Advantage Mercedes? W15 pace leads to rare admission from Max Verstappen

Henry Valantine
Max Verstappen and George Russell in Canada.

Max Verstappen set an identical qualifying time to George Russell in Canada, but will start behind him.

Max Verstappen admitted setting an identical lap time to George Russell was “great in hindsight” after Canadian Grand Prix qualifying, given how fast Mercedes have been in Montréal.

Lewis Hamilton had been almost four tenths quicker than anyone else in final practice on Saturday, but Verstappen set a 1:12.000 in Q3 – identical to Russell’s quickest effort in the final part of qualifying – but as Russell set his time earlier, he keeps pole position for Sunday’s race.

Max Verstappen on Mercedes’ early pace: ‘There is no way I can do something like that’

Both Russell and Hamilton had the team’s upgraded front wing fitted this weekend, which has seen dividends in performance on track along with other improvements the former World Champions have brought to the W15 this season.

Verstappen had struggled with his Red Bull through practice, but while his team-mate, Sergio Perez, went out in Q1, Verstappen placed his car on the front row for the Canadian Grand Prix.

Because of how much raw pace Mercedes have shown so far in Canada, the Red Bull driver admitted P2 is a perfectly acceptable starting position for him for the race on Sunday.

“In general, I think it wasn’t a bad qualifying,” Verstappen said after the session.

“I think what was mentioned before probably Q3 was the weakest of the sessions for Mercedes, so being on the exact same lap time is great in hindsight.

“I think when you look at their pure pace, I’d take second – because after Q2, I will say I saw their lap times, I was like, ‘there is no way that I can do something like that.’

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“Then of course it was a little bit of rain in between, like a few spits here and there, but I think overall just the weekend was, again, a bit messy from our side.

“Just too many little issues and then from there onwards, we tried to 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 we need to be able to just have cleaner weekends without issues, and I think that will help a bit as well.”

When asked if Mercedes’ turn of pace this weekend had taken him by surprise, Verstappen offered a diplomatic response – believing their speed to be “good for Formula 1” – with Mercedes now another team to potentially be taken into the mix with Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari at the front of the field, if they continue their current trajectory.

“Well, I think in general, when you look at the whole grid, there are quite a few surprises, like good surprises and bad surprises,” he said.

“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 certain weaknesses from your car, and probably other teams have their own weaknesses, so you just need to play that as well and take that into account, with certain track layouts, but it’s good for Formula 1.”

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