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Why Lando Norris’ Chinese GP sprint pole lap was reinstated by FIA

The McLaren driver initially had his lap time removed by race control in Shanghai before the FIA stepped in.


Lando Norris experienced the highs and lows of qualifying all in the space of a few seconds after seeing his pole lap in the F1 Sprint qualifying session for the Formula 1 2024 Chinese Grand Prix deleted, before it was later reinstated by the FIA.

The Briton will start on the front row for Saturday’s 19-lap sprint to the checkered flag ahead of his compatriot Lewis Hamilton after the rain fell during SQ2, forcing the drivers to put on wet weather intermediate tyres for the top-10 shootout in SQ3.

Norris was a massive 1.3 seconds quicker ahead of the rest of the pack, although the 24-year-old would have been crushed to see his lap removed from contention by the race control for exceeding track limits. At the final corner before starting his lap, Norris crossed the white line with all four tyres and dumped his right-sided tyres into the gravel.

In normal circumstances, the FIA would move to delete the lap time set by Norris as drivers can often gain a speed advantage or better exit by taking a different line before starting their hot lap.

This is initially what happened before race control quickly realised Norris had not gained any advantage in this case, with McLaren team principal Andrea Stella suggesting Norris could have been even quicker after losing three tenths of a second.

“We think it might have been because in the lap before, he [Norris] went off at the last corner,” Stella said. “And they [the FIA] might have thought that in this case, having been off at the last corner, it kind of has implications for the following lap. The pole lap was the following lap and that lap is completely clean, so there’s no problem at all.

“It was reinstated by the FIA themselves definitely because you go off out of the corner, you launch at a much lower speed. And effectively Lando loses almost three tenths because he’s been off at the previous last corner.”

Mercedes react to Norris reinstatement

If Norris gained an advantage going off, or had the event notes explicitly stated the lap time would be deleted, then his lap would have been chalked off by the FIA.

In that scenario, Hamilton would have been promoted to pole position if the stewards stuck by their original decision to delete Norris‘ time. It would have represented his first pole since Hungary in 2023.

The 39-year-old had punched in a 1:59.201 to go half a second quicker than his closest rival, Fernando Alonso, before Norris managed to usurp him.

But Mercedes boss Toto Wolff conceded they wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on in submitting an appeal to the FIA because Norris lost time.

“I haven’t seen the details. It has always been four tyres off track, but honestly, that [Norris going off the track] was even slower,” Wolff told Sky Sports. “So you could have probably gone faster, so I’m OK with that.”

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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