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Formula 1

Reinstated lap gives Norris Chinese GP sprint pole by huge margin

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

Lando Norris took pole position in a memorable and chaotic Formula 1 sprint qualifying session in the rain at Shanghai.

In a madcap rain-hit final qualifying segment, Norris set a time comfortably good enough for pole, then had it briefly deleted, then had it reinstated to give him first place on the grid for the Saturday morning race.

In those moments after the deletion, pole position briefly belonged to Lewis Hamilton instead, with the Mercedes having struggled badly in the dry before coming alive in Hamilton's hands once the track conditions changed.

The session was disrupted by yet another grass fire at the side of the track - following one in practice earlier - that the FIA has linked to the sparks being produced by the cars.

The small delay between the first and second segment to get it cleared up meant that the expected rain arrived in the final minutes of SQ2, ruling out any second attempts. By SQ3, it had comprehensively soaked the track.

Each of the 10 drivers who hade made it through chose intermediates to challenge for sprint pole - and there were no takes for the wet compound despite drivers visibly struggling to keep their cars on the road.

One of those drivers, Charles Leclerc, went off into the barriers very early on, but managed to dig himself out of the gravel, his Ferrari having miraculously avoided any major damage.

Nobody else had as dramatic an off, but there was still no shortage of off-track excursions - including those costing Norris and championship leader Max Verstappen laps.

Norris's brief 'phantom' lap deletion was related to that, too, the McLaren driver having gone off at the final corner on the previous push lap - which would've normally meant he lost the next lap, too, despite it proving no advantage whatsoever in the conditions.

It remains unclear for now why Norris's lap was reinstated.

Hamilton still had a chance to respond, with Mercedes timing its run plan to perfection and allowing the Briton to start his final flying lap a couple of seconds before the chequered flag - but though he improved he was still 1.261s off Norris.

Fernando Alonso had been on provisional pole until the final seconds but had to settle for third, a tenth up on Verstappen, with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz and Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez close behind.

Leclerc ultimately salvaged a seventh place, with the second McLaren of Oscar Piastri eighth (three seconds off Norris). His gearbox went into neutral as he got wheelspin out the hairpin on his final lap.

The SQ3 order was rounded up by the two Saubers, Valtteri Bottas leading local hero Guanyu Zhou, who had earned a massive cheer from the local crowd after making it to the final segment.

George Russell was quickest of those out in SQ2, six hundredths behind team-mate Hamilton after his first (and effectively only) attempt, lamenting the loss of tyre temperature as he had queued behind many others to head out of the pitlane as early as possible.

The Haas duo lined up behind him, Kevin Magnussen just 0.005s up on team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, followed by RB's Daniel Ricciardo - who outqualified Yuki Tsunoda for the first time this season, having gone nearly six tenths clear of the Japanese driver in SQ1.

Practice pacesetter Lance Stroll was over half a second down on Alonso in SQ2 to end up 15th for Aston.

Both Alpines were out in the opening segment, Pierre Gasly denied an SQ2 spot at the final second by Russell. The Mercedes driver had been slower after the first two sectors but was much faster in the final one.

The silver lining for Gasly, though, was that he outqualified Esteban Ocon - having gone 0-4 in grand prix qualifying sessions versus his team-mate so far this season, and with only Ocon having possession of the upgraded Alpine floor this weekend.

The Alpines, both the older-spec one and the upgraded one, were at least quicker than the Williams cars, with Alex Albon in 18th behind Ocon and Logan Sargeant a further tenth off in 20th, telling the team after his lap that he "gave you everything I had".

It was the closest Sargeant has come to Albon in qualifying so far this year, but there was still another car between them, Tsunoda having placed a disappointing 19th after only getting one representative laptime in - and ranting on the radio about a lack of grip.

Sprint qualifying result

1Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1m36.384s1m36.047s1m57.940s
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1m37.181s1m36.287s1m59.201s
3Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes1m36.883s1m36.119s1m59.915s
4Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPT1m36.456s1m35.606s2m00.028s
5Carlos SainzFerrari1m36.719s1m36.052s2m00.214s
6Sergio PérezRed Bull-Honda RBPT1m36.110s1m35.781s2m00.375s
7Charles LeclercFerrari1m36.537s1m35.711s2m00.566s
8Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes1m36.542s1m35.853s2m00.990s
9Valtteri BottasSauber-Ferrari1m37.112s1m36.056s2m01.044s
10Guanyu ZhouSauber-Ferrari1m37.544s1m36.307s2m03.537s
11George RussellMercedes1m37.310s1m36.345s
12Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1m37.033s1m36.473s
13Nico HülkenbergHaas-Ferrari1m36.924s1m36.478s
14Daniel RicciardoRB-Honda RBPT1m37.321s1m36.553s
15Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1m36.961s1m36.677s
16Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault1m37.632s
17Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1m37.720s
18Alex AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1m37.812s
19Yuki TsunodaRB-Honda RBPT1m37.892s
20Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes1m37.923s
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