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Lando Norris edges out Max Verstappen to take Spanish Grand Prix pole
F1 Sport

Lando Norris edges out Max Verstappen to take Spanish Grand Prix pole

Having had to evacuate from his McLaren team’s motorhome without even his shoes as smoke billowed from a fire in the structure on the morning of qualifying, Lando Norris proved by taking an exceptional pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix that he cannot be faulted in an ability to maintain a relentless focus under pressure both on track and off.

The British driver’s subsequent lap in Barcelona to deny Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by just-two hundredths of a second was, he believed, the best he had driven in the single lap discipline, an assertion it is impossible to argue with. Verstappen was fearsomely quick but on his final lap Norris hurled his car at the track, taking it to the very edge but nailing a line that edged him by a nose onto pole, no mean feat given Verstappen’s dominance in qualifying this season.

That Norris did so, claiming only the second pole of his career, without the ideal preparation was even more impressive. The fire had broken out in their motorhome an hour before first practice and everyone was evacuated from the team’s base in the paddock with one member of the team taken to hospital as a precaution.

It remained unable to be used throughout qualifying, with Norris having hastily exited with only socks on his feet. Much of the drivers’ race equipment is kept in the motorhome, which also includes each drivers’ room where they prepare themselves for racing. Norris admitted it had not been ideal as practice, then qualifying loomed but remained sanguine at what had happened.

“It was a scare for the whole team, never a nice thing,” he said. “It was a bit more of a stressful day than I would have liked, I lost my shoes, that was as bad as it got for me and I have not been in my normal room. I haven’t been able to relax and chill out as I normally do.

“It’s all been a little bit messy, I have one or two sets of everything and they managed to get some stuff out but some of it smells pretty bad from the fire. Nothing has been an issue and I don’t like to complain about these things. I can just jump in the car when I need to but when you have an ability to have a few minutes to yourself you take them.”

The teamalso adapted well and swiftly, doing well to put their energy into what mattered on track. Their performances were rewarded and even better, bode well for the season moving forward.

Although Verstappen took pole in the opening seven meetings, he has now been denied in the last three and this was very much an indication that the advantage he enjoyed in those opening meetings has been definitively closed down.

Barcelona is considered a very reliable benchmark against which to measure a car’s performance, that McLaren were on top here suggests that Red Bull have genuinely been caught and that they now face a real fight.

It is also indicative of how far McLaren have come. Unlikely as it may seem they have not claimed pole in Barcelona since Kimi Raikkonen did so in 2005 and this then was evidence that they are now very much back to competing at the front of the grid.

Norris has a real shot at claiming his second F1 win on Sunday but with the motorhome still likely to be out of action, it is clear both he and McLaren will once more adapt with alacrity.

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“Maybe tomorrow it will impact me more if I can’t get the quiet time that I love but it’s not the end of the world and I am not going to complain about it,” he said.

A steadily improving Mercedes also showed their recent gains had been no fluke and while Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were three-tenths back on Norris and Verstappen, they scored a solid third and fourth place, a real step-up from where they had begun the season.

Sergio Pérez finished in eighth but will take a three place grid penalty carried over from the Canadian GP. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were fifth and sixth for Ferrari, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon were in seventh and ninth for Alpine and Oscar Piastri in 10th for McLaren.

Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll were in 11th and 14th for Aston Martin, Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou in 12th and 15th for Sauber, with Nico Hülkenberg in 13th for Haas.

Kevin Magnussen was in 16th for Haas, Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo in 17th and 18th for RB and Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant in 19th and 20th for Williams.

Source: theguardian.com