Explained: Why the Mercedes W15 is suddenly so quick in Canada

Michelle Foster
George Russell in Canadian GP qualifying. F1 starting grid.

George Russell took Canadian Grand Prix pole in a dramatic dead heat with Max Verstappen in Montréal.

The new front wing may be the most visible of Mercedes’ upgrades but Toto Wolff believes it’s the overall improvement in downforce, and in the “right places”, that put George Russell on pole in Canada.

Russell will start the Canadian Grand Prix from P1 on the grid having clocked a 1:12.000 in qualifying.

Toto Wolff proclaims: We’re going in the right direction

His time was matched by Max Verstappen but as the Red Bull driver completed his lap after Russell, it was the Mercedes driver who was awarded pole position.

It marked Mercedes’ best qualifying showing of this season with the team having slowly made inroads on their deficit to the frontrunners, inroads that even Russell concedes weren’t always that noticeable.

Speaking in the post-qualifying press conference, the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix winner said: “So much hard work going on behind the scenes at Brackley, at Brixworth. And it’s been a little while to be able to sort of get back in the fight.

“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.”

The Briton’s second career pole position came on the back of the Brackley squad’s latest upgrade, one that was headlined by a new front wing.

Wolff, though, insists that was not solely the key to the team’s step forward.

“As we have said for a while,” the team principal told the Sky F1 in Montreal, “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 more performance.

“In Formula 1 it’s never one bit, not since the double diffuser, that makes all the difference. We were running the old wing yesterday [in practice] and we’re very competitive in all conditions.

“So it’s what’s come on the floor, little bits on the bodywork and underneath, and then obviously the front wing which is more visible.”

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Toto Wolff believes Mercedes’ have a grip’ on the car

After two years of struggling with Formula 1’s ground-effect aerodynamic concept, Wolff says Mercedes have a “grip” on the car.

“Think we have a grip on the car,” he said. “But obviously, one swallow doesn’t make a summer. The lap was great, and good for George.

“But we need to keep both feet on the ground. Three races ago we were really not good enough. And now we have a pole position, a good result, and hopefully we can materialise that in a race and I think if we’re good in the long run.

“I think you can count more on us in the next few races.”

He put Mercedes’ improvement down to “more downforce, and more downforce in the right places.

“We were either fast in the low speed or and the other way around, and we kind of never got the right balance. Now the drivers say the car is well balanced.”

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