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FIA post-qualifying press conference – Canada

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MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JUNE 08: Pole position qualifier George Russell of Great Britain and Mercedes,

1. George Russell (Mercedes), 2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull), 3. Lando Norris (McLaren)

TRACK INTERVIEWS
(Conducted by Jolyon Palmer)

Q: George Russell, pole position. That was a qualifying session for the ages, and you got it in a dead heat. But it wasn't a fluke. You were so quick today.

George RUSSELL: Oh, amazing. It feels so good, feels so good! So much hard work back at the factory has gone into this. We said it in Monaco that we hope this is the start of something for our season, and I think it is. I've missed this feeling.

Q: Yeah, it's amazing. You had such a big cheer from the crowd here. They love to see a Mercedes back on top. Where's this pace come from, George?

GR: It's awesome here. Every time we come to Montréal, it's such good energy from all the fans. And I'm excited for tomorrow. So, obviously, first step done. But obviously, now we've got our eyes on that win.

Q: Can you keep Max behind you?

GR: Why not? Of course. Let's go for it. I think the car has been feeling amazing. Since we bought some upgrades to Monaco, we've sort of really been in that fight now. So, we're going for it tomorrow.

Q: Alright. Best of luck. Well done, George. Well, Max, there was literally nothing in it today, but you have to settle for second place. That must be frustrating when it's a dead heat.

Max VERSTAPPEN: I mean, 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’ll take it. I mean, going into qualifying, I would have definitely taken that. So that it was that close at the end, yeah, makes it really exciting for tomorrow as well.

Q: And this looks like more conventional Red Bull than what we saw in Monaco. Have you felt better than last time out, able to fight tomorrow?

MV: I mean, 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, yeah, 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, yeah, hopefully it will be very exciting.

Q: What's the plan? Attack at the start or play the long game tomorrow?

MV: I don't know. We'll think about it. I'm not that stressed about it.

Q: Lando, two whole hundredths away from pole position.

Lando NORRIS: Is that it?

Q: That's it. Great lap.

LN: It's a shame.

Q: Not quite enough today. But you must be happy?

LN: I'm super happy. First of all, congrats to Mr. Russell. I knew he's been quick all weekend, so congrats to him and to Mercedes. But I'm happy with third. When you're so close, you always think, ‘could I have jumped in the car for that little bit more?’ But yeah, third is a good job by us, so I'm happy and excited for tomorrow.

Q: It looked such a tricky session from the cockpit. A threat of rain that never really came. You had to be on it every single lap and not miss a beat.

LN: Pretty much. But that's Montréal. I think that's why we love it here. It's one of the best places to come to every year. So, yeah, I love it. I mean, it's why we're all smiling. We have a good time. It's tricky. Like, a lot of the time, you're thinking you're going to crash, half of it, but when you put a nice lap in and you end up top three, it's always a nice feeling.

Q: Yeah, it was thrilling to watch. And you put some dicey overtakes last year. You've got two to make tomorrow.

LN: Yeah, two overtakes tomorrow. Easy, light work. So, no, I'm excited to see what we can do. You know, car's been great all season, especially the last three, four races. We've been on a good roll, but two very fast drivers ahead, plenty of fast drivers behind, so we'll put on a good show tomorrow.

PRESS CONFERENCE

Q: George, many congratulations. What a session, literally nothing to separate you and Max in the end. Start by giving us your reaction to what's just happened?

GR: Yeah, such a buzz. It's been a while since we've experienced this feeling. And, you know, so much hard work going on behind the scenes at Brackley, at Brixworth. And, you know, it's been a little while to be able to sort of get back in the fight. And we've almost felt like all of that hard work hasn't been paying off. But I think these last two race weekends has really shown that. And as I said, we've been so fast all weekend. Q3 was probably our worst session of the three. And, you know, it bodes well for tomorrow.

Q: As you say, it has been a while. It's been nearly two years since you took that pole in Hungary. Were you getting impatient for it to happen again?

GR: To be honest, this weekend's been really challenging to know because of the conditions yesterday. You know you've had rain around all weekend and then this morning Lewis was absolutely flying and you know he was well ahead of me and I had to look a lot into his data to try and understand what he was doing differently. And to be honest, that helped me a huge amount. So ahead of this qualifying I’m just so glad that we could pull it off because it, you know, I feel like we really deserve it for all of this hard work we've been putting in and the cars been feeling awesome this weekend.

Q: Well, where is the car better this weekend? Tell us about it.

GR: Well, it always feels better when your name's towards the top of the timesheets, to be honest. But it's just turning really nicely through the corners. I think we struggled a lot with understeer before. Last year, we had a lot of oversteer and we've sort of been just 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 dialing 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.

Q: And tell us about the conditions. We saw you have a big moment, I think it was at Turn 4 in Q2.

GR: Yeah, huge.

Q: How difficult was it out there?

