Since Carlos Sainz was racing on home soil, Lando Norris joked that he spared his former team-mate the fate of seeing P2 on the Spanish GP grid slip away.
While it was ultimately Max Verstappen who continued his dominance of the race weekend by claiming pole at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, there was chaos going on behind.
The likes of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and George Russell in the Mercedes had already fallen before Q3, meaning there was an opening for a potential surprise name to make it onto the front row.
And for a time it seemed like Norris could be the one to do it, the Brit flying on what had started as a greasy track after light rain at the start of qualifying.
Ultimately he would be forced to settle for P3 though, with Sainz, who formerly partnered Norris at McLaren but now drives for Ferrari, going 0.058s faster to secure that P2 spot.
Of course, that was because Norris let him off the hook, the Brit would joke.
Asked after qualifying how he and the McLaren came to life like that, Norris replied: “Oh, I have no idea. Yeah, I’m surprised to be here, but amazing job P3, almost P2.
“But it’s a home race for Carlos so I thought I’d give him a couple of tenths, you know!
“But yeah, very happy. P3 was nice, the whole of qualifying we were quite quick.”
Few had expected McLaren to be competing at the sharp end like that come Q3, so Norris would shed some light on where that pace came from.
He would explain that the high-speed corners suit the MCL60, which makes the reprofiled final two turns a key ally then, while Norris says these tricky track conditions also play to his strengths.
“I mean, it seems to be good for us, so I would say I like it,” said Norris when asked what he thinks of the Turn 13/14 double right-hander, with the chicane having now been axed.
“It’s one of our strengths, the high-speed corners. So yeah, I’m very happy.
“I think difficult qualifying, but always in these conditions, the tricky ones, we seem to do well, so it seems to suit me.”
If Norris was able to turn his P3 grid slot into a podium finish, then it would mark his first top-three result at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Formula 1.