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Norris claims pole ahead of Hamilton during frenetic wet Sprint Qualifying in China

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SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL38 Mercedes on

Lando Norris claimed pole during Sprint Qualifying at the Chinese Grand Prix in what proved to be a dramatic rain-affected session, with the Briton initially seeing his time deleted before it was reinstated.

It was a frenetic SQ3 segment as the top 10 batted with slippery conditions, resulting in the likes of Max Verstappen having some off-track moments. While Lewis Hamilton looked to have claimed pole position by the end of the eight-minute session, after Norris lost his time, the McLaren driver’s lap of 1m 57.940s was given back, putting him in P1.

Hamilton held onto P2, ahead of an impressive Fernando Alonso in third, while Verstappen ultimately took fourth. Carlos Sainz was the lead Ferrari in fifth, while Sergio Perez joins him on the third row in sixth.

Charles Leclerc took P7, having gone off track earlier in SQ3, with Oscar Piastri following in P8. The Kick Sauber duo of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu enjoyed a good day to round out the top 10, marking a solid outing for Zhou in front of his home fans.

China 2024

Sprint Qualifying results

PositionTeam NameTime
1NOR1:57.940
2HAM1:59.201
3ALO1:59.915
4VER2:00.028
5SAI2:00.214
View Full Results

With rain starting to fall during the final moments of SQ2, George Russell was forced to abort his flying lap and ended the session in P11.

The Haas pair of Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg followed in 12th and 13th, with RB’s Daniel Ricciardo in 14th having also abandoned his final effort amid the rainfall. Lance Stroll was the final driver eliminated in SQ2 in 15th.

There was further disappointment for Alpine, with Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon exiting SQ1 in P16 and P17 respectively, ahead of Williams’ Alex Albon in P18.

Yuki Tsunoda was a surprise elimination after failing to improve on his time in the first segment of Sprint Qualifying, leaving the RB driver down in 19th, while the Williams of Logan Sargeant will join him on the back row in 20th place.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas

Hamilton initially looked to have secured P1 before Norris had his time reinstated

AS IT HAPPENED

SQ1 – Perez impresses while Tsunoda suffers surprise exit

After a busy sole practice session earlier in the day, the drivers returned to action later on Friday for Sprint Qualifying, marking the introduction of the new weekend format where the Sprint then takes place on Saturday morning, ahead of traditional qualifying for Sunday’s race.

As the 12-minute SQ1 session got underway at 1530 local time, Albon – sporting an eye-catching helmet featuring a panda design – led a number of cars out onto the track. All were running the medium tyre, which is the mandatory compound for the SQ1 segment.

Most drivers were soon out on circuit, seemingly keen to get a lap on the board amid a 60 per cent chance of rain predicted for the session. Piastri and Russell were amongst those to report spots of rain just a few minutes into the running.

The pecking order appeared mixed as the first timed laps came in, before Perez ultimately set the early pace after pumping in a time of 1m 36.110s, three tenths ahead of Red Bull team mate Verstappen.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on

Perez set the initial pace ahead of team mate Verstappen in SQ1

There was action for the Alpine duo, as Ocon suffered a bit of a moment through the last corner – putting himself at risk in the drop zone – while Gasly was accused of impeding by Sargeant. Sainz was also unhappy with the Haas of Magnussen for the same alleged offence.

As the track ramped up, and the times began to tumble in the closing minutes of SQ1, Tsunoda was keen to get a lap on the board, having not set a representative time earlier in the session. Russell was another driver at risk, but the Mercedes driver managed to put himself up into P12.

Home favourite Zhou just made it through in P15, while Gasly’s qualifying woes of 2024 continued as he failed to make the cut, ending up in P16 ahead of Alpine team mate Ocon in P17.

The Williams duo of Albon and Sargeant were eliminated in P18 and P20, with a disappointed Tsunoda sandwiched between them in P19.

Knocked out: Gasly, Ocon, Albon, Tsunoda, Sargeant

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan driving the (22) Visa Cash App RB VCARB 01 on

Tsunoda made an early exit from Sprint Qualifying, having ended the session in P19

SQ2 – Rain catches Russell out while Verstappen goes fastest

The start of SQ2 was slightly delayed following the small fire at the end of the previous segment. As the drivers awaited the start, a queue formed in the pit lane, with everyone keen to hit the track amid the continued threat of rain.

While Norris led the way as the 10-minute session began, there was action behind as the pack battled to get track position in the pit lane traffic jam. The attitude seemed more relaxed at Red Bull, though, with Verstappen and Perez initially staying in the garage.

Verstappen topped the timesheets during the opening laps with a 1m 35.606s, one tenth clear of Leclerc, while Bottas was told by his engineer that rain was on the way in just three minutes’ time.

The rain did indeed start to fall as the clock ticked down. This did not work in Russell’s favour, with the Briton – who had not put an initial time in – having to abort his flying lap as a wet track was declared, leaving him down in P11.

One driver who did benefit was Zhou, who managed to stay in the top 10 as the majority of the field stayed in the garage during the final moments. This prompted huge cheers from the crowd.

Along with Russell, the other names to miss out were the Haas duo of Magnussen and Hulkenberg in 12th and 13th respectively, followed by Ricciardo in 14th and Stroll in 15th.

Knocked out: Russell, Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Stroll

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Mercedes AMG Petronas

Russell will start the Sprint from P11 after missing out in SQ2

SQ3 – Norris takes P1 as conditions spark dramatic end to session

SQ3 got underway in continued rainfall, with the drivers emerging onto the track with intermediate tyres bolted on. It wasn’t long before the wet conditions brought challenges for some, as Leclerc lost the rear of his Ferrari at Turn 9, prompting the Monegasque to question over the radio if his rear wing could be broken.

While a pit lane infringement for Alonso was noted, the drama on track continued. Verstappen went wide through Turn 6 as the drivers contended with the slippery conditions, before having his lap deleted for exceeding track limits.

As the session progressed, Perez set the pace before Alonso impressively slotted into P1. Meanwhile it was all going on for Verstappen, who had another wide moment in the final corner. His time was again deleted, while Norris had the same issue with his own lap.

Hamilton managed to put himself ahead of Alonso at the top, before Norris briefly took provisional pole. While his time was initially deleted, it was then reinstated, giving the McLaren man P1 back.

This pushed Hamilton down to P2, while Alonso held onto P3 and Verstappen ended the session in P4. Sainz put his Ferrari in fifth, ahead of Perez in sixth and Leclerc – who managed to return to action after his earlier run off track – was seventh.

Piastri claimed P8 for McLaren, while the Kick Sauber pair of Bottas and Zhou sealed P9 and P10 respectively, with Zhou’s result clearly a welcome one for the home fans.

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 19: Sprint pole qualifier Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren

What can Norris do from P1 on the grid for Saturday's Sprint in Shanghai?

Key quote

"I’m extremely happy first of all," said pole-sitter Norris. "A big thanks to the whole team. It was tricky, you’re always nervous going into a session like this, especially for quali when you almost know it’s going to rain. I was quite happy with how it was in the dry, I think we’ve had good pace all weekend so far.

"I got a bit nervous. They’re conditions where you’ve just got to risk a lot, you’ve got to push, build tyre temperature and so forth. I was quick, I just kept catching the Ferrari, so I had to keep backing off. I didn’t do the first two laps well at all, but I got a good final one, a good enough one for pole. I’m happy… sad it’s not for a proper qualifying, but it’s good enough."

What’s next?

With the grid settled, next up for the drivers will be the Sprint race itself, which is scheduled to begin at 1100 local time on Saturday. Head to the RACE HUB to find out how you can catch the action.

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