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Lando Norris rides rain and fire to take chaotic Chinese GP sprint pole

A fire halted SQ1 at the 2024 Chinese GP and rain covered the entire second half of the session as Lando Norris took pole

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Lando Norris took the latest of pole positions as carnage ensued in sprint qualifying, with a rain-soaked SQ3 coming after the first session was red-flagged due to a fire breaking out on-track.

Lewis Hamilton was set to take sprint pole after Norris‘ laptime had been deleted, but it was then reinstated by the stewards after the chequered flag to push the seven-time world champion down to second.

Max Verstappen only managed one clean lap but still managed to qualify fourth, just behind Fernando Alonso as Formula 1‘s wet-weather specialists came to the fore.

Norris‘ winning time was originally deleted as he ran wide at the final corner of his penultimate lap, but it was later reinstated with the stewards deciding he’d gained no advantage from that.

Meanwhile the rain caught George Russell out, as Mercedes‘ underwhelming season got even worse when his first lap was poor and the ever-increasing downpour prevented him from getting a second chance to improve.

Russell was only four-hundredths away from home favourite Zhou Guanyu, who sent the grandstands into raptures by making it into SQ3 and went on to finish 10th. In the final session, Verstappen, Norris and most notably Charles Leclerc all lost control early on with the Ferrari slamming into the crash barriers but somehow able to continue.

Carlos Sainz completed the top five with seventh-placed Leclerc sandwiching Sergio Perez, while Oscar Piastri led both Saubers.

All the elements come to play

F1 engineers are used to navigating and manipulating the air and ground, with a little water thrown in occasionally too. But two fires in a day is more unusual, as SQ1 was red-flagged when a blaze was noticed on the grass at turn five, after a similar incident in FP1.

The rain caused the biggest problems though, up and down the grid.

A queue formed at the end of the pitlane well before the start of SQ2, with every driver knowing rain was on the way but each team having a different prediction for when it would arrive.

However, by halfway through the session the rain was pouring too heavily to prevent any further improvements, with Daniel Ricciardo recognising that early and bailing into the pitlane despite sitting in 15th place.

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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