Norris bests Verstappen for Spanish GP pole

Lando Norris pinched pole position from Max Verstappen in a thrilling conclusion to qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Verstappen’s difficult weekend in Barcelona appeared to have turned around by the start of qualifying, and after the first runs of Q3 he was back on top with a 0.123s margin to Norris and with the trailing Ferrari and Mercedes cars spread over a quarter of a second further back.

Verstappen rolled out first for the final laps of the shootout and promptly lowered the benchmark to 1m11.403s. Carlos Sainz steamed through and fell 0.063s short. Charles Leclerc tried his luck, but was lacking by only 0.058s.


Norris, however, was next in line and on a sizzling lap, and Verstappen’s lap wouldn’t withstand a third blow. The McLaren driver crossed the line with a time of 1m11.383s, claiming top spot by just 0.02s.

Norris’ second career pole makes him the fourth different pole-getter from the last four races, and the Briton said it took a flawless performance to beat the Dutchman.

“It was pretty much a perfect lap,” he said. “You know when you’re on a good lap and you’re getting excited. The whole thing went perfectly at the end. We’ve been close all weekend but really this was just about a perfect lap, and that’s what I did today.

“It’s not just this weekend. We’ve been quick the last two months — since Miami we’ve been very strong. We’re here to win now. That’s my plan.”

Verstappen was pleased that his RB20 had found a sweet spot to battle for pole after a troubled build-up through practice.

“I think in qualifying it was all coming together a bit nicer,” he said. “The whole weekend we’ve been trying to find a connected balance. I was quite happy in qualifying.

“Unfortunately it was just not enough. That’s how it goes sometimes. I think overall we can still be very happy with this performance.”

The front row was something of a private battle, with Lewis Hamilton qualifying third but lapping 0.318s slower than Norris. The six-time Spanish GP winner was nonetheless pleased that his Mercedes was capable of battling near the front at such an aerodynamically demanding circuit.

“I’m really happy,” he said. “It’s been quite a difficult year … finally we’re starting to see those incremental steps.

“I didn’t expect to be fighting for pole necessarily. To just be there, I’m incredibly grateful.”

His Mercedes teammate, George Russell, will join Hamilton on the second row after qualifying 0.002s further back.

Ferrari slipped to the third row, with Leclerc leading Sainz in fifth and sixth at 0.348s and 0.353s adrift.

Alpine surprised with both drivers in Q3. Pierre Gasly, steering the heavier chassis, qualified seventh ahead of Sergio Perez. The Mexican, 0.678s off the pace, qualified eighth but will serve a three-place grid penalty for driving a damaged car back to pit lane at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Promoted ahead of him will be Esteban Ocon to eighth, Oscar Piastri — who failed to set a time after having a lap deleted and then running wide over the stones at Turn 12 — to ninth and Fernando Alonso to 10th.

Perez will start ahead of Valtteri Bottas, Nico Hulkenberg and Lance Stroll in places 12 to 14.

Zhou Guanyu made it out of Q1 for the first time this season but could manage only 15th ahead of Kevin Magnussen.

RB’s day ended with massive disappointment after the team’s major upgrade package translated to a step backwards in pace relative to the rest of the field. Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo qualified 17th and 18th respectively, the pair split by 0.09s and neither within 0.1s of making it through to Q2. It’s the first time this season both RB drivers failed to progress past Q1.

Williams was punished harshly for its overweight car, with Alex Albon set to start ahead of teammate Logan Sargeant on the back row of the grid. Sargeant will see the stewards after the session for impeding Stroll early in Q1.

Story originally appeared on Racer