GR: Yeah, it was really challenging, to be honest. All weekend, every single session and every lap it's been changing. The sun comes out, the track temperature warms up, then the clouds come in, it's spitting. And it's just really, really difficult to find that sweet spot. And my lap on the used tyre was really, really strong in Q3. And I was expecting to find about three or four tenths for the second lap on the new tyre. And it just didn't click. But it was fortunate enough that the first lap was good enough for pole.

Q: So the race tomorrow, we've had very little dry running. What are your predictions?

GR: I think it's going to be a tough race for everybody, to be honest. Graining seems to be an issue. And this new track surface, nobody really knows how it's going to pan out. But we've got to go for victory. The car is genuinely really, really fast at the moment. But it's going to be a long race, I think. As soon as you fall off that cliff of the tyres tomorrow, it's going to be really difficult to recover. So, yeah, it could be a bit of a strategic game. Maybe not as extreme as we saw in Monaco last week, but maybe something similar.

Q: Alright, very well done. Best of luck tomorrow. Max, let's come to you now. It couldn't have been closer between you and George. Can we start just by getting your reaction to the session?

MV: Yeah, I mean, in general, I think it wasn't a bad qualifying. I think what was mentioned before, probably Q3, was the weakest of the sessions for Mercedes. So, you know, being on the exact same lap time, yeah, it's great, but in hindsight, I think when you look at their pure pace, I’ll take second. Because after Q2, I saw their lap times, I was like, ‘there is no way that I can do something like that’. Then, of course, there was a little bit of rain in between, like a few spits here and there. But, yeah, I mean... I think overall, just the weekend was again a bit messy from our side, just too many little issues. And then, yeah, from there onwards, we tried to, of course, find the best possible balance with the car. I think we did get a decent balance in qualifying. I was quite happy with it. But, yeah, we need to be able to just have cleaner weekends without issues. And I think that will help a bit as well.

Q: Max, you say it's been a messy weekend, but how much better is the car here than it was in Monaco two weeks ago?

MV: Well, we're still struggling with the same things, but of course, the track layout helps compared to Monaco, where Monaco has a lot more low-speed, so it's really important to have good ride, mechanical grip. Here, of course, there's more aero involved. Of course, there are a few places still where you need to ride kerbs or you have bumpy places, but we know those limitations, so we need to just work on that. But that's why I think in general, to be P2 here is alright.

Q: So what about the race?

MV: Yes, same, like George just mentioned, with the tyres, it's a bit tricky with the graining and maybe some rain in between. So, yes, a lot of question marks and you just need to get going and see what happens.

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MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JUNE 08: Third placed qualifier Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren attends the press conference after qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Canada at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 08, 2024 in Montreal, Quebec. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Q: Have you been surprised by the pace of Mercedes this weekend?

MV: Well, I think in general, when you look at the whole grid, there are quite a few surprises, like good surprises and bad surprises. So, yeah, it just shows that everyone is closing up and it's really details that make the difference. Maybe you understand tyres better. You know, of course, certain weaknesses from your car and probably other teams have their own weaknesses, you know, so you just need to play that as well and take that into account, you know, with certain track layouts. But it's good for Formula 1.

Q: Okay, very well done. Thank you. Lando, coming to you now, just 21 milliseconds off pole and you didn't even make it onto the front row. Is it frustrating to be so close yet so far?

LN: I mean, I could be in Max's position and not be on pole, but done a quick enough lap time. So I'm happy. Honestly, I'm happy with third. It's so close. So to be this close with a lap that I didn't think… It was good, but not incredible. And I know George said he didn't get the most out of it, that kind of thing. Just difficult conditions, difficult track layout and challenging, which is kind of what makes Montreal what it is, and definitely probably a bit harder this year than what it's been in the past, but still rewarding to come out with a P3, even if we were only two hundredths off pole.

Q: You say it's been challenging. How difficult has it been to dial in the car to this racetrack?

LN: I mean, very, because like George said, again, every lap was different. We've not done many laps in the first place. So it's tyres coming up to temperature, then dropping away, then graining, then the sun coming out, spitting again. It's been difficult just to be consistent and kind of get a nice flow. I don't think it's ever been really that circuit. you can necessarily do that, but yeah difficult to kind of pinpoint exactly what you want from the car because you want two different worlds of good ride, good kerbing and also a car that's kind of just performing at its best from an aero performance-wise. So yeah a challenge in all types, of setting up the car and also from driving. But I think it's what makes it fun around here and challenging and still, as tough as it was to turn out so close and I think from first to seventh or eighth was only two tenths, it's good to watch.

Q: Are you confident of challenging for the win tomorrow?

LN: I mean, we've had great race pace the last few races. So I'm going to have to say yes. I think we're in the fight. It's so close. But you know, George has been the favourite all weekend. So they've been very quick. Mercedes has been very quick. And George has done a great job coming into qualifying. So you would say on paper they look like they have… They're a bit more comfortable with where they are, you know, from the first run that they've been pretty much at the top of the time sheets and we necessarily haven't. And we've kind of progressed through the weekend a little bit more. But Sunday is always a day we've performed very well, like I said, over the last couple of months. So if we can do the same again tomorrow, then I'm excited to see what race we can put on.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Jake Boxall-Legge – Autosport) A question for George, please. You mentioned that you didn't quite get it hooked up on the second lap, and Lewis didn't improve either. Was it just the nature of the conditions changing, or did you just get the most out of it on the first one?

