Lando Norris didn’t try to hide his delight over the team radio after taking pole position for the Russian Grand Prix. McLaren driver Norris came out on top in a thrilling rain-affected qualifying session at the Russian Grand Prix, ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Williams driver George Russell, with Lewis Hamilton only fourth after crashing in the pit lane before later spinning on his final lap.
Another McLaren driver in Daniel Ricciardo took fifth ahead of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso.
For Norris, the result represented a first career pole and his delight was evident as he shouted “Wooooooooo baby,” over the team radio, followed by: “Oh my God! Yes!”
The session had earlier looked in doubt as the heavy overnight rain in Sochi continued into the morning, putting paid to final practice but there was no shortage of irony when Norris prevailed, after his crash in qualifying in similar adverse conditions in Belgium last month cost him a chance of top spot.
However, this time around he produced a scintillating final lap that proved to be 0.517 seconds quicker than second-placed Sainz.
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Afterwards, the 21-year-old British driver admitted he followed a risky strategy which ultimately paid dividends.
“Oh boy. It feels amazing. Manic session. We made the decision to go slicks, you never think you will get pole until you get it. Extremely happy, big thanks to the team. They have done an amazing job,” he said.
“It was tough. I am going to make myself sound good but it was tricky. The lap before I was two seconds down and I was not confident we would improve.
“I kept the tyres warm, I risked quite a bit but it paid off.”
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And Norris, whose notched 132 Championship points this season, now wants to ensure his stunning display doesn’t prove a flash in the pan.
“We are in the best position we can be in,” he said. “I am happy, it is my first pole position and hopefully the first of many.”
Hamilton meanwhile, missed the chance to take advantage of Max Verstappen starting from the back of the grid by oversteering as he came into the pit lane to change to untreaded slick tyres with five minutes of the final session remaining.
The car touched the wall on the left, breaking his front wing, and causing chaos amongst the mechanics in the Mercedes pit.
The mechanics struggled to change Hamilton’s wing, and his newly fitted slick tyres crucially lost temperature in the cool, wet conditions.
Sure enough, once out on the track he complained of a lack of grip and lost control at turn 16, failing to improve on his time set on intermediate tyres earlier in the session.
Championship leader Verstappen was already confined to the back of the grid after Red Bull installed a fourth engine of the season in his car, therefore triggering an automatic penalty.
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