George Russell takes pole at Canadian Grand Prix after rare ‘dead heat’ with Max Verstappen

George Russell celebrates taking pole in Montreal with his helmet on
George Russell celebrates taking pole in Montreal - Getty Images/Qian Jun

An ecstatic George Russell said he was hopeful he could win the second race of his career in Montreal on Sunday after taking a surprise pole position in Canada.

In a rare Formula One qualifying ‘dead heat’, the British driver set an identical time of 1:12.000 to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, but took pole by virtue of the fact that he set his time on his first run in Q3, whereas Verstappen could only match Russell’s time on his second run.

It is only the second time since Formula One started using thousandths of a second to separate drivers that a dead heat has happened. The first time came at the finale to the 1997 season in Jerez when Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen all famously posted identical times.

Russell will not care about statistical anomalies. He will only care that he is starting on pole for the second time in his career.

“Amazing, amazing, amazing,” the 26-year-old screamed on his in-lap. “0.000. Thank you so much. So proud of everyone. Right, we’ve got a race to win now.”

Russell did appear to have got a slight tow off Alex Albon towards the end of his pole lap, and that might have made all the difference given the tight margins at the top.

McLaren’s Lando Norris, who will line up third for McLaren, was only 0.021sec off the pace, with his team-mate Oscar Piastri fourth at 0.1sec.

Lewis Hamilton will be disappointed, though, as he could only take seventh on the grid despite Mercedes’ hugely improved performance in Montreal, and despite being equipped with the same new front wing his Mercedes team-mate enjoyed in Monaco, and which he elected not to take there.

Hamilton had looked arguably the stronger of the two Mercedes drivers heading into qualifying, but finished behind Russell for the eighth time in nine races this season.

George Russell in qualifying for Canadian Grand Prix
Russell finished qualifying with exactly the same time as Max Verstappen, but gets pole position because he set the time first - Reuters/Mathieu Belanger

“First of all congratulations to George,” Hamilton said afterwards. “The car had been feeling great all weekend, but as soon as qualifying came along that vanished. The grip just went.”

At least Hamilton made it through to the top 10 shoot-out. Sergio Perez, who has just been handed a two-year contract extension by Red Bull, failed to make it into Q2 for the second consecutive race. There was a further shock in that session with both Ferraris failing to make it into Q3.

Mercedes have so often been the ‘heavyweight casualty’ in qualifying this season. But this time they can dream of Sunday glory, albeit team principal Toto Wolff was not getting carried away. “One swallow doesn’t make a summer,” the Austrian warned.

Russell seemed happier to dream. “It feels so good, so much hard work back at the factory has gone into this,” he beamed. “We said it in Monaco but we hope this is the start of something for our season and I think it is. I’ve missed this feeling.

“It’s awesome here every time we come to Montreal. It’s such good energy from all the fans and I’m excited for tomorrow. First step down but we’ve now got our eyes on tomorrow and that win.”

Verstappen sounded up for the fight, predicting it would be “an interesting race” with the tyres and the changeable weather in Montreal. And Russell agreed. Asked whether he felt he could keep Verstappen behind him, he smiled. “Why not? Of course, let’s go for it. The car has been feeling amazing since we’ve brought the upgrades to Monaco, we’ve been in that fight now so we are going for it tomorrow.”

Russell takes pole: As it happened

10:44 PM BST

Polesitter George Russell speaking to Sky

10:41 PM BST

The thoughts of Lewis Hamilton

10:41 PM BST

Your top three for tomorrow

The top three on the starting grid
Top three for the race - Shawn Thew/Getty Images

10:37 PM BST

Starting grid

10:37 PM BST

Carlos Sainz’s reaction

10:34 PM BST

An unhappy Charles Leclerc speaking to Sky

10:32 PM BST

Reaction from the Ferrari camp

It has been a horrible day for Ferrari with both cars out in Q2 and we can now hear from their team principal Fred Vasseur, who has been speaking to Sky:

The pace was ok yesterday on both conditions, wet and dry. But we struggled a bit more from this morning to switch on the tyres for Turn One, because we are losing more than 50 per cent of the gap in Turn One.

It’s tight. At the end of the day Perez is 16th and for one or two tenths you can be out. Carlos was three tenths faster than Charles in the last corner [before] he made a mistake. It is like it is but we have to be pleased with the fact that the fight is so tight.

For sure when you are 11th and 12th you are not happy.

10:26 PM BST

Toto Wolff talking to Sky

First of all, you can’t talk about tomorrow yet. We’re on pole position and that was amazing. His lap was great. 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.

