Why Lando Norris’ deleted laptime earned him pole position for Chinese GP sprint

Thomas Maher
Lando Norris, McLaren, 2024 Chinese Grand Prix.

Lando Norris snatched a sensational Sprint Qualifying pole at the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix.

Lando Norris took pole position for the sprint race at the Chinese Grand Prix, with a lap that was originally deleted by the FIA.

The McLaren driver splashed his way to the fastest time of the Sprint Qualifying session at the Shanghai International Circuit, with a time that was initially deleted by the stewards.

FIA stewards delete Lando Norris’ pole position time

During the worsening wet conditions that affected the third part of Sprint Qualifying, Norris put in a 1:57.940 to eclipse Lewis Hamilton’s efforts and snatch the provisional pole.

But Norris’ time was then deleted by the race stewards, on track limits grounds, handing the provisional pole back to Hamilton.

However, with Hamilton seemingly secure in the position, the stewards indicated Norris’ faster lap time would be re-instated. With Norris’ deleted time the quickest of all, the reinstatement thus gave him pole position for Saturday’s Sprint race.

The FIA has explained to PlanetF1.com that Norris’ time was initially deleted on the grounds of the British driver leaving the track at the final corner on the lap preceding his quickest time.

However, a spokesperson said that, in this instance, with Norris going off into the gravel, he clearly didn’t gain an advantage as he rejoined the circuit at a slower speed to start the lap that would go on to be quickest.

At circuits where going off track at the final corner could lead to an advantageous follow-up lap, the Race Director can impose a rule to delete the lap the track limits were breached, as well as the final lap – an example being last year’s Austrian Grand Prix.

However, there were no such provisions included in the race notes for Shanghai, with gravel lining the circuit just behind the kerbs.

Speaking to Sky F1 after the session, McLaren team boss Andrea Stella shed more light on the matter.

“We think it might have been because, in the lap before, he went off at the last corner,” he said when asked about the confusion.

“They might have thought that, in this case, having been off at the last corner, it has implications for the following lap.

“The following lap was the pole lap. And that lap is completely clean. So there’s no problem at all.”

Stella confirmed McLaren had not intervened with Race Control, and the stewards had put the lap back in without request.

“It was reinstated by the FIA themselves,” he said.

“Definitely, because [he] went off at the last corner, you launch at a much lower speed.

“Effectively, Lando lost almost three-tenths because he’s been off at the last corner.”

Mercedes’ team boss Toto Wolff said he had no issues with Norris’ lap being reinstated, given the circumstances of the off meant the McLaren man would have gone quicker with a cleaner start to the lap.

“I haven’t seen the detail, I’ve just seen he had four tyres off-track,” he told Sky F1.

“But, honestly, that goes even slower. So he could have probably gone faster, so I’m okay with that.”

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Lando Norris: I was nervous but I got a good final lap!

Speaking after snatching the Sprint Qualifying pole position, Norris said he’d been nervous about the approaching rain as he was happy with the pace of his McLaren in the dry conditions.

“I’m extremely happy, first of all, so big thanks to the whole team,” he said.

“It was tricky, you’re always nervous going into a session like this, especially for quali when you know it’s gonna rain.

“I was quite happy with how it was in the dry, I think we have a good pace all weekend so far.

“I got a bit nervous but the conditions were just where you’ve gonna risk a lot, you’ve got to push to build tyre temperature and so forth.

“But I was quick, I just kept catching the Ferrari – I had to keep backing off so I didn’t do the first few laps well at all.

“But I got a good final one, good enough one for pole, so I’m happy. Sad it’s not for a proper qualifying, but good enough.”

Asked whether it was just a case of staying out on track and keeping up the push as the rain intensified, Norris said: “You only have three laps, and the first two I aborted on both.

“So I was like, the last lap was all or nothing. But it was getting wetter and wetter.

“So actually, the conditions for the final two laps were a lot worse than the second lap, at least. So I was a little bit nervous. I made a few mistakes, and started to aquaplane quite a bit.

“But it was good fun, gets your heart going. To end up on top is exactly what we wanted. Nice surprise, and a good position for tomorrow.”

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