Norris shrugs off McLaren fire to nab Spanish pole after ‘best ever lap’

McLaren’s Lando Norris makes a pit stop during practice for F1 Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona, on Jun. 21, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 June 2024

Norris shrugs off McLaren fire to nab Spanish pole after ‘best ever lap’

  • Lewis Hamilton will start on the second row alongside his Mercedes teammate George Russell
  • Norris produced his one minute 11.383 seconds of magic after a “stressful” day when the McLaren hospitality unit caught fire before third practice

BARCELONA: Lando Norris brushed aside the drama of his McLaren team’s hospitality unit catching fire to produce “the best lap of my life” and deprive Max Verstappen of pole for the Spanish Grand Prix in qualifying on Saturday.
Lewis Hamilton will start on the second row alongside his Mercedes teammate George Russell.
Verstappen looked sure to set off for Sunday’s 10th round of the season from the front of the grid.
But in the last throw of the top-10 shoot-out Norris denied the Red Bull ace by a mere two hundredths of a second.
“Today was the perfect lap,” said Norris after only his second career pole.
“My best lap by a long way, I knew I had to do something perfect, it was probably my best lap ever.”
Norris produced his one minute 11.383 seconds of magic after a “stressful” day when the McLaren hospitality unit caught fire before third practice.
McLaren team boss Zak Brown told Sky Sports one staff member had to go to hospital but had been discharged, adding: “Happy to report everyone is fine.”
“I lost my shoes. It’s all been a bit messy,” said Norris.
“I like to listen to my music loud beforehand, but didn’t have that this time. But it’s not the end of the world. I’m not going to complain about it.”
Turning back to a vintage qualifying session, Norris, whose only other pole came in Russia in 2021, reflected: “It’s been a while since Sochi!
“Max seemed a bit stronger today, but we made some changes,” added the Briton who won his maiden Grand Prix in May in Miami.
“I’m super happy to be on pole, it’s going to be tough but we’re here to win!“
Verstappen, targeting a fourth straight world title, leads the championship by 56 points from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who starts Sunday’s race in fifth, with Norris seven points back in third.
“I think the whole of qualifying was better than practice for me,” said Verstappen, who won his maiden Grand Prix in Barcelona in 2016 and is on a hat-trick after wins in Catalonia in 2022 and 2023.
“It all clicked much better. The other teams are catching up, we need to bring more performance to the car.”
Ferrari-bound Hamilton was happy to be toward the front of the grid as he out-qualified his teammate Russell for only the second time this year.
“It’s good to be back up here, great to see we are progressing,” he said.
“We are slowly climbing closer to the guys in front, it’s really on a knife edge.
“I’m really happy to be in P3 with that long straight to turn one.”
Joining Leclerc on the third row will be his Ferrari teammate and home favorite Carlos Sainz.
Next came the Alpine of Pierre Gasly, the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez, who has a three-place grid penalty from Canada, Esteban Ocon in the other Alpine and Oscar Piastri in the second McLaren.
After only a tenth of a second had covered the top four in final practice earlier the stage was set for an intriguing pole battle.
Complicating matters was a sizeable drop in temperature, with morning sunshine giving way to heavy cloud cover with the wind picking up.
The action on track though was anything but cool, as drivers scrambled to eke out every last ounce of performance for a Grand Prix won from pole in 24 of 33 races run at the circuit.
After clipping the McLaren of Norris at the end of final practice Leclerc tuned up for qualifying with a trip to the FIA’s headmaster’s study as the race stewards investigated the incident.
Leclerc was arguably fortunate to escape with only a reprimand rather than a grid penalty, announced just before qualifying got under way.
Hamilton grabbed the honors in the first qualifying run, jumping from 14th to first, with Verstappen leading the Mercedes duo after the second session.
Verstappen came alive when it counted most — after a quietish time in the three practice sessions he led Q3 after the first flurry of laps.
All the drivers pitted to prepare for one last attempt at depriving the Red Bull ace from Sunday’s pole, with Norris nailing it to end a trying day on a high.
This is the 10th round of the 24-race season and the first of a triple header with Austria and Silverstone coming up over the next two weekends.

