Lewis Hamilton sends message to ‘buzzing’ George Russell after crazy Belgium GP qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton congratulated Mercedes junior driver George Russell after his fellow Briton qualified an incredible second for Sunday’s Belgium Grand Prix. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen stole pole from Russell right at the end of the session but nonetheless the Williams driver will start on the front row for the first time in his Formula One career.

Verstappen finished 0.321 seconds clear of Russell with seven-time world champion Hamilton set to start the race in third, though it is quite convincingly Russell’s best ever qualifying performance.

That came after a lengthy stoppage due to a red flag after Lando Norris, who might have competed for pole in the McLaren, suffered a heavy crash in Spa, with Russell’s countryman thankfully climbing from the car OK.

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Russell meanwhile is being tipped to replace Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes for 2022 with the Silver Arrows yet to confirm whether or not the Finn will be dropped.

And he did his chances of a promotion from backmarkers Williams no harm with a sensational lap in Belgium, which earned him praise from Hamilton, who could be his new team-mate next year.

Hamilton said after a hectic qualifying session: “It’s been a very difficult day for everyone. I just tried to stay positive and stay focused and calm.

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“Well done to Max, he did a great job right at the end. My first lap was really good but the second I struggled a little bit. Also a great job by George, that’s fantastic.

“If it’s like this tomorrow it’s going to be tricky. There’s this balance of straight-line speed versus that mid-section downforce. We tried to strike the best balance possible.

“Maybe it’s not the best for today. We’ll see tomorrow exactly how good it is. Otherwise I’m really grateful for the team for keeping their cool during this session.

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“Tomorrow’s another day. Hopefully we have better weather, hopefully for the fans particularly, they’re probably drenched out there.”

Bottas finished P8 and well adrift of his team-mate but will be demoted five places due to a penalty.

Hamilton added: “I don’t really know what happened with Valtteri. It’s unfortunate because I think they have two Red Bulls not too far away.

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“That’s going to make it a little bit harder in terms of strategy, I think Valtteri has a penalty also.

“I’m buzzing, absolutely buzzing. Tomorrow’s the important one. We’ve got to go out there and score some points.

“That’s the plan [to attack the first corner]. If it’s there for the taking, we’ll go for it! Mega.”

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Pole-sitter Verstappen said: “It’s been a really tricky qualifying. It was hard to keep the car on track, switching the tyres on at the right times as well.

“The long break between Q2 and Q3, it’s not easy to settle in and learn the track conditions again. At the end we were first and that’s of course the most important. It’s an amazing track to drive but very challenging in the wet.

“As you could see in Q1 a lot of people including myself went out on the extremes but it was too slow, a lot of seconds off the pace. Naturally you switch to the intermediates but that tyre cannot handle a lot of standing water.

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“It becomes quite tricky. Lovely weather! Overall of course super happy to have a qualifying like this after the break and to have a pole position again. A really good day.”

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