More to come from Mercedes - pole-sitter Russell

George Russell drinks from a can
George Russell has won one previous F1 race, in Sao Paulo in 2022 [Getty Images]

George Russell said there was "more to come" from Mercedes after he took their first pole position for nearly a year at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Mercedes have been saying for a while that they felt they had finally found the right path under the new regulations that were introduced in 2022 and which brought their eight years of success in Formula 1 to a crashing halt.

A series of upgrades introduced to the car since Miami three races ago have slowly been working their effect, and for the first time in a long time the former champions have looked the fastest cars in the field this weekend.

The Briton delivered with style around Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

One line from Russell seemed to sum up the situation best after a gripping qualifying session in which the two drivers on the front row set exactly the same lap time, the Mercedes securing pole ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by virtue of achieving it first.

"It's sort of come from nowhere," Russell said. "But maybe not a surprise with the upgrades we've been bringing."

Canada was the first race in which both Mercedes cars have had the full upgrade package that has slowly built up on the car.

New bodywork in Miami, followed by a new floor in Imola and then finally a new front wing, which only Russell had in Monaco, have revised the aerodynamics of the car. And Mercedes' simulations say that they should perform even better at subsequent races.

It was the difference the front wing made in Monaco that really lit up Mercedes' expectations.

Until Monaco, the car has been balanced in either high-speed corners or slow, but not both. Get it right in the high-speed, and there was a lack of front grip in the slow; get it right in the slow, and there was untameable oversteer in the fast.

The front wing has transformed it, and made what is known as the "through-corner balance" much better.

Russell said: "We brought these upgrades to Monaco, which has been a really challenging circuit for us in the past, and we were 0.1secs from the front row and we thought going into Montreal we had a shot here.

"It's just turning really nicely through the corners. We struggled a lot with understeer before.

"Last year, we had a lot of oversteer and we've been trying to find the halfway house between what we had last year and what we had this year.

"And it feels like we're sort of dialling in that sweet spot right now. So it feels like something we've been saying for a long time, in all honesty. But you know, just really a sense of relief to actually see it translate into a pole position."

Despite winning in Monaco two weeks ago through Charles Leclerc, Ferrari were not in the fight for pole because neither driver could get out of Q2.

Leclerc will start 11th with team-mate Carlos Sainz alongside him in 12th and both drivers said they had "no grip at all".

How Russell beat Hamilton

Russell owed his pole to some homework between final practice and qualifying.

His Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton had been comfortably the quickest driver earlier in the day, Russell lagging 0.4secs behind. The younger man looked into what was going on.

"This morning we were so quick," he said. "Lewis was driving so well and he was miles ahead of me and I had to look at his data to try and understand what that was.

"The tyres are so sensitive and Lewis was doing something a bit unique with the tyres and I implemented that in Q1 and straight away we were top of the timesheets."

Hamilton, just over 0.2secs off Russell when it mattered, was not a happy man. His post-qualifying interview was monosyllabic, as it can often be in such circumstances.

"Had plenty of pace in P3 and in qualifying it just disappeared. Grip was just not there," he said.

Mercedes were so quick that actually the dead heat between Russell and Verstappen at the end of qualifying was a bit of a red herring.

Both Russell and Hamilton had been faster than the eventual pole time in the second qualifying session, but neither could repeat those times in the top 10 shootout.

They were one-two again after the first runs, but the gap between them was large enough that when neither improved on their second laps five other drivers - Verstappen, both McLarens, RB’s Daniel Ricciardo and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso - inserted themselves into it.

Can Russell hold on in the race? The weather may play a part, for rain is predicted.

"We are the favourite at the moment because we have the fastest car and I was feeling great behind the wheel," Russell said.

"But there is rain on the horizon and the wind is picking up. We are going to have to be so on our feet. It's a bit of a shame in a way. But I am feeling optimistic."

Antonelli heading for Mercedes seat

Andrea Kimi Antonelli
Andrea Kimi Antonelli, 17, was born in August 2006 - just over six months before Lewis Hamilton made his Formula 1 debut [Getty Images]

Off track, this weekend has been one dominated by the driver market, with Red Bull confirming Sergio Perez - who had his third qualifying stinker in a row and lines up 16th - as Verstappen's team-mate for the next two years and then Yuki Tsunoda’s place at RB.

Mercedes still theoretically have a vacancy alongside Russell for 2025 following Hamilton's defection to Ferrari, but it is increasingly likely their 17-year-old Italian protege Andrea Kimi Antonelli, racing in Formula 2 this year, will fill it.

The Perez deal was not a surprise, but it was a blow to Sainz, who had been hoping to land a top seat following his replacement by Hamilton.

But it has been looking for a while as if he would not get one, and that he will be left with a choice between Sauber/Audi and Williams. And Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff confirmed on Saturday that Sainz was not in his plans, either.

"Carlos deserves a top seat," Wolff said. "He's done a fantastic job, but for us we've embarked on a route now.

"We want to reinvent ourselves a little bit going forward and Kimi Antonelli definitely plays a part in that.

"We haven't taken a decision yet for next year but we didn't want to have Carlos wait as well because he needs to take decisions for himself and that's fair, but he's doing a super job."