Lando Norris’ ‘perfect’ lap snares pole from Max Verstappen at F1 Spanish Grand Prix

lando norris’ ‘perfect’ lap snares pole from max verstappen at f1 spanish grand prix

Lando Norris’ ‘perfect’ lap snares pole from Max Verstappen at F1 Spanish Grand Prix

“Lando Norris with perhaps one of the finest laps he’s turned in a Formula 1 car.”

That was the description from Alex Jacques in the commentary box on F1TV after the checkered flag flew at the end of qualifying. And if Saturday’s qualifying session at the Spanish Grand Prix is any indication, the rest of this F1 season may be filled with tremendous drama.

Max Verstappen threw down the gauntlet throughout qualifying, and as the seconds ticked down it looked as if the Red Bull driver was going to fend off the challengers in the field. Verstappen was on provisional pole position, but there were still a few drivers on the track.

Including Norris.

The McLaren driver delivered what he described as a “perfect” lap, a thunderous performance that snatched P1 away from his friend and rival Verstappen at the death. While Verstappen was denied pole last time out at the Canadian Grand Prix despite setting the same time as George Russell, Norris finished two hundreds ahead of his friend.

It is the second pole position of the McLaren driver’s career.

Can he translate that into a victory?

Norris said that is the “plan.”

“Of course, I can,” said Norris trackside when asked he he can translate pole position into a victory. “That’s our target. But I know it’s gonna be tough against Max, against Lewis, anyone behind. But we’re to win now.

“So, that’s my plan.”

Norris and McLaren kick off our list of winners and losers during qualifying at the Spanish Grand Prix. Here are the full results, as well as some more winners and losers from a thrilling Saturday in Barcelona.

Losers: Williams

The last time Williams finished in the points at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya? That came back at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix when both Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa came across the line in the top ten. Since then, Barcelona has been a points desert for the team.

That looks to continue this weekend.

Williams has been on the back foot all week, and that continued with qualifying on Saturday. Both Alexander Albon and Logan Sargeant were eliminated in Q1, and the team will face an uphill climb to try and secure points in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.

With their two drivers set to start alongside each other on the back row of the grid.

When the team launched their challenger for the 2024 season in New York City in February, the talk from the team was that the FW46 was going to be a more well-rounded car than last season’s challenger. A year ago you knew where the FW45 was going to be strong, particularly at high-speed circuits with lots of straights. Entering 2024, the team was hoping to find a more complete challenger.

While they may have achieved that goal, Barcelona remains tough sledding for the team.

“It’s been a painful weekend guys ... I’ll keep trying my best,” reported Sargeant following Q1.

Williams will need something even better than that on Sunday if they are going to break their points-less Barcelona streak.

Winners: Sauber

lando norris’ ‘perfect’ lap snares pole from max verstappen at f1 spanish grand prix

Finally.

For the first time all season long, Sauber had a reason to work on both sides of the garage in Q2. Both Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu advanced out of Q1, for the first time this year. Bottas was 13th-fastest in Q1, with Zhou right behind him in P14.

While their days ended in Q2, as both Bottas and Zhou failed to advance, it was certainly a step forward for the team during a year that has seen Sauber struggle. The year began with frustration in the pits, as races where the team demonstrated good pace were undone by lengthy pit stops and a problem with cross-threading issues on the wheel nuts of the C44.

Those issues were finally resolved, and now they have their first weekend with both cars in Q2.

Can they translate that into points? With both drivers starting just on the outside of the top ten — with Bottas in P12 and Zhou in P15 — they certainly have a shot.

Losers: VCARB

Both Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda described Friday as a struggle for the Visa Cash App RB F1 Team.

Saturday was not much better.

Ricciardo and Tsunoda were both eliminated in Q1, and are set to start alongside each other on the penultimate row of the grid. Ricciardo posted the 18th-fastest time in Q1, with Tsunoda just ahead of him in P17.

VCARB brought a set of upgrades to Barcelona, like many teams, and the word from the team after Friday’s session was that the upgrades were working as expected. “The main upgrade we brought here is the floor, and with these cars, it’s such a big part of development,” reported Ricciardo in the team’s post-practice report Friday. “There’s still some optimism and once we dive into it tonight, we’ll find how it’s working and better ways to set up the car around it.”

“We’re happy with the numbers coming from the upgrade, all is working well and no issues there,” described Sporting Director Alan Permane. “The focus will be on the mechanical side of the car and improving the suspension setup.”

But judging by the results Saturday, the team is still looking for answers on the setup.

Winners: Alpine

Following Friday’s two practice sessions both Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly seemed surprised with the performance from Alpine. With both drivers finishing FP2 inside the top ten — and Gasly in P4 — the Alpine duo wondered if that result offered a true picture of how things stood. “To end the day with both cars in the top-10 is a little bit unexpected from where we thought we would be entering the weekend on this particular track,” said Ocon. “Obviously, we do not know what the others are doing but overall, it is a positive start to the weekend.”

Gasly described it as a bit of flattery.

“It’s been a positive Friday for us, especially Free Practice 2,” added Gasly. “The end result, finishing in fourth place, probably flatters us and it was certainly a surprise, but a pleasant surprise, and one that brings a smile to my face!”

Those pleasant surprises continued into Saturday.

Both Ocon and Gasly advanced into Q3, marking just the second time this season that both drivers lasted into the third segment of qualifying.

Gasly ended Q3 in P7, with Ocon in P9. But with Sergio Pérez between them in P8 — and facing a grid drop for a penalty handed down following the Canadian Grand Prix — Alpine enters Sunday’s Grand Prix in position for big points this weekend.