In Formula 1, there is never one bit coming on the car, since the double diffuser, that makes all the difference. We were running the old wing yesterday and we were very competitive in all conditions actually. So it’s what’s come on the floor, little bits on the body work and underneath, and obviously the front wing, which is more visible.

10:19 PM BST

Starting grid in full

  1. George Russell

  2. Max Verstappen

  3. Lando Norris

  4. Oscar Piastri

  5. Daniel Ricciardo

  6. Fernando Alonso

  7. Lewis Hamilton

  8. Yuki Tsunoda

  9. Lance Stroll

  10. Alex Albon

  11. Charles Leclerc

  12. Carlos Sainz

  13. Logan Sargeant

  14. Kevin Magnussen

  15. Pierre Gasly

  16. Sergio Perez

  17. Valtteri Bottas

  18. Esteban Ocon (after grid penalty from Monaco)

  19. Nico Hulkenberg

  20. Zhou Guanyu

10:16 PM BST

The thoughts of Lando Norris

I’m super happy. First of all, congrats to Mr Russell. He has been quick all weekend, so congrats to him and Mercedes.

But I’m happy with third. When it’s so close you always think ‘could I have like 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.

On the challenge of a changeable qualifying:

That’s Montreal, that’s why we love it here. It’s one of the best places to come to every year. A lot of the time you’re thinking your are going to crash, half of it, but when you put a nice lap in and end up top three it’s always a nice feeling.

10:16 PM BST

Quotes from Max Verstappen

It’s how it is, right. I think overall we still had a good qualifying. The whole weekend has been still a bit tricky for us, but to be P2, I’d take it. Going into qualifying I would have definitely taken that. So that it was that close at the end makes it really exciting for tomorrow as well.

I felt good in Monaco but it was just not our track, it was not happening for us. This weekend again we didn’t have a great build up to today.

But I think it will be quite an interesting race with the tyres tomorrow, how they are going to fare. The weather as well – it keeps on coming in and out, the rain. So hopefully it will be very exciting.

10:10 PM BST

The thoughts of George Russell

Amazing. It feels so good. 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.

I’ve missed this feeling. Excited for tomorrow. First step done, but now obviously we’ve got our eyes on that win.

Why not? Of course. Let’s go for it. The car has been feeling amazing since we brought some upgrades to Monaco, we have really been in that fight now. So we’re going for it tomorrow.

George Russell celebrates taking pole position
George Russell will start tomorrow's race from pole - Mark Thompson/Getty Images

10:09 PM BST

Good day for RB’S

With his seat for next season under real pressure, Daniel Ricciardo has put in a strong performance today as he has qualified in fifth. Yuki Tsunoda, fresh off signing a new deal at RB, will start eighth.

Daniel Ricciardo in his car in the garage
Daniel Ricciardo will start tomorrow's race from fifth - Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images

10:06 PM BST

Where was Lewis?

Hamilton had been showing good pace but when it mattered most he could not put it together. He will start tomorrow’s race from seventh place.

10:05 PM BST

Top five for the race

  1. George Russell  1:12.200

  2. Max Verstappen  +0.000

  3. Lando Norris   +0.021

  4. Oscar Piastri    +0.103

  5. Daniel Ricciardo   +0.178

10:02 PM BST

Russell takes pole

Verstappen comes across the line and sets the same time as Russell but, because Russell did the time first, he starts on pole. You could not get any closer. Norris is just two hundredths off Russell but does not start on the front row.

09:59 PM BST

Norris now into P2

Lando goes just two hundredths off Russell. The Mercedes duo are only just making their way out along with Verstappen. The McLaren duo have a different strategy to their competitors, going for a hot lap followed by a slow lap then a fast lap again whereas the Mercedes duo and Verstappen are doing just one flying lap.

09:57 PM BST

Piastri up to second

The Australian goes just one tenth behind Russell with three minutes left. He will now do a cool-down lap before going again.

09:55 PM BST

Top five with four minutes remaining

  1. Russell

  2. Hamilton

  3. Verstappen

  4. Piastri

  5. Alonso

09:54 PM BST

Mercedes show strong pace

Russell goes fastest and then seconds later Hamilton tucks in behind his teammate in second. The Mercedes have been strong this weekend and after the first runs are one and two.

Mercedes going well in Montreal but who will win the intra-team battle? It’s becoming a bit of a ‘thing’. Russell leads their qualifying head-to-head 7-1 so far this season, leading Hamilton to make a very pointed remark in Monaco, saying he didn’t “anticipate being ahead of George in qualifying particularly this year”. That was taken to mean that he felt he was not getting equal treatment (with his move to Ferrari coming up). It’s true that Russell had the new front wing in Monaco. But they both have it now. Hamilton will be desperate to finish on top here.

