Lando Norris joked that his first pole position comes at a venue where he would probably prefer not to be after his thrilling qualifying performance at the Russian Grand Prix.
On slick tires on a drying track at the end of Q3, Norris produced an excellent final lap to take pole position by half a second from former teammate Carlos Sainz. While it’s his first pole position, it comes at a venue where the polesitter has only won once — six years ago — and where the long run to the first braking zone leaves him vulnerable to those behind.
“It’s just an awesome feeling altogether,” Norris said. “I don’t know what to say — it feels like you’ve just qualified well which is a pole position. It doesn’t come around much — it’s obviously my first one in X amount of races, could be my only pole for a while, so feels amazing, especially in these conditions.
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“It’s tricky — you have to put a lot of risk on the line and just try and see if it pays off and it did. An amazing feeling, my first pole, probably the only place I wouldn’t want to be on pole is here with the straight down to Turn 2, but I’m still very happy.”
Norris was one of the first drivers onto slicks in Q3, but admits he had to take risks because he knew how hard all of the drivers would be pushing despite the challenging conditions.
“We kind of did the first couple of laps, one on the inters, then first on softs, then from those two you can gather a decent amount of information where it’s dry, where it’s still damp and so on. But a lot of the time it’s just hope — you go into the corner and hope it sticks, and it did.
“That’s the kind of level you have to push at in Formula 1 when it is so high — you never know what everyone else is doing to do, when they’re also pushing for pole as everyone knows there’s this opportunity when the conditions are like this.
“A lot of pushing but we made the right decisions, pitting when we did; I think most did a similar thing. Not easy at all, I’m sure the other guys will say the same.”
After finishing second to teammate Daniel Ricciardo at Monza, Norris says he doesn’t believe McLaren is realistically in the frame for another victory on Sunday.
“Yeah, you know after last week what do you expect? Another race win for McLaren would be lovely. But, I don’t expect so, I think Mercedes are a long way up the road on us, and Red Bull probably similar.
“I think we have decent pace — we saw yesterday the car’s in a good position, obviously the wet now and also the dry — but it is a long run down to Turn 2, so have to look forward to that and prepare well. But either condition we can score some good points tomorrow and have a good race as we’re in the best position possible.”