Verstappen did not expect to end up on the front row in Montreal qualifying

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Canada, Circuit Gilles Villeneuveca

Championship runaway leader Max Verstappen had not expected to end up on the front row in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix after a challenging opening day in Montreal.

The last three grands prix saw Max Verstappen endure a tough start to his weekends, and it was the case in Montreal as well. The Dutchman was struggling for pace on Friday while a power unit issue also hindered his work in the second one-hour practice.

The final practice took place in dry conditions which enabled the field to gather vital information following a rain-effected opening day. Verstappen continued to struggle for pace, but he was able to get his act together for qualifying to end up second on the grid with an identical time to pole-sitter George Russell.

Expanding on his Saturday, Verstappen said: “I’m happy to be on the front row for tomorrow’s race and it was certainly more than I thought was possible after FP3. We always knew this track was going to be a bit more tricky than others and it seems that a lot of the teams are catching up.

"Today it was about managing the tyres with the graining, but if you look at the pace we did well and improved nicely every run. We tried to do the best we can and just need to make sure we have a cleaner weekend as we have been slightly on the back foot. Looking to tomorrow, I think it will come down to the weather and tyre behaviour.

"The rain will make it more interesting, especially with the tarmac making it more slippery, the chicanes and the close walls. It has been a difficult weekend, but considering everything we definitely maximised the result in qualifying and I am looking forward to tomorrow," the Dutchman added.

His team-mate Sergio Perez endured another shock result after his disappointing qualifying sessions in Imola and Monaco. Team boss Christian Horner hopes that the Mexican can make up ground on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve that usually offers great overtaking opportunities.

"It was disappointing for Checo to miss out by such a small margin in Q1 as he struggled with the rear grip in the car. We’ll have to look into the reasons for that so that we can give him the best chance of coming through the field tomorrow, which we know he’s capable of.

"On a track which was rapidly evolving and where all teams were going through their tyre allocation quickly, Max just got stronger and stronger through the qualifying.

"To miss out on the top place whilst exactly matching the pole time was an outstanding effort after a tricky day yesterday and it’s great to be lining up on the front row alongside George, in an exciting looking grid," added Horner.