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Spanish GP Qualifying: Norris pips Verstappen with mega lap

Spanish GP Qualifying: Norris pips Verstappen with mega lap

Spanish GP Qualifying: Norris pips Verstappen with mega lap

Lando Norris took his second career Formula 1 pole position, beating Max Verstappen by the slightest of margins.

As expected, qualifying for the tenth round of the 2024 F1 season was an exhilarating affair, and while Verstappen seemed to be set for pole #40 increasing his advantage over his rivals as qualifying progressed, Norris had other plans and put in a monstrous lap to beat the Dutchman by a negligible 0.020s.

Norris and Verstappen were in a league of their own, as the third-places Lewis Hamilton was over three tenths away, but he managed to outqualify his teammate George Russell for the second time this season.

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Third and fourth meant it was a decent qualifying for Mercedes who have confirmed that their W15 has drastically improved and that their Canada form was no fluke. They may be far from challenging for pole on a circuit like Barcelona, but they have much to be positive about.

After being fastest in FP3, qualifying was a disappointment for Ferrari and Charles Leclerc was only good for fifth, while Carlos Sainz who was fastest in the final practice was only sixth.

It seems Ferrari have not managed to optimize the upgrade package they brought this weekend, or is it simply not good enough?

Alpine delivered again, with Pierre Gasly seventh ahead of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, with Oscar Piastri tenth after an underwhelming qualifying from the Australian.

Norris: It was pretty much a perfect lap

Norris said in parc ferme: “It was pretty much a perfect lap. You know when you are on a good lap and you are getting excited. But the whole thing went perfectly in the end. Close still but super happy.

“I would say my best pole position. I have not had many but of the ones I have had my best,” he added. “It has been close all weekend but really it was about a perfect lap and that is what I did today.”

McLaren did not have any upgrades this weekend, but were impressive, Norris commented: “It is not just this weekend- we have been fast the last two months, since Miami we have been strong. We have missed out on pole by just not doing a perfect lap and today was a perfect lap.

“Max and Red Bull seemed a little bit stronger all weekend but we made some little changes for the final run, I had some areas to improve, and we did that.

“I know it is going to be tough against Max, against Lewis, and everyone behind. We are here to win so that is my plan,” the Briton concluded.

As for Verstappen he said: “I think in qualifying it was all coming together a bit nicer. The whole weekend we have tried to find a connected balance.

“I was quite happy in qualifying. I got a nice tow from Checo in Q3 but unfortunately it was not enough. That’s how it goes sometimes but overall we can still be happy with that performance and it’s all to play for tomorrow.”

Verstappen revealed the tow was not planned, he added: “That was by chance. I didn’t even know where Checo was on the lap and then they told me where he was so I was like ‘I will try to hang onto him’.

“With the temperature, it was more fun. Throughout qualifying the wind started to pick up a little bit. Maybe that made it a bit more difficult for us in Q3. But, overall a good performance from us,” the reigning Champion concluded.

Despite being way off the pace of Norris and Verstappen, Hamilton was satisfied by third, but under no illusion that pole was a possibility.

The seven-time F1 World Champion said: “I am really happy. I am super grateful to be in the top three.

“It has been quite a difficult year, there has been hard work from everyone back in the factory, and we are starting to see those incremental steps.

“I didn’t expect to be in for pole necessarily but every now and then there looked to be bits that had us close,” Hamilton insisted. “So to be there I am just grateful.

“We have made huge steps forward and it is really down to every single individual back at the factory who is working on design, pushing in making the new parts we get to bring to these races.

“Slowly the car is crafting into a racing machine with which we can hopefully fight the guys in front. George did a great job as well so hopefully tomorrow we can apply the pressure on the guys in front,” the Mercedes driver concluded.

Q1: The updated VCARBS are out

Qualifying started with track temperatures at 38 degrees Celsius while air temperature was 24 degrees, as the conditions continued to be dry and clear.

Logan Sargeant Zhou Guanyu were the first drivers head out on track followed by the VCARBs of Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda.

With 13 minutes remaining the top guys remained in their garages, but did not wait longer, as soon the activity in the pit lane ramped up and over ten car made their way to the track at the same time.

Verstappen went to the top of the timing screens on his first run, with Norris second behind him and Hamilton third, but the Ferraris were on their flying laps and Leclerc dropped Verstappen to second, while Sainz was only good for fourth.