Lando Norris on pole as McLaren lock out ‘sweet’ Hungarian Grand Prix front row

Updated 20 July 2024

Lando Norris on pole as McLaren lock out ‘sweet’ Hungarian Grand Prix front row

  • Red Bull’s three-time champion Max Verstappen had to settle for third

BUDAPEST: Lando Norris grabbed pole position ahead of his team-mate Oscar Piastri for the Hungarian Grand Prx on Saturday as McLaren locked out the front row of the grid for the first time since 2012.
Red Bull’s three-time champion Max Verstappen had to settle for third and the second row in the tense wet-dry qualifying
The 24-year-old Briton, who is 84 points behind Verstappen in this year’s title race, clocked a best lap in one minute and 15.227 seconds to outpace the Australian by 0.022 seconds.
Verstappen was three-hundredths of a second adrift in third ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who leaves the team at the end of the year, and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, who will replace him.
Charles Leclerc, in the second Ferrari was sixth ahead of two-time champion Fernando Alonso and his Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll and the RBs of Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda, who had survived a high-speed crash earlier in Q3.
It was Norris’s second pole in four races and the third of his burgeoning career as he gains front-running experience in his bid to challenge Verstappen who, on Sunday bids to complete a hat-trick of Hungarian wins.
“I’m very happy with that and it wasn’t easy at all in difficult conditions so ending up on top is the best for us all and a great result for the team,” said Norris.
“We have come into this weekend confident we can do a good job so to be on pole is sweet.”
“It’s the first 1-2 for McLaren for a long time and an amazing result for us,” said Piastri. “I had a tricky day yesterday so for me it is nice to bounce back.”
Verstappen said: “I tried. We have been behind the whole weekend and I tried to make it as close as possible, but it wasn’t enough. I would have liked a bit more grip...”
After Friday’s sweltering conditions for practice, qualifying began in much cooler weather with temperatures and light rain falling.
The McLaren pair were first out on soft slick tires along with Kevin Magnussen in his Haas.
George Russell was also struggling before the session was red-flagged when Sergio Perez smacked the wall at Turn Eight, having lost control and made a sideways slide into the barriers in the second Red Bull.
For the under-pressure Mexican driver, it was another Q1 setback in a sequence of bad qualifying outings and came just seconds after Russell had saved his car sliding off at the same place as the rain intensified.
After a 12-minute break, the action resumed with Perez hanging on in ninth from his earlier efforts, before he suffered his fourth Q1 exit in six outings as he embarked on two racing weekends that many observers believe offer him a last chance to save his seat at Red Bull.
In a frantic finale to Q1, on a damp circuit, Russell managed to jump from 14th to 10th but it was not enough as others improved to leave him 17th and out, taking an early exit for the second year running at the Hungaroring along with Perez, 16th, Zhou Guanyu of Sauber and the two Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly who stayed in the pits.
Unexpectedly, Daniel Ricciardo was fastest for RB in the changing conditions while Norris was only 13th.
“I’m sorry about this session guys,” said Russell, who had asked for more fuel to prolong his running to three laps. “That one is on me.”
The Q2 segment started with Sainz on top, until Hamilton and then Verstappen took over, the Dutchman in 1:15.770, nine-tenths faster than Hamilton’s pole in 2023. Piastri went second only 0.015 off the pace.
On his second run, Norris took command in 1:15.540 while Hamilton struggled to survive in 10th and Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas of Sauber, Williams’ Alex Albon, Sargeant and Magnussen missed the cut to the top-ten shootout.
All this left Norris and Verstappen to scrap for pole, as rain was forecast, and the Dutchman led them out to clock 1:15.555 before Norris cut that time by 0.328 with his lap in 1:15.227. It was provisional pole, as rain began to fall.
The world champion pushed to improve but stayed third as Yuki Tsunoda crashed at Turn Five in his RB to prompt a red-flag stoppage. It was a big accident, but the Japanese driver was unhurt.
Two minutes and 13 seconds remained, enough time for one more flying run as the marshals cleared the debris. In the event, as it drizzled, only Ricciardo improved his time to take ninth from his team-mate.

Da Costa reveals team talk after Diriyah Formula E races is behind recent success

Updated 11 July 2024

Da Costa reveals team talk after Diriyah Formula E races is behind recent success

  • TAG Heuer Porsche driver sits fourth in the standings ahead of season-closing double-header in London

RIYADH: Formula E’s Antonio Felix da Costa has revealed he spoke with his team after the Diriyah races in Saudi Arabia, which has helped him to build momentum going into the season-finale races in London.

