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Russell clinches pole in Canada with identical time to Verstappen

British driver George Russell of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team drives during the third practice session ahead of the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press via ZUMA Press/dpa
British driver George Russell of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team drives during the third practice session ahead of the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press via ZUMA Press/dpa

George Russell gave Mercedes their first pole position this season at the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix on Saturday with the identical fastest time to champion Max Verstappen of Red Bull.

The British driver clocked 1 minute 12 seconds - exactly the same time as Verstappen. Russell, however, took pole because he set the time first.

Lando Norris of McLaren completed the top three, only 0.021 second off the pace.

This is Russell's first pole position since the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix and third of his career. For Mercedes, it's their best qualifying result since Lewis Hamilton took pole at the 2023 Hungarian Grand Prix.

"Amazing, it feels so good. So much hard work back at the factory has gone into this. We hope this is the start of something for our season, we think it is," Russell said.

Mercedes set eye on first win since 2022

Eight-time world champions Mercedes have struggled in the past two seasons and haven't won a race since Russell's triumph in Brazil in 2022, while watching Red Bull and Verstappen dominating F1.

But upgrades brought at the Monaco Grand Prix paid off and practice session results over the weekend gave them hopes of a good qualifying performance.

The expected rain in the last part of the session didn't arrive and Russell clocked the fastest time in his first flying lap. That gave him the advantage after he failed to better his time in the second attempt and Verstappen improved his lap.

"I missed this, it's such a good feeling. Excited for tomorrow - we have our eyes on that win. Let's go for it, the car has been feeling amazing since we brought those upgrades to Monaco," Russell said.

His team-mate Lewis Hamilton, however, managed only the seventh best time.

"I'm of course happy for George, but it's a bit bittersweet. But at the end of the day, perfect," Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff told broadcasters Sky.

Verstappen makes up for difficult weekend

Red Bull and Verstappen didn't have an easy weekend, with the Dutchman forced to abandon the second practice session on Friday due to car issues.

The is the second time this season the defending champion is not on pole, after he also missed the top spot at the Monaco GP two weeks ago. But he still celebrated the result.

"We still had a good qualifying, the whole weekend has been tricky for us so P2 - I'll take it, I would have definitely taken that going into qualifying. We didn't have a great build up to today, but I think it will be an interesting race tomorrow," he said.

Team-mate Sergio Perez, meanwhile, was out in Q1 and will start the race in 16th. The Mexican driver extended his contract with Red Bull for another two years just this week.

Visa RB and Aston Martin in top 10, frustration for Ferrari

Oscar Piastri will start fourth behind his McLaren team-mate Norris and will be followed by Daniel Ricciardo of Visa RB. The team was a big surprise, also with Yuki Tsunoda in eight.

Another unusual presence in the top 10 were the Aston Martin cars of Fernando Alonso in sixth and Canadian Lance Stroll in ninth.

For Ferrari, meanwhile it was a disappointing session. Monaco GP winner Charles Leclerc was only 11th with team-mate Carlos Sainz right behind in 12th.

Ahead of Sunday's race, Verstappen tops the drivers' standings 31 points ahead of Leclerc.