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Norris beats Verstappen to pole in thrilling Spanish GP qualifying session

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BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 22: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL38 Mercedes on

McLaren driver Lando Norris secured the second pole position of his Formula 1 career after coming out on top in an epic battle with Red Bull rival Max Verstappen during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Norris, who was last on pole at the Sochi Autodrom back in 2021, had trailed Verstappen after the opening Q3 runs, but produced a stunning final lap of 1m 11.383s to outpace the Dutchman by two hundredths of a second.

Mercedes converted their encouraging practice pace into a competitive qualifying display, with Lewis Hamilton managing to turn the tables on team mate George Russell as they took P3 and P4 on the grid for Sunday’s race.

Charles Leclerc and home favourite Carlos Sainz had to settle for fifth and sixth in what was another tight session around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, while Pierre Gasly starred en route to seventh for Alpine.

Sergio Perez was eighth in his Red Bull, but will drop three places on the grid with his penalty from Canada, promoting the other Alpine of Esteban Ocon and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, who had a scruffy Q3 and failed to log a time.

Spain 2024

Qualifying results

PositionTeam NameTime
1NOR1:11.383
2VER1:11.403
3HAM1:11.701
4RUS1:11.703
5LEC1:11.731
View Full Results

Fernando Alonso gave it his all to reach the pole position shootout on home soil but ultimately missed out on Q3 by just a couple of hundredths of a second, having been pushed into the Q2 drop zone by former team mate Ocon.

Alonso was joined in the drop zone by Kick Sauber drivers Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu in respective P12 and P15 slots, with Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg and the other Aston Martin of Lance Stroll slotting between them.

Magnussen could not quite match the pace of team mate Hulkenberg as he fell at the first qualifying hurdle in 16th position, the Dane just missing out on a Q2 spot to Stroll, who appeared to be impeded by Logan Sargeant during the Q1 phase.

A raft of updates this weekend brought the promise of cementing RB’s position at the front of F1’s midfield battle, but their practice struggles carried over to qualifying and left Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo in a disappointing P17 and P18 respectively.

Williams also experienced one of their toughest sessions of the season, with Alex Albon and Sargeant unable to prevent the team from propping up the rear – leaving them with a significant challenge to add any more points to their tally on race day.

Qualifying Highlights: 2024 Spanish Grand Prix

AS IT HAPPENED

Q1 – Hamilton sets the early pace as rivals save tyres

After three busy and ultra-close practice sessions, drivers and teams assembled for Saturday afternoon’s all-important qualifying hour, with 30 of the 33 Grands Prix winners held at the Barcelona venue coming from the front row of the grid.

During the first runs of the session, it was Leclerc who set the early benchmark with a time of 1m 12.257s, putting him 0.049s clear of Verstappen, as Norris, Sainz and Russell all followed closely – just a couple of tenths covering the top five.

Gasly put his Alpine a high-flying sixth, from Hulkenberg and Hamilton, while Piastri and Perez slotted into the final top-10 positions before drivers returned to the pit lane and bolted on another set of Pirelli’s red-marked soft tyres.

Stroll reported some traffic in the form of Sargeant at Turn 10, but his lap was still enough to put him provisionally out of danger in P13 – Albon, Tsunoda, Zhou, Magnussen and the aforementioned Sargeant the drivers sitting in the drop zone.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 22: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas

Hamilton set the pace in the opening phase of qualifying

As the second sequence of laps unfolded, with Leclerc, Verstappen, Norris and Sainz all remaining in the pits, and Russell heading back out only to call off the run, Hamilton leapt to the top of the timesheets on fresh rubber – clocking a 1m 12.143s.

Despite their best efforts, Magnussen, RB pair Tsunoda and Ricciardo and Williams duo Albon and Sargeant could not get themselves in the drop zone, with the Haas man missing out to Stroll by only a few hundredths of a second.

“No… We didn’t go through?!” Tsunoda commented over the radio on his lap back to the pits, having so often featured in Q3 this season, with the sizeable upgrade package RB unleashed this weekend so far failing to deliver.

