Norris revels in maiden pole but says Sochi is 'probably the only place I wouldn’t want to start P1'
Lando Norris took a sensational maiden pole position for the 2021 Russian Grand Prix, and while the 21-year-old was clearly elated, he admitted this is the one circuit on the calendar where he'd perhaps prefer not to be starting P1.
Norris clinched P1 in qualifying by 0.517s over his former team mate, Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz, with a late calculated switch to slick tyres on a damp but drying surface on Saturday. In doing so, Norris gave McLaren their first pole position since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix – which also saw their last race win until this season’s Italian GP triumph.
Asked if he had processed the achievement, Norris said: “I don’t know. Yes, I mean it’s just an awesome feeling like altogether. I don’t know what to say. it just feels like you’ve qualified well but it’s a pole position which doesn’t come around much – it’s obviously my first one in x amount of races. Could be my first one for a while or my only pole for a while so yes, feels amazing especially in these conditions.
“It’s tricky; you have to put a lot of risk on the line and just try to see if it pays off and it did. So, yes, an amazing feeling, my first pole. Probably the only place I wouldn’t want to be pole is here, especially with the straight down to Turn ,” he admitted.
That long run to Turn 2 has been a problem for pole-sitters in the past as it offers a great chance for a driver behind to pass, and only twice since 2014 (in 2014 and ’16) has the pole-sitter won the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi. With that in mind, Norris said he was “happy” to take his first pole but was still hesitant about leading the field when the lights go out on Sunday.
“I’m not really looking forward it! I’m not looking forward to being first down to Turn  tomorrow but it’s going to set us up well, we’re in the best position we can be and I’m happy – it’s my first pole position, hopefully the first of many. I don’t know, I’m just happy, I don’t really know what to say,” he maintained.
As for the benchmark lap itself, Norris made no effort to hide the fact that conditions were tough, with the surface so soaked that final practice was cancelled earlier on Saturday, and the track remaining perilously slick when the drivers emerged for qualifying.
“It was tough,” he said. “I want to make myself sound good but it was tricky you know because it was that crossover section, and the lap before I was like two seconds down and I wasn’t very confident we were going to improve on the previous lap – but then I kept my tyres warm and prepared the final lap. I risked quite a bit, I’m going to admit, and it paid off so I’m a happy boy,” he said.
On Sunday, Norris will no doubt be determined to build on the team’s stunning one-two finish at Monza a fortnight ago, and perhaps match team mate Daniel Ricciardo by taking his first race win for McLaren.