The TAG Heuer Porsche driver delivered a spectacular double victory in Portland, marking his third consecutive win amid a sea of enthusiastic fans at the Hankook Portland E-Prix last month, and will be searching for more victories in the last two races on July 20-21.

Having picked up no points in the first three rounds, the Portuguese driver has turned around his season to sit fourth in the standings after winning both races in Portland and the second Shanghai race. He revealed that discussions after the Diriyah race had been key to his impressive recent form.

“For every athlete, you need to build momentum,” said da Costa. “You don’t start winning and get to first place overnight. After the Riyadh race in the third round where we had zero points at that moment, it was then where I said that we need to starting building momentum slowly and I think we have done just that. In Sao Paulo, we finished sixth and been doing well since. We managed to win in Berlin and Shanghai and that set us up nicely mentally, but also worked on what worked for me and have been strong in races.”

With London set to host the final two races next weekend, da Costa is heading to the UK capital with an outside chance of winning the world championship. He is 34 points adrift of championship leader Nick Cassidy, however he will assess his options once the first qualifying session is over.

He said: “At the moment, we have been putting all our eggs in the basket to help our team win the championship and we still have a chance. We need to keep going with that mentality, but having said that, I would say let’s do the first qualifying in London and see where we stand and then take decision afterwards. We will prepare for London like as we do for every weekend.”

Three cheers for Brits: Russell beats Hamilton to take Silverstone F1 pole with Norris third

Updated 06 July 2024

Three cheers for Brits: Russell beats Hamilton to take Silverstone F1 pole with Norris third

  • Russell is perfectly poised to aim for a second straight F1 win following his victory at the Austrian GP last weekend

SILVERSTONE, England: The home crowd had three reasons to cheer when George Russell narrowly beat Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position for the British Grand Prix, and Lando Norris was third quickest for McLaren on Saturday.
It was all about the Brits at Silverstone, with Formula 1 leader Max Verstappen taking a rare back seat and qualifying in fourth for Red Bull.
“The crowd gives us so much energy. I don’t think Silverstone could have dreamt of (this),” a jubilant Russell said. “Three Brits in the top three, we love the support and we can’t wait for the race tomorrow.”
Russell is perfectly poised to aim for a second straight F1 win following his victory at the Austrian GP last weekend. Mercedes is showing signs of closing the gap in terms of speed, and team principal Toto Wolff clenched his fist after his drivers secured a 1-2.
“What a feeling. This is just mega,” Russell said. “The car at the moment is feeling so, so good. We are riding this wave and absolutely buzzing.”
Russell arrived at the track wearing an England soccer shirt ahead of the national team’s European Championship quarterfinal against Switzerland later Saturday, and said his own nerves were on edge.
“Probably the most pressure I’ve ever felt in a qualifying session,” he said, praising the crowd for uplifting him. “I wasn’t feeling that confident with myself.”
Hamilton just missed out on a record-extending 105th F1 pole by .171 seconds while Norris was .211 seconds behind Russell, who secured his second pole of the season and third of his career.
“Three Brits in the top three is incredible,” said Hamilton, who has won at Silverstone a record eight times. “This is huge for us (Mercedes). The car felt great.”
Sergio Perez’s poor run of form for Red Bull continued. He went off track at Copse corner and into the gravel during Q1 — the first part of qualifying — prompting team principal Christian Horner to shake his head. Perez’s car was removed by a crane as the Mexican driver looked on.
Since being given a two-year contract extension last month, Perez has not finished higher than seventh in three races and faces a difficult task to score points from 19th spot.
When qualifying resumed dark clouds were forming over the six-kilometer (3.7-mile) circuit.
Verstappen uttered an expletive over the team radio after momentarily sliding off track and riding over some gravel. He was way off the pace in Q1, which was led by Hamilton, and again in Q2, which Norris led.
Verstappen missed out on a ninth pole of the season. But he praised his team for fixing damage to the car floor from going over the gravel.
“I gave it everything. Guys, thank you very much,” the Dutchman said on radio. “We’ll go at it tomorrow.”
It was a frustrating day for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who failed to make it into Q3, the top 10 shootout, and starts 11th.
“I had huge problems with balance,” said Leclerc, who won the Monaco GP from pole in May.
McLaren’s Oscar Piastri goes from fifth followed by Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg, with Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari), Lance Stroll (Aston Martin), Alex Albon (Williams) and two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) rounding out the top 10.
French driver Esteban Ocon qualified in 18th and called qualifying “embarrassing” for the Alpine team. He is leaving at the end of the year and reportedly could join Haas.
Earlier Saturday, a rainy third session saw an early red flag when Alpine driver Pierre Gasly went into the gravel.
Russell led P3 narrowly ahead of Hamilton in a sign of things to come.
“To compete with the McLarens and Red Bulls is a great feeling, a massive boost,” said Hamilton, who won the last of his record 103 F1 races in the penultimate race of 2021.
Norris led the two practices on Friday with Verstappen finishing out of the top three both times.
In Sunday’s race, the start could prove crucial.
Norris has to get past two Mercedes and hold off Verstappen alongside him, one week after Verstappen and Norris crashed into each other late on in Austria.
“I can bring the fight to George and Lewis so I’m excited to put on a good show,” Norris said. “I’m confident we can execute a good race.”

