Hamilton was on the bubble going into the final run in Q2 and complaining bitterly about the lack of pace in the car, at one point saying over the team radio: "I don't know what you expect me from sometimes."
The message came at a time when the FIA confirmed Hamilton would be investigated post-qualifying for 'driving unnecessarily slowly'.
With Hamilton in additional trouble of being eliminated, his saviour proved to be team-mate Russell who gave the older Briton a perfect tow on the former's final hot lap.
By the conclusion of the middle session, Hamilton had elevated himself into sixth, a tenth-of-a-second up on eighth-placed Russell.
After suffering a heavy crash in last year's grand prix at this circuit, Lance Stroll again hit a barrier, sparking a red flag with two minutes and 30 seconds remaining in Q1.
Minutes earlier, Stroll had nudged his front wing into a barrier after locking up at turn seven, but seemingly without damage to the car.
On his next hot lap, the Canadian overcooked his exit out of the 90-degree turn two left-hander, resulting in him slamming his right-front tyre into a Tecpro wall, sending debris flying across the circuit.
Following a 10-minute delay, the resumption naturally sparked a stampede given the time required to complete an out lap before embarking on a push lap.
Norris was told by his race engineer Will Joseph to get his "elbows out" and "overtake cars" in order to make the line such was the nervousness on the pit wall, with the start-finish straight akin to a race lap than a qualifying lap as the clock counted down to zero.
Remarkably, all 14 cars that took part - Verstappen, Perez, Leclerc, Sainz, Vettel and Ocon the exceptions - managed to get in another lap, although Alonso locked up at turn 15 and was forced to take to the escape road.
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