Lando Norris tops Chinese Grand Prix Sprint qualifying

Lando Norris tops Chinese Grand Prix Sprint qualifying

McLaren’s Lando Norris took top spot for the Sprint at the 2024 FIA Chinese Grand Prix as the McLaren Formula 1 driver had a deleted lap time of 1:57.940 reinstated to beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in a rain affected session at the Shanghai International Circuit. 


At the end of a wet SQ3, Hamilton set a time of 1:59.321s to take P1. Norris had gone off on the lap prior to his 1:57.940 and initially his time was deleted but then on immediate review it was reinstated to hand him a front-of-grid start for the Sprint.


"It was tricky! You are always nervous going into a session like this and even before qualifying when you know it is going to rain," Norris said afterwards. "The last lap was all or nothing."


With a few spots of rain falling across the Shanghai International Circuit, the start of SQ1 began with a brief pause before a stream of cars headed out on track on Medium tyres. 


Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton set the first front-running time of 1:37.239 to take top sport but the seven-time champion was quickly ousted by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc who moved to P1 on a time 1:36.886s as the McLarens of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri jumped to second and third respectively. 


However, all three were shuffled back by championship leader Max Verstappen who went quickest with a lap of 1:36.456. The Dutchman’s stay was brief, though, as he was quickly usurped by his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Pérez, whose lap of 1:36.110, put 0.346s ahead of Verstappen, with Alonso slotting into third place. 


Ferrari then made improvements, with Leclerc taking P3, 0.427 off Pérez and with Sainz taking fourth place. But with two minutes to go Norris set a time of 1:26.384 to split the Red Bulls. 


And there the order at the top stuck. Further back, there was no place in SQ2 for Alpine, with Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon dropping out in P16 and P17 respectively, while Williams’ Alex Albon exited in 18th place ahead of RB’s Yuki Tsunoda and the second Williams of Logan Sargeant. 


As the session came to a close Leclerc got on the radio to report a grass fire off track at Turn 5, similar to the minor blaze that had earlier caused a brief halt to FP1, but marshals extinguished the fire as the yellow flags were shown. The incident led to the start of Q2 being briefly delayed.


Ahead of SQ2 a queue of cars formed at the pit exit as teams predicted rain for the second session. 


Norris set the first headline time with a 1:36.047 in dry conditions but he was instantly beaten by team-mate Piastri who set the bar at 1:35.853. Leclerc then bested both with a lap of 1:35.711 before Verstappen once again vaulted to the top of the order with a lap of 1:35.606, a tenth ahead of Leclerc and 0.175s clear of Pérez who took third spot. 


With two minutes remaining, the expected rain began to fall and it meant there was no escape from the drop zone for Mercedes’ George Russell in P11, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Hulkenberg in P12 and P13 and RB’s Ricciardo who qualified 14th ahead and Stroll. To the delight of the Chinese crowd in the packed grandstands, it also meant that local hero Zhou Guanyu booked a place in SQ3 in 10th place. 


In the gap ahead of the final eight-minute session the rain increased in intensity and when the green lights were shown at the end of the pit lane, Piastri led the pack out on green-banded Intermediate tyres. 


Norris was the first to fall foul of the difficult conditions with an off on his out lap, but there was worse to come for Leclerc who spun Turn 9. The Ferrari kept his car going but reported front wing damage and headed back to the pit lane for checks. 


Piastri then took P1 with a lap 2:02.598, while Verstappen’s first lap time was deleted for going off at Turn 6. Pérez then hit top as he posted a time of 2:00.455. Kick Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas slotted into P2, 0.987 behind the Mexican, but he was soon pushed by Piastri and then Norris, before Aston Martin’s Fernando Alono took P1 with a time of 2:00.213. 


The Spaniard couldn’t hold on to the position, however, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton grabbed top spot 1:59.321. Norris, though, was flying and he bounced his compatriot out with a lap of 1:57.940. 


The McLaren driver’s time was swiftly deleted for a potential track limits infringement, but then, sensationally, with no transgression seen, race control reinstated the McLaren driver’s time and he took P1 for the Sprint ahead of Hamilton, Alonso and Verstappen, who managed to get a clean lap in to take P4. Sainz rounded out the top five ahead of Pérez, Leclerc who recovered to seventh, Piastri, Bottas and Zhou.


2024 FIA Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix – Sprint Qualifying 
1 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:57.940 - -
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:59.201 1.261 1.069
3 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:59.915 1.975 1.675
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda RBPT 2:00.028 2.088 1.770
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 2:00.214 2.274 1.928
6 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda RBPT 2:00.375 2.435 2.065
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 2:00.566 2.626 2.227
8 Oscar Piastri McLaren/Mercedes 2:00.990 3.050 2.586
9 Valtteri Bottas Sauber/Ferrari 2:01.044 3.104 2.632
10 Zhou Guanyu Sauber/Ferrari 2:03.537 5.597 4.746
11 George Russell Mercedes 1:36.345 -21.595 -18.310
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1:36.473 -21.467 -18.202
13 Nico Hülkenberg Haas/Ferrari 1:36.478 -21.462 -18.197
14 Daniel Ricciardo RB/Honda RBPT 1:36.553 -21.387 -18.13
15 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:36.677 -21.263 -18.029
16 Pierre Gasly Alpine/Renault 1:37.632 -20.308 -17.219
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:37.720 -20.220 -17.144
18 Alexander Albon Williams/Mercedes 1:37.812 -20.128 -17.066
19 Yuki Tsunoda RB/Honda RBPT 1:37.892 -20.048 -16.998
20 Logan Sargeant Williams/Mercedes 1:37.923 -20.017 -16.972 

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