09:52 PM BST

Verstappen fastest

The Dutchman is quickest so far, ahead of Piastri and Alonso. The two Mercedes have just begun their first flying laps.

09:51 PM BST

More trouble for Perez

Perez going out (again) in Q1 is a nightmare for Red Bull. After giving him a contract extension this week, they would have hoped for a more confident performance from the Mexican. Instead they’re going to have to fend off questions as to whether they have done the right thing in sticking with him. Doesn’t help that Yuki Tsunoda, who might have fancied that seat, has made it into Q3. Both RBs made it through in fact.

Sergio Perez looks on frustrated
Sergio Perez out in Q1 again - Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

09:49 PM BST

Mercedes remain patient

Even with the threat of rain, Mercedes have decided to keep both drivers in the pits for the time being

09:48 PM BST

Time for Q3

We are ready for the final part of qualifying in the shoot-out for pole in Montreal. Rain is due but it seems to be very, very light at the moment. No Ferraris and no Sergio Perez in Q3 remember. This probably sums up a lot of people’s reactions to both Ferraris being knocked out:

09:43 PM BST

Bottom five in Q2

11. Leclerc

12. Sainz

13. Sargeant

14. Magnussen

15. Gasly

09:41 PM BST

Both Ferraris out

Wow! What a shock. Both Prancing Horses are out in Q2. Leclerc in 11th, Sainz in 12th. Leclerc won his home race in Monaco two weeks ago but fails to make Q3 here as does his teammate.

09:40 PM BST

Mercedes showing good pace

Lewis goes fastest but is then usurped by his teammate.

Verstappen’s lap was not excellent but is good enough to get into Q3.

09:39 PM BST

Verstappen needs a lap

The Dutchman desperately requires a good lap as he is currently 14th. A yellow or red flag now would be disastrous for Verstappen.

09:38 PM BST

Norris fastest

With just over two minutes left, Lando goes top of the timesheets. Rain is expected in a couple of minutes.

09:36 PM BST

Drivers on their way back out

With just under five minutes to go, plenty of drivers are heading back out onto the track with some rain due in the near future. Verstappen, having been on a used set of softs, is in 10th and still in the pits.

Moments ago there was an issue in the pits for Williams as they struggled with the rear tyre on Albon’s car.

09:34 PM BST

Bottom five with six minutes remaining

11. Tsunoda

12. Stroll

13. Sargeant

14. Albon

15. Gasly

09:31 PM BST

Top five with eight minutes left

  1. Russell

  2. Piastri

  3. Hamilton

  4. Norris

  5. Leclerc

09:31 PM BST

Russell top

The man from Kings Lynn goes just over a tenth quicker than Piastri and is top of the timesheets now.

09:29 PM BST

Piastri fastest

The Mercedes duo were one and two but Piastri has just gone six tenths faster. Verstappen is under investigation for ignoring the race director’s instructions but he goes second.

09:27 PM BST

Rushing around

With rain falling all the drivers are going around with a real sense of urgency. None of this creeping around. Get a lap in quickly!

09:25 PM BST

Q2 go, go go!

The green light is on at the end of the pitlane and we are under way in the second part of qualifying. As the drivers queue in the pits the Red Bull of Verstappen is inches away from the McLaren of Piastri. Literally inches! Rain is starting to fall so getting out there quickly and setting a lap is paramount.

09:22 PM BST

Five eliminated in Q1

16. Sergio Perez

17. Valtteri Bottas

18. Esteban Ocon

19. Nico Hulkenberg

20. Zhou Guanyu

09:20 PM BST

Perez out

Former Red Bull man Alex Albon goes fourth fastest which drops current Red Bull driver Sergio Perez into the bottom five. The Mexican is out in Q1 like he was in Monaco.

09:18 PM BST

Verstappen fastest

The Dutchman had dropped into the bottom five but now goes fastest.

09:18 PM BST

Piastri out of danger

Just when he needed it the Australian pulls out a strong lap to go second.

09:17 PM BST

Perez and Piastri in bother

With under a minute remaining, Perez and Piastri are both still in the bottom five.

09:16 PM BST

Bottom five with two minutes remaining

16. Piastri

17. Hulkenberg

18. Bottas

19. Perez

20. Zhou

09:14 PM BST

Perez in trouble?

The Mexican has come into the pits and is being wheeled back into the garage. Red Bull are going to be leaving it late with Perez and if there is a late red flag he would be in massive trouble.