Piastri and Perez both improved to latch onto the back of the front-runners, albeit using fresh tyres to do so, with Alonso sneaking into the top-10 places ahead of Alpine pair Gasly and Ocon, Hulkenberg’s Haas, Kick Sauber pair Bottas and Zhou, and Stroll.

Knocked out: Magnussen, Tsunoda, Ricciardo, Albon, Sargeant

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 22: Daniel Ricciardo of Visa Cash App RB  during qualifying ahead of the F1

RB have struggled to make an impact so far this weekend and lost both cars in Q1

Q2 – Verstappen moves to the fore as Alonso misses out

As Q2 got under way, Stroll was quick to head out and get a banker lap on the board, but his effort of 1m 13.630s was soon beaten by the gaggle of Q1 pace-setters – Verstappen leading on a 1m 11.653s from Norris, Sainz, Piastri, Leclerc and Russell.

Gasly kept Alpine firmly in the top-10 in seventh, followed by Perez, Hulkenberg and team mate Ocon, while multiple world champions Alonso and Hamilton – the latter complaining that “this tyre was bad” – could only place 12th and 13th, joining Bottas, Zhou and Stroll in the drop zone.

Stroll again ran out of sequence with his second timed run, squeezing his way back into the Q3 spots at the expense of Ocon, only to be bumped out again as the remainder of the field completed their final efforts and took the chequered flag.

While Verstappen, Norris, Sainz and Leclerc all stayed in the pits, Hamilton got himself out of danger once more by going P2 behind his 2021 title rival, while Russell made it two Mercedes machines in the top-three positions.

Perez, Gasly and Ocon all delivered when it mattered to slot behind the McLaren and Ferrari drivers, with Alonso missing out on Q3 in front of his home fans by an agonising margin of 0.019s – Bottas, Hulkenberg, team mate Stroll and Zhou being the other eliminees.

Knocked out: Alonso, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Stroll, Zhou

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 22: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Aston Martin AMR24 Mercedes

Q2 was the limit for Alonso in front of his home fans

Q3 – Norris and Verstappen go head-to-head

After a short break, it was time for the decisive pole position shootout, with all 10 drivers heading back out inside the first couple of minutes to get a lap on the board – albeit some drivers having fewer fresh sets of soft tyres, as mentioned above.

Verstappen pumped in a 1m 11.673s to lead the way after the opening efforts, marginally ahead of Norris, with Hamilton holding third over Russell, Sainz and Leclerc, while Gasly and Ocon sat ahead of Perez and Piastri, who had a lap time deleted for track limits.

On the last laps to the chequered flag, Verstappen improved to a 1m 11.403s and appeared to strengthen his grip on pole, but then Norris brilliantly lit up the timing screens with purple and green splits to get down to a 1m 11.383s.

Hamilton delivered his best qualifying result of the season by taking third, fighting back against Russell amid their one-sided one-lap head-to-head battle so far in 2024, in the process pushing the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz back to fifth and sixth.

Gasly was one of the stars of qualifying in seventh, followed by Perez (ahead of that three-place grid penalty), team mate Ocon and Piastri, who went off the road at Turn 12 on his final lap and therefore ended Q3 without a time.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JUNE 22: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL38 Mercedes on

Norris overhauled Verstappen with a blistering final Q3 lap

Key quote

"It was pretty much a perfect lap," said Norris after securing his pole. "You know when you’re on a good lap when you’re getting excited but the whole thing went perfectly in the end, so close still but super, super happy, one of – I think my best pole position.

"I’ve not had many but out of the ones I’ve had, the best. We’ve been close all weekend, but really this was just about a perfect lap, and that’s what I did today. So it was cool, the fans and my supporters here were amazing so a big thanks to everyone cheering me on."

What’s next

With the grid now set, drivers and teams will turn their attention to Sunday’s 66-lap Spanish Grand Prix, which is set to begin at 1500 local time. Head to the RACE HUB to find out how you can catch the action.

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