Formula 1: McLaren driver surprises with pole for sprint in China, fires next to the track

Formula 1: McLaren driver surprises with pole for sprint in China, fires next to the track
Lando Norris

McLaren driver Lando Norris will start from pole position in the first sprint race of the Formula 1 season in Shanghai (5 a.m./live ServusTV and Sky) on Saturday.

The Brit achieved the best time in sprint qualifying on Friday under difficult external conditions ahead of record world champion Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes and Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso. World champion Max Verstappen only came fourth in the rain and slippery conditions with his Red Bull.

  • also read: Red Bull consultant Marko talks about wooing Carlos Sainz

The return of Formula 1 to China at the Shanghai International Circuit turned out to be extremely tricky. The drivers were troubled by the lack of grip on the track.

After just an hour of practice, it began to rain in the first knockout of the weekend, further deteriorating traction. As in previous training, Verstappen initially only managed third place in the first twelve minutes. Teammate Sergio Perez and Norris were faster.

Chinese joy

Local hero Guanyu Zhou escaped into the second section of qualifying with a lead of 88 thousandths of a second. This started with a slight delay after, as in the only free practice session, a piece of grass caught fire.

According to the International Automobile Federation, initial video analyzes showed that sparks from the cars caused the small fires.

Even before the heavy rain began, Verstappen set the fastest lap in Q2. For George Russell, however, the Mercedes ended. Zhou made it to Q3 to the cheers of the Chinese fans and finished tenth. Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc slipped off the track on the now wet asphalt, and Verstappen also had problems.

  • Also read: Alonso, Hamilton and soon Vettel – they make Formula 1 look old

“It was incredibly slippery, it was difficult to keep the car on the track. It felt like you were driving on ice. But when it was dry it worked quite well,” explained the 26-year-old Dutchman .

The sprint race on Saturday is over a distance of 100 km. Pole starter Norris spoke of a “wild” start. “It was fun, it gets your heart racing. A nice surprise and a good starting point for tomorrow.” However, Red Bull still has a lot of work to do. “We have to improve significantly if we want to be at the front,” motorsport consultant Helmut Marko said after free practice.

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