09:12 PM BST

Changing tyres

Most drivers have come in to put on a new set of the soft tyres with around five minutes remaining.

09:12 PM BST

Bottom five with six minutes to go

16. Piastri

17. Perez

18. Gasly

19. Ocon

20. Zhou

09:09 PM BST

Top five with eight minutes left

  1. Verstappen

  2. Norris

  3. Stroll

  4. Alonso

  5. Leclerc

09:08 PM BST

Times tumbling

With the track evolution, the times are getting faster and faster. Just as Norris goes top, Verstappen then usurps him.

09:06 PM BST

Mercedes to the top of the timesheets

George Russell has just gone fastest, three tenths clear of Oscar Piastri. Mercedes sent out their duo slightly later than everyone else and they go top of the timesheets. These times will just get faster and faster.

09:04 PM BST

Norris fastest

McLaren’s Lando Norris has just gone top of the timesheets ahead of Max Verstappen with a 1:14.585.

Lando Norris out on track
Lando Norris goes fastest - Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters

09:03 PM BST

Taking a risk?

Most of the grid are out there but two who are only just making their way out are Mercedes. If we get a sudden downpour they could be in trouble.

09:01 PM BST

Rain already falling?

We have just heard over the McLaren team radio that there are reports of drops of rain at turns seven and eight.

09:00 PM BST

Off we go

There is a green light at the end of the pitlane and qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix is under way. Quite a queue has formed, with everyone keen to get a lap in in case of rain or a red flag. Some clouds are rolling in and we have an official 80% chance of rain in this session.

08:54 PM BST

Five-minute warning

We are just five minutes away from the start of qualifying. It is currently dry but there is a risk of rain coming in the next hour. In the pitlane Sauber are hoping to get Zhou’s car ready after he spun out in final practice.

08:49 PM BST

Next year’s line-up

Yuki Tsunoda has confirmed his spot at RB next season but there are still plenty of seats yet to be confirmed for next season. The seat alongside George Russell at Mercedes could be filled by Kimi Antonelli. Lance Stroll is expected to stay at Aston Martin. Both seats at both Alpine and Haas are still available.

08:45 PM BST

Christian Horner speaking to Sky

On Red Bull’s 2024 car:

We are still learning about it. There has been convergence. Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes have all made progress. We have got some issues that we need to work on. The drivers have been struggling with kerb ride and striking the kerbs hard. We had that with last year’s car as well. It’s improved slightly with this year’s car but all the cars are going quicker, so we are pushing the aerodynamics harder.

It’s something we are working on. There are a lot of projects going on back in the factory. We know there is performance that will be unlocked if we can get on top of the kerb riding. The tracks we have been quick on, they have all been pretty smooth without big kerbs. Monaco was a bit of a wake-up call.

On recent upgrades:

The updates that have gone onto the car have all correlated and earnt their place on the car. There’s quite often rumours that peculate. There are a lot of cars that look like ours now and they’ve all converged. That’s healthy competition and we’ve got to be at the top of our game to keep ahead.

What we achieved last year was unnatural. It was always going to converge, it was always going to become more competitive, and every member of our team is acutely aware of that and working very hard to ensure that we stay ahead of the rest.

The threat of Mercedes this weekend:

They were very quick. Let’s not forget they run two sets of the soft tyres. They have always looked quick on ‘green’ circuits and, with the new surface here, it’s playing to their strengths.

We are probably more focused on Ferraris and McLarens than Mercedes over the balance of the season, but let’s see how things pan out in qualy. It’s going to be affected by the weather for sure and hopefully we can stay on top of it.

08:41 PM BST

Weather update

It is currently dry and sunny in Montreal after a rain shower about 40 minutes ago. As we saw in qualifying in Montreal a year ago, we can have very changeable conditions.

08:40 PM BST

Constructor standings

After their win with Charles Leclerc in Monaco, Ferrari have closed the gap to Red Bull to 24 points, with McLaren a further 68 points behind Ferrari.

08:36 PM BST

Quotes from Yuki Tsunoda

I’m very happy to be staying with Visa Cash App RB and it’s a good feeling to have my future decided so early in the year. For that, I want to thank everyone at Red Bull and Honda who have played such an important role in my career and will continue to do so. The team has a big development project ahead and I’m excited to be part of it. It’s great to know that everyone appreciates all the hard work I have put in and that the team believes I can help it move further up the grid.