Along with perhaps some more flattery.

Losers: Aston Martin

“We do not know what we’re going to get at the start of every weekend,” reported Fernando Alonso at the start of the week, as relayed by Alex Jacques during the F1TV broadcast.

That seems to be the case at the moment with Aston Martin.

While Alonso and teammate Lance Stroll advanced out of Q2, both drivers saw their Saturday sessions end there. Alonso just missed out on Q3 and will start the Spanish Grand Prix in P11. As for Stroll, after avoiding a penalty for an incident with Lewis Hamilton in FP3 he could not avoid the drop at the end of Q2 and will start Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix in P15.

Returning to Alonso, speaking at the FIA Press Conference on Thursday the veteran driver outlined his current thoughts on the AMR24.

“About the car and the understanding: I think we have clear ideas of what we have to improve. Obviously I will not share here with everyone. I think it is quite obvious for everyone that qualifying has been our strength this year and race pace has been a little bit weak,” described Alonso on Thursday. “The straight-line speed and the DRS effect is quite strong also this year in our car but there are a lot of weaknesses as well that we are identifying now with the new package as well, so yeah I think we’re in a good place.”

That might not exactly be the case, given what we saw Saturday. Is this a track-specific issue for the team, or is something else happening at Aston Martin with their 2024 challenger?

Winners: Mercedes

lando norris’ ‘perfect’ lap snares pole from max verstappen at f1 spanish grand prix

With all the accolades he has earned over a tremendous F1 career, Lewis Hamilton was seeking something on Saturday that was a bit outside the norm.

A start inside the top six.

Despite all the success he has enjoyed over his career, Hamilton had yet to qualify inside the top six this season. His best starting spot in a Grand Prix this year was seventh, something he had done three times: Japan, Monaco, and Canada.

Hamilton will start Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix not just inside the top six, but on the second row. A thunderous lap of his own late in Q3 saw the Mercedes driver secure P3, and with teammate George Russell qualifying fourth, the Silver Arrows have locked out the second row, putting them in position for another huge points weekend.

“I’m really happy,” shared Hamilton trackside after qualifying. “Firstly, thank you everyone. So, so happy to be here and super grateful to be up in the top three. It’s been quite a difficult year so [a] huge amount of work for me going back to the factory.

“And finally, we’re starting to see those incremental steps moving closer to the guys ahead. I didn’t expect us to be fighting for pole necessarily, but every now and then [it looks like with] little bits there and maybe we’ll be close. And so to be there, I’m just grateful.”

Hamilton also praised his teammate and believes that given their starting position, he and Russell can put some pressure on Verstappen and Norris up front.

“Yeah, we’ve made [a] huge step forwards and it’s really just down to every single individual back to the factory who’s pushing in design, pushing and making the new parts that we get to bring as early as possible to these races,” added Hamilton. “And slowly the car is crafting into a racing machine that we can hopefully fight the guys at the front.

“So, George did a great job as well today. So hopefully tomorrow we can apply pressure on the two cars ahead.”

The tremendous result for Mercedes comes at a fascinating time for the team. Not only are they on the cusp of Hamilton’s impending departure to Ferrari at the end of the season, but reports surfaced this week of an anonymous email sent to F1 journalists after the Canadian Grand Prix alleging disparate treatment between Hamilton and Russell by Mercedes. Team Principal Toto Wolff blasted that email during Friday’s FIA Press Conference, indicating that the matter had been referred to police and dismissing “conspiracy theorists and lunatics,” but this is a strange season for the team. One that began with Hamilton’s shocking announcement, and saw Mercedes begin the year on the back foot.

But recent upgrades, including a new front wing, have seen them move to the front the past few races. They are coming off their best result of the season in Montreal, and look primed for something even bigger tomorrow.

Winners: All of us

I honestly yelled.

Watching on my couch as Norris pipped Verstappen for pole position, I let out a shout in my living room ... and regretted not making the trek across the pond to see this in person. But if you feel like we are witnessing a season that may go down in F1 history, you are not alone.

“This season is just delivering time and time again ... this is the finest season of Formula 1 I can remember.”

Those were the words of David Coulthard in the F1TV commentary box, as Saturday’s qualifying session drew to a close. And the former F1 champion is not alone in this assessment. Take a spin through social media — a huge shoutout to my friends on F1 Threads — and you will see comment after comment about how exciting this season is, and what kind of finish we may be in store for.

When I spoke with McLaren’s Oscar Piastri following his tremendous second-place finish at the Monaco Grand Prix, the Australian driver informed me in no uncertain terms that neither championship — the Constructors’ Championship nor the Drivers’ Championship — was “done and dusted.” Yes, Red Bull remains the favorite in the Constructors’ title, and certainly Verstappen remains the favorite in the Drivers’ Championship. But neither title race has been put to bed.

Read that again, because we truly have a pair of title races upon us this season.

And while last year’s winners remain the favorites, if Red Bull and Verstappen are going to repeat as champions they will truly have earned it, as the field is throwing everything at them at the moment. Perhaps the biggest challenge to Red Bull and Verstappen came at last year’s Monaco Grand Prix when the Saturday qualifying session saw the driver pushed to the absolute limit. He answered the call that day, and throughout the rest of the season, similar challenges were few and far between.

Now? The challenges to Red Bull and Verstappen are not just happening week-to-week, they are almost happening on a lap-to-lap basis. There is almost no margin for error for Red Bull and Verstappen, and how they respond is going to be a tremendous story to follow throughout this campaign.

Whether they answer the call, or another team and/or driver delivers a stunning run to a title, will be fascinating to watch.

Buckle up.

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