Norris claims brilliant pole in Sochi ahead of Sainz and Russell

Lando Norris claimed a sensational first pole position of his Formula One career ahead of Carlos Sainz and George Russell’s Williams for the Russian Grand Prix.

The Formula One weekend in Sochi had obviously been built up as another Lewis Hamilton versus Max Verstappen battle after the dramas of the last few rounds of racing. But with heavy rain drenching the circuit ahead of qualifying, it became a tactical decision in Q3 as to when to fit dry tyres.

Hamilton looked on course to take another pole. But a mistake entering the pit lane cost him a new front wing and valuable seconds for his final attempt. Instead, it was Sainz who first dialled in a blinding lap, only to be usurped by Norris and Russell taking third.

“Aah boy. It feels amazing,” said Norris after stepping from his car. “I don’t know what to say. What a manic session. We made the decision at the end to go slicks, but I don’t know. You never think you’re going to get a pole until you get it and I managed to do it. So extremely happy and a big thanks to the team, they’ve done an amazing job.

“I wasn’t very confident I was going to improve on the previous lap, but I kept the tyres warm and risked it quite a bit. And it paid off so I’m a happy boy! My first pole position, hopefully the first of many so I’m just really happy.”

With Sainz joining Norris on the front row, the other standout performance in a standout season was Russell just behind. Wringing everything out of his Williams FW43B as ever, he starts in another great position to bag yet more points on race day.

“It’s crazy you know, it’s the second time in the top three in three or four events so the team has done an amazing job once again,” said Russell, who beat Norris to the F2 title in 2018.

“Putting the right tyres on at the right time it was tricky out there. One cry line and you go a couple of centimetres out wide you’re on the wet stuff and you’re off. Well done Lando and Carlos and excited about tomorrow.

“Really looking forward to it. Yesterday our high fuel pace was one of the best of the year. Still a long way behind these guys and the Mercedes starting behind us so we’re going to have a battle on our hands. We’re pretty slippery in the straight but we’ve got some great straight line speed so we’re going to go for the podium again. Nothing to lose!”

With Max Verstappen starting from the back of the grid as a result of a Power Unit change, Hamilton may still start the race as odds on favourite to reclaim the lead of the championship come the chequered flag on Sunday.

He will have to avoid any opening lap skirmishes, Italian GP winner Daniel Ricciardo and former McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso right behind him on the grid. Next comes Mercedes wingman Valtteri Bottas with Lance Stroll, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon rounding out the top ten.


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Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.