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Russell: We’re going for victory, the car is genuinely fast

1-george-russell_6576708 montreal Russell: We're going for victory, the car is genuinely fast

Immediately after taking only his second career pole position during a scintillating Canadian Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday, today Mercedes driver George Russell has set his sights on victory in Montreal.

Russell set an identical time to Red Bull’s three-time world champion Max Verstappen amid changeable weather on the city’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 and said as much over the radio after Q3: “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.”

The 26-year-old Briton added in the post-Qualy press conference: “I’ve missed this feeling. 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 the race. We’re going to go for victory, the car is genuinely fast at the moment but it is going to be a long race,” predicted Russell.

His teammate, 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.

Wolff: Definitely heading to a more performant car

Russell: We're going for victory, the Mercedes is genuinely fast

The seven-time F1 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. 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.”

2024 F1 World Campionship 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.

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.

Norris said after Qualifying: “We have had great race pace the last few races. It is so close but we are in the fight. Sunday is the day we have performed well in the last couple of months. I’m excited to see what we can do.”

There are six different teams with drivers in the top ten. Both Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, plus Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, start outside the top ten. The 43rd edition of the Canadian Grand Prix promises to be a thriller. And that’s not counting the rain that might fall (Various Agency Reports & Quotes from Agnes Carlier in Montreal)