Chinese GP: Lando Norris snatches pole as chaos and confusion erupt in the rain in Sprint qualifying

Michelle Foster
Lando Norris celebrates his pole position in Sprint qualifying

Lando Norris celebrates pole position

Lando Norris grabbed the opening Sprint pole position of the season in an entertaining wet sprint qualifying that saw the McLaren driver’s time deleted only to be reinstated.

Although the session started dry, by SQ3 the drivers were slipping and sliding off the track – even Max Verstappen, with Norris coming out on top ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

Lando Norris claims pole position in Sprint qualifying

Taking a moment as the lights went green for the 12-minute medium-tyre SQ1, the drivers then complained that it was “spitting more” as they put in their opening gambit.

Lewis Hamilton went quickest before Charles Leclerc took over at the front then Fernando Alonso followed by the Red Bull team-mates. Sergio Perez went P1 with a 1:36.110 to sit three-tenths up on Max Verstappen.

As the drivers stayed out given the track evolution, Lando Norris split the Red Bull team-mates and Carlos Sainz moved up to fifth place.

And out went Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, the latter behind despite using the new Alpine floor, Alex Albon, Yuki Tsunoda and Logan Sargeant.

But with the grass again catching fire, this time Turn 5, there was a delay to the start of SQ2.

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The delay meant the rain moved ever closer to the circuit, prompting the drivers to queue at the end of the pit lane with a warning that it could arrive at the end of the first hot laps. Such was the traffic jam that the drivers tried to squeeze into the queue.

All except Verstappen and Hamilton, who waited with hot tyres in their garages. Verstappen put his tyres to good use as he went quickest ahead of Leclerc and Perez, Hamilton though was only P9.

But as the rain came down harder, those behind the Briton on the timesheet weren’t able to improve their times, saving Hamilton but putting George Russell, Kevin Magnussen, Nico Hulkenberg, Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll out of sprint qualifying.

Zhou Guanyu made it into SQ3 to the applause of the grandstands.

Venturing out on intermediates having again queued at the end of the pit lane, Norris was told the rain would “continue at this intensity”.

It was notably slippery, Norris having a moment, Leclerc spinning into the barrier, Verstappen had an off at Turn 6 and then Zhou did too. It was all happening.

Hamilton pitted for new intermediate tyres as Perez went quickest with a 2:00.455, a second ahead of Valtteri Bottas and two up on Piastri. Verstappen went off again at the final turn! With less than a minute to go Fernando Alonso went fastest only to be pipped by Hamilton, the first driver into the 1:59s.

But while it briefly looked as if Norris had pipped him, the McLaren driver’s time was deleted for track limits only to be reinstated. Norris took pole ahead of Hamilton, Alonso and Verstappen.

Times

1 Lando NORRIS 1:57.940
2 Lewis HAMILTON +1.261
3 Fernando ALONSO +1.975
4 Max VERSTAPPEN +2.088
5 Carlos SAINZ +2.274
6 Sergio PEREZ +2.435
7 Charles LECLERC +2.626
8 Oscar PIASTRI +3.050
9 Valtteri BOTTAS +3.104
10 Guanyu ZHOU +5.597
11 George RUSSELL 1:36.345
12 Kevin MAGNUSSEN 1:36.473
13 Nico HULKENBERG 1:36.478
14 Daniel RICCIARDO 1:36.553
15 Lance STROLL 1:36.677
16 Pierre GASLY 1:37.632
17 Esteban OCON 1:37.720
18 Alexander ALBON 1:37.812
19 Yuki TSUNODA 1:37.892
20 Logan SARGEANT 1:37.923

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