RACE DEBRIEF

    A mistake in the late moments of Q3 did little to rain on Lando Norris’s P3 finish in qualifying ahead of the Sprint at Imola, though the McLaren driver admitted that wet conditions did give him a boost on Friday evening – and P2 could have been on the cards too.

    Norris took third on the grid moments before Valtteri Bottas triggered the red flags, and then after the session restarted, the McLaren driver had his own off-track excursion at Turn 12, beaching his car in the slick gravel to bring the session to a premature end with seconds remaining. Netting himself P3 in the process, the Briton was understandably pleased, but said it was also a “shame” that he didn’t get a chance at taking P2 – on which he missed out by just over three-tenths.

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    “I’m top-three, which is quite a surprise for us. There was a lot left in the lap. I tried to get the tyres into temperature, but I pushed too hard on the out-lap. A shame,” he said, “because there was a chance at least to maybe have a go at Charles.

    “It’s difficult to say, because I am sure everybody can say they could’ve improved. There was a possibility for us to go forward even more because the car was feeling good and I was feeling confident, so it’s a shame it ended like that – but a good position for tomorrow so I’m happy,” he explained.

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    Norris joins the championship protagonists at the front for Saturday's Sprint

    P3 represents Norris’s best showing of the four qualifying sessions so far in 2022, the team having entered Italy buoyed by a double-points finish in Australia.

    Norris said: “[It’s getting] better and better, but at some point, that stops. It’s difficult to say, these conditions made a big difference for us today and that’s why we are in the position we are. I think if it was completely dry, we would not be in third place.

    “We made the most of today of course and we’ve given ourselves the best opportunity to score some good points this weekend.”

    READ MORE: Leclerc left frustrated after missing out on Imola pole by 0.8s

    Team mate Daniel Ricciardo managed sixth on the grid, putting both McLarens in Q3 and giving both a chance to clinch points in Saturday’s Sprint. He was however slightly frustrated not to put in a second lap in Q3, which was punctuated not only by Norris’s red flag but that of Valtteri Bottas, who stopped out on track earlier on.

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    “I was actually really, really happy with the session,” said the Australian. “I’m a little, I guess, frustrated, because I honestly felt that I had better pace than what we showed, I think it was just a timing thing.

    “I got one lap in, I think Charles and myself are the only ones with one lap in Q3 and everybody else did two. And obviously in these conditions it helps massively, but yes it is what it is. Of course, for that I’m like ‘poor me’, but happy with the pace we had. I was comfortable with the car, so pretty decent.”

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