We have already made clear progress this season and that really motivates me to always give my best and that’s what I’ll continue to do with VCARB. For the moment, I’m concentrating on the remaining races this season, with the aim of bringing home as many points as possible, always growing with the team, laying the groundwork to do even better next year

Yuki Tsunoda walking through the paddock
Yuki Tsunoda has re-signed with RB - Qian Jun/Getty Images

08:33 PM BST

Breaking news from RB

We have news that has just broken and it is that Yuki Tsunoda has re-signed with RB.

08:32 PM BST

Driver standings

Ahead of tomorrow’s race, here is how the driver standings look like:

08:27 PM BST

Ocon out at Alpine

It has been a miserable season so far for Alpine and they have announced that Esteban Ocon will depart at the end of the season. Ocon crashed into his teammate Pierre Gasly at the Monaco Grand Prix and it is well known that the two do not get on. Tom Cary has the latest from Alpine, where Jack Doohan, son of five-time motorbike world champion Mick, could be in contention to replace Ocon.

Esteban Ocon in the Alpine garage
Esteban Ocon will say au revoir to Alpine at the end of the season - Graham Hughes/AP

08:19 PM BST

Perez re-signs

There has been plenty of driver news since the Monaco Grand Prix and we received confirmation this week that Sergio Perez has signed a new two-year deal at Red Bull. Our very own Tom Cary has written this week about Perez’s new contract.

Sergio Perez in the Red Bull garage
Sergio Perez has signed on for two more years at Red Bull - Charly Triballeau/Getty Images

08:13 PM BST

Sainz to Williams?

With Lewis Hamilton joining Ferrari next season, Carlos Sainz is looking at where he might be racing next season. One rumour gaining traction is a move to Williams for the Spaniard, where he would join another former Red Bull junior Alex Albon. Williams team principal James Vowles has been speaking to Sky Sports about the possibility of Sainz joining his team next season:

Sainz is our number one target. There’s a reason why I left Mercedes to come here. This isn’t the Williams of old.Having Sainz on our list shows we are prepared to have a driver line-up that I think will be one of the best on the grid, if it’s achieved.

We are investing tens, if not hundreds of millions back to where it was in terms of success. In the background, there were a number of really great signings that will slowly start edging out in the next few weeks and months.

This really is a good journey. We are now starting to see the hard work that was started 12 months ago. Williams were a team that were 10th for many years. Last year we were seventh and we started this year poorly but keep an eye out for us. This is a different entity to what it was before.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz walking through the paddock
Could Carlos Sainz be lining up with Williams next season? - Qian Jun/Getty Images

08:06 PM BST

On board with Lewis

Hamilton topped the timesheets in final practice and you can ride on-board with the seven-time world champion for that fastest lap in practice three:

07:40 PM BST

Qualifying preview

The Formula 1 circus has arrived in Montreal this weekend and it is incredibly competitive at the front of the grid. Red Bull’s dominance of pretty much every weekend has ended and both McLaren and Ferrari are arguably looking quicker currently. Charles Leclerc won his home race in Monaco last time out and two races before that, Lando Norris won in Miami. It was a tough weekend for Red Bull last time out in Monaco and Max Verstappen had issues again in the first two practice sessions on Friday as Red Bull dealt with technical troubles. Verstappen had been complaining about how the Red Bull rode the kerbs in Monaco and that will be an important factor in Canada this weekend, so could Red Bull be in for another tough weekend?

Having been off the pace of the front three teams in the first third of the season, Mercedes will have been buoyed by the performance of Lewis Hamilton after he topped the timesheets in third practice a couple of hours ago. Hamilton currently is the joint record-holder for most wins at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve and has the updated Mercedes front wing which George Russell had in Monaco. It was a busy final practice session after both sessions on Friday were significantly impacted by rain. Despite winning in Monaco two weeks ago, Leclerc had a challenging session ending up in 10th place, complaining that the team were “extremely slow”, with his teammate Carlos Sainz a couple of places back. It was a tough final practice for Sauber’s Zhou Guanyu, who spun out at turn two and caused an early red flag. Williams’ Alex Albon also found himself in a spot of bother after hitting the Wall of Champions at the final chicane, as did Verstappen, who finished second in final practice.

Lewis Hamilton arrives in the paddock in Montreal
Lewis Hamilton has the joint most wins around the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve - Charly Triballeau/Getty Images

There could be intermittent showers during qualifying so timing could be everything. Last year’s qualifying session was dominated by constantly-changing conditions, which created a huge test for the drivers and teams. Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez were caught out as they were knocked out in Q2 and Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg caused a huge shock by putting his car on the front row of the grid before a penalty. We could have similar conditions today in qualifying so there could be some opportunities for those further down the grid and more at risk for the frontrunners.

Qualifying begins at 21.00 BST.

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