Friends again: Norris, Verstappen make up after Spielberg drama

Updated 05 July 2024

Friends again: Norris, Verstappen make up after Spielberg drama

  • The Red Bull driver said he and Norris had spoken last Monday, following their controversial collision in the Austrian Grand Prix at Spielberg
  • The 64th lap collision came with Norris attempting to pass the three-time world champion and series leader for the race lead and resulted in both cars suffering punctures

SILVERSTONE, United Kingdom: Max Verstappen on Thursday welcomed the restoration of his friendship with Lando Norris after the Briton had said he did not expect any apology from the three-time champion following their crash last Sunday.

The Red Bull driver said he and Norris had spoken last Monday, following their controversial collision in the Austrian Grand Prix at Spielberg, and had quickly agreed that they should continue to race each other hard in the same way.

“I said after the race that there’s no point in discussing it now because emotions are running high,” said the Dutchman.

“And then I woke up early and immediately because I wanted to talk to Lando, of course, but he had already texted me in the morning on Monday.

“So on the day afterwards, your emotions are a bit lower so actually I respected that a lot — and we are great friends and he’s a very nice guy, honestly.

“So I was really upset and disappointed that we had got together because on the track we race each other hard, but as a friend you are disappointed that this could happen.

“But we very quickly said that we had to race each other hard because that is what we like to do and we have always done that not only in Formula One but also on-line and stuff and that’s what we enjoy with each other — battling hard and that is what we will continue to do.”

The 64th lap collision came with Norris attempting to pass the three-time world champion and series leader for the race lead and resulted in both cars suffering punctures.

Verstappen rejoined after a pit-stop and finished fifth after being given a 10-second penalty for causing the crash while Norris pitted and retired.

McLaren’s Norris, who trails Verstappen by 81 points in the drivers’ title race, had taken the sting out of their argument by admitting he had over-reacted.

But, he said, he still held reservations about the incident and how it was managed by the race stewards.

“Honestly, I don’t think he needed to apologize,” the 24-year-old Briton conceded.

“Some of the things I said in the pen after the race were more because I was frustrated at the time.

“(There was) a lot of adrenaline and emotions and I probably said some things I didn’t necessarily believe, especially later on in the week. It was tough. It was a pretty pathetic incident, in terms of it ended both of our races.

“It wasn’t like a hit. It wasn’t like an obvious bit of contact. It was probably one of the smallest bits of contact you can have, but with a pretty terrible consequence for both of us, especially for myself.”

“I don’t expect an apology from him,” said Norris.

“I don’t think he should apologize. I thought it was, as a review, good racing. At times, maybe, very close to the edge, but like I said, we’ve spoken about it, we’ve talked about it and we’re both happy to go racing again.”

Verstappen, asked by Sky Sports F1 if he was concerned by the reaction to the incident, Verstappen added: “No, the only thing I care about in my life is that I am getting on well with Lando.”

“Naturally, I always said to Lando, when you go for moves up the inside, outside, you can trust me that I’m not there to try and crash you out of the way.