With the top runners’ first laps done, the order was: Leclerc – Verstappen – Norris – Sainz – Russell – Gasly – Nico Hulkenberg – Hamilton – Piastri – Perez – Fernando Alonso – Valtteri Bottas – Lance Stroll – Ocon – Daniel Ricciardo.

With less than four minutes to go, the drivers planning a second run set out for their final runs to secure a place in Q2, the top four drivers remained in their garages.

In the end, and after another run, Hamilton led the way into Q2 with a 1:12.143. However the Briton had to use another new set of Soft tyres – not ideal.

The Mercedes drivers was 0.114s ahead of Leclerc in second and 0.163s ahead of Verstappen in third.

The first driver to be eliminated was Kevin Magnussen, 16th fastest in the Haas and losing out to 15th-placed Stroll by 0.056s.

Yuki Tsunoda was next, 17th fastest and 0.090s ahead of teammate Ricciardo who was 18th in the sister car. Not a decent job for VCARB who have brought heavily upgraded cars to Barcelona and have been able to make it into Q3 in previous races.

Alex Albon was 19th and Sargeant was 20th.

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Q2: Alonso eliminated

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The second stage of qualifying was underway and only Stroll made his way to the track while the other drivers remained in the pit boxes.

The Canadian had the track all to himself as he set out to put the first lap time on the board, a 1:13.630 on used Soft tyres.

But soon and with a little over ten minutes remaining, the rest of the cars lined up in the pits getting ready to take part in the action.

With the first runs over, the order was: Verstappen – Norris – Sainz – Piastri – Leclerc – Russell – Gasly – Perez – Hulkenberg – Ocon.

Verstappen managed a strong lap

Hamilton set his time on used tyres and was down in 13th and reported to his team: “This tyre was bad.”

With three minutes remaining, the second round of laps began, and the spotlight was on Hamilton to see whether he could pull out a lap, good enough to make it into Q3.

Verstappen, Norris, Sainz, and Leclerc remained in the pits.

Hamilton indeed puts in a decent lap and made it into Q3, second fastest behind Verstappen who remained on top at the end of Q2 with a 1:11.653.

Russell was third ahead of Norris, Sainz, Piastri, Leclerc, Perez, Gasly, and Ocon.

And one of the two crowd favorites, Alonso was out of qualifying in Q2, 11th fastest and losing out to Ocon by a painful 0.019s.

Bottas was next, 12th fastest in the Sauber, 0.99s behind Alonso and 0.083s ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, 13th fastest in the Haas.

Stroll was 14th fastest in the other Aston Martin ahead of Zhou in the other Sauber.

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Q3: Norris denies Verstappen

Perez kicked off Q3 and was the first driver out there, on his own on track and set the first time of the session, a 1:13.061, nothing stellar, but he was on a used set.

Verstappen, Sainz, and Piastri were behind the Mexican and on their first hot laps in Q3, and Perez soon dropped down the order.

With the first laps in, and a little over six minutes remaining, Verstappen was on provisional pole ahead of Norris, Hamilton, Russell, Sainz, Leclerc, Gasly, Ocon, and Perez.

Piastri had his first lap time deleted for exceeding track limits, while Russell was unhappy with Hamilton and the way he was driving on the outlap.

With a little over three minutes remaining, the final qualifying runs of the day began with Perez, and Piastri leading the way. They were soon followed by the Alpines and Ferraris as Norris, Verstappen and the two Mercedes drivers soon joined the action.

Piastri was the first driver to start a second timed lap, but he fluffed it, going wide at Turn 13 and ended up in the gravel, game over for the Australian.

And with more drivers putting in their laps, no one managed to challenge Verstappen’s provisional pole, as the Red Bull ace also improved by over two tenths on his second run benefiting from a tow from teammate Perez.

But Norris had other plans, and banged in a lap – also getting a tow – which was just good enough for pole by the slightest of margins.

Norris posted a 1:11.383 and will start the 2024 Spanish GP from he top spot, as Verstappen will line up beside him on the front row after being 0.020s off pole.

Hamilton was third fastest, albeit 0.318s off the pace and was 0.002s ahead of teammate, Russell who was fourth fastest in the sister Mercedes.

Leclerc was fifth fastest in the Ferrari, 0.028s behind Russell and beat Sainz, who was sixth, by 0.005s.

Gasly was an impressive seventh in the Alpine, ahead of Perez who was eighth with Ocon in ninth place, while Piastri was tenth.

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