appearing in the battle for pole.

Two weeks on from his glorious home win in Monaco, title hopeful Charles Leclerc will start only 11th as Ferrari suffered a shock double elimination in Q2.

Hamilton had earlier set a blistering fastest time in final practice as Mercedes hinted at further improvement after a promising showing in Monaco.

The seven-time world champion said on Thursday he felt a first podium of the season was not far away.

Hamilton, who will leave Mercedes for Ferrari after this season, won his first Formula One race in Canada during his debut season for McLaren in 2007 and in total has won seven times around Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Hamilton set a blistering time in final practice
Hamilton set a blistering time in final practice (Ryan Remiorz /The Canadian Press via AP)

But it was his team-mate Russell who led the way with a stunning performance in the final qualifying session.

“It feels so good,” Russell said. “Let’s hope this is the start of something for our season. I think it is.

“Excited for tomorrow. Now we have our eyes on that win.”

The first session began with the track rapidly drying after rain following third practice and the times tumbled as the clock ticked down.

Sergio Perez, who was given a new contract by Red Bull until the end of 2026 earlier this week, was eliminated in Q1 for the second successive race as his team-mate Verstappen topped the charts.

Fans reached for their ponchos as rain briefly fell again at the start of Q2 and Russell avoided contact with the wall after a major snap into turn four before posting the fastest time.

Ferrari were tipped by many as favourites heading into this weekend but toiled throughout Saturday, with Leclerc warning “we are extremely slow” during final practice.

They failed to turn things around for qualifying, with the Monegasque a place ahead of his team-mate Carlos Sainz as the Scuderia struggled for grip in the changeable conditions.

“I won’t comment here,” Leclerc said over the radio.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner chats with Max Verstappen
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner chats with Max Verstappen (Paul Chiasson /The Canadian Press via AP)

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

The dominant Dutchman has won only one of the last three races after winning four of the first five and his championship lead has been cut to 31 points by Leclerc.

Team boss Christian Horner said their Monaco woes were a “wake-up call” and Verstappen delivered to line up second on the grid.