GR: Yeah, the conditions were changing. I think we were one of the last to do our laps, I don't know when Max did his lap, but my lap in Q2 was really, really strong. My first lap in Q3 was really good, only, I think, two tenths off what I did in Q2, on the old tyre. So I was expecting to do, you know, probably three or four tenths ahead, like it's been all weekend. And the tyres just didn't quite feel right. So, you know, it shows how sensitive everything was. And that was probably the first time that it didn't quite go our way. But as I said, it goes to show how strong our pace has been this weekend. You know, Q1, we didn't need to use two sets of tyres. That was a first. Didn't really need to use two sets in Q2 either. You know, it's sort of come from nowhere, but maybe not a surprise with the upgrades we've been bringing.

Q: (Stu Cowan – Montreal Gazette) Max, it looks like it's going to be wet tomorrow. Is there anything you like about driving in the rain? And what makes this track maybe more difficult than others in wet conditions?

MV: I think all of us, we had a lot of time driving in the wet since we grew up, being from the UK and from Holland! I think in general, you are naturally a bit more confident driving in the wet. It's a bit of a different challenge. Of course, nowadays with our cars, it's quite hard to see when it's raining a lot, so we don't always get to race in the full wet conditions. If it's like a little bit of rain tomorrow, even if it comes in and out, it might actually make it really, really interesting. And I think around here, you know, the chicanes, new tarmac can make it very slippery and if you make a tiny mistake, you know, the walls are very close as well. So you have to take that into account. But yeah, hopefully we'll have an exciting race tomorrow.

Q: (Ronald Vording – Motorsport.com) A question to all three. Lando, I think on Thursday you said that ‘26 brings the risk of bigger gaps again, the field getting spread out. Do you feel that sessions like today, which the fans love, actually prove your point that leaving the regulations stable for longer could be a consideration for the future?

LN: I mean, it's not up to me. It doesn't matter what I say. But I think you're not going to have days like today again. You're not going to have days like the last few weeks probably until ‘26, ‘27, ‘28, pretty much like ‘28, ‘29. So it's how it's always been. Every time there's a regulation change, there's big gaps. And even at the end of the last era, so 2020 or whatever it was, ‘21, things were getting closer again. You had still Red Bull against Mercedes, and everyone was getting closer. And then everything spread out again. Red Bull had their time, and now it seems like we've been able to catch up. So just as we're getting there, and I think probably looking ahead to next year already, next year should be an exciting year for everyone, just from first to last. I think it's going to be exciting. But then that's all going to go in ‘26. So it depends what you want. I think it's still exciting now. I know it's an exciting qualifying. There might be some benefits in the race for those regulations. There might be some things that are worse. The type of racing you're going to get is probably quite different. So it's complicated. It's not a simple answer. I don't know the answer at the same time. I don't think anyone knows exactly how it's going to pan out. Yeah, always at the end of these regulation changes we see days like today and we see closer battles between, now Mercedes up here as well. So that's four teams who are fighting towards the top. Eight cars, you're going to see different winners. And I think that's exciting for people watching, but definitely you're not going to have that in ‘26. So it depends if you want to kind of keep this excitement and keep this challenge that we have now, or if you want to change everything again and have another few years where it's far apart.

Q: (Joost Smedema – NOS.NL) A question to George. The last couple of years has been difficult for Mercedes to fight for pole or for podiums. Did you sense any difference during this weekend that this pole position you would be able to fight for?

GR: 100%. I think every lap we've done this weekend, the car's been feeling good. We've always been at the upper end of the timesheets. And, you know, we were talking yesterday, you know, why do we think we were so competitive on FP1, FP2, and, you know, obviously on FP3, really fast as well, so… We need to see in the next races if that continues. But, you know, obviously last week in Monaco, we were a tenth from the front row here, you know, on pole. And this is the first two races we've had with the upgrades. So, yeah, time would tell. We'd only get carried away with ourselves. But, yeah, it's looking good so far.

Q: (Scott Mitchell-Malm –The Race) Talking about the upgrades, previous supposed breakthroughs haven't been sustainable for Mercedes, but does this feel rooted in something more real?

GR: Yeah, 100%. I think going back to what Lando was talking about, when you have a number of years with the same regulations, you sort of hone in on that sweet spot. And we've sort of been zigzagging over these past couple of years and as we've probably entered the last six months, those zigzags have narrowed and we've sort of really been able to fine-tune what it is we want from the car. And I think It just goes to show that small changes can actually bring big improvements in performance. We saw it with McLaren, I think, you know, ourselves have made a big jump as well, especially in terms of the pecking order. So as I said, let's see if this performance is sustainable. But right now I don't see any reason why not. And, you know, we think we've got more to come.

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