“Same the other way around because we spoke about that as well. There’s always a human reaction when someone dives up the inside or outside that you have a bit of a reaction to it, but I felt everything that I did was nothing massively over the top.

“Like how you design a car, you try to go to the edge of the rules, maybe you find some grey areas here and there as a car — and that’s the same how you race, otherwise you will never be a top driver and you will never succeed in life anyway.”

Asked if he felt it was possible to remain friends with a rival driver, he said: “It depends a bit on your personalities.

“I know Lando. He’s a great guy, a really nice person who loves F1, very passionate about it. You have to realize he’s fighting for his second potential win, I’m fighting for my 62nd.

“I think naturally your emotions are a little bit different. I know that from myself, when I was fighting for these first wins in F1, but that’s fine.”

George Russell gifted Austrian Grand Prix victory after Max Verstappen in late collision

Updated 30 June 2024

George Russell gifted Austrian Grand Prix victory after Max Verstappen in late collision

  • It was the British driver’s second career victory
  • Helped by late collision between series leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull and his nearest rival Lando Norris

SPIELBERG, Austria: George Russell claimed a dramatic victory for Mercedes on Sunday after a sensational late collision between series leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull and his nearest rival Lando Norris of McLaren in the closing laps of an action-packed Austrian Grand Prix.
It was the British driver’s second career victory, endorsing the improved form of the Mercedes team in recent races, as he made the most of Verstappen’s impulsive and aggressive move against Norris, to finish 1.9 seconds clear of Oscar Piastri in the second McLaren.
“Incredible!” said Russell, who had registered Mercedes’ last win in Brazil in 2022.
“I think it was a tough fight out there at the beginning of the race just to hold on to that third place and I saw on the TV that Max and Lando were getting pretty close — and I knew Lando would want to try to get that race win.
“The team has done an amazing job to put us in this fight and you’ve got to be there in the end to pick up the pieces.”
Carlos Sainz finished third for Ferrari ahead of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes and Verstappen, who was fifth, despite collecting a 10-second penalty for causing the crash with Norris, who was forced to retire his damaged car.
On a hot day in the Styrian Alps, with air temperatures touching 29 degrees and the track at 49, Verstappen made his now customary flawless start from pole.
Russell also made a good start from third and fought Norris for second on the opening lap.
Verstappen pitted on lap 23, followed by Norris and the rest, passing the race lead to Piastri until he pitted on lap 25. Piastri rejoined sixth and order was restored with everyone on hards, except Russell who took a second set of mediums.
“He launched straight into me — I couldn’t turn right into the box,” said Norris, complaining about Verstappen’s alleged unsafe release by Red Bull.
“Yeah, we’re on it,” came the reply.
By lap 41 Verstappen was grumbling about his tires.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” said the champion who had only a fresh set of hards or used mediums left to run.
By lap 44, Verstappen’s lead was down to 6.4 seconds before Russell, also struggling, pitted for fresh hards, re-joining sixth. He swiftly set a fastest lap and passed Sainz for fifth behind Hamilton, who was behind the two McLarens.
With the leaders extending their stints to make a two-stop strategy work, back-markers like Leclerc in 12th on three stops were faster on track, but stuck behind Verstappen until he pitted again with Norris on lap 51.
The Dutchman suffered a slow stop due to a ‘sticky’ left rear and Norris on fresh mediums was only 2.2 behind as they rejoined in P1 and P2. Verstappen was on used mediums, delivering the prospect of a thrilling duel to the flag.
Norris was three-tenths adrift before passing him on lap 59, but ran wide and off-track. He gave the position back and received a warning for exceeding track limits before attacking again only for Verstappen to run wide and rejoin.
The battling pair eventually collided on lap 63 at Turn Three where Verstappen moved across to hit Norris’s car and both suffered punctures, gifting the lead to Russell as they limped back to the pits.
Verstappen’s front left was damaged and Norris’s right rear, with sufficient damage for the McLaren to retire as Verstappen rejoined in fifth, only to receive a 10-second penalty for causing the crash which led to a brief Virtual Safety Car.
Nico Hulkenberg came home sixth for Haas ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull, Kevin Magnussen in the second Haas, Daniel Ricciardo of RB and Pierre Gasly of Alpine.
Leclerc finished 11th in the second Ferrari after a race of four pit-stops following a first lap incident.