F1: Lando Norris will start first at the Spanish Grand Prix

MONTMELO, Spain – Briton Lando Norris snatched the lead from Dutchman Max Verstappen ahead of the Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix by posting a blistering final lap during qualifying on Saturday.

Norris’ effort is all the more impressive given the circumstances. A few hours earlier, the McLaren team had to evacuate its facilities in the paddocks due to a fire. A member of the team was taken to hospital “as a precaution”.

“The most important thing is that everyone is safe, everyone is doing well,” Norris said. A bit of a scare for the whole team, just a day a little more stressful than I would have liked. I lost my shoes, that was the worst for me. »

McLaren’s facility, a temporary multi-story structure to provide meals for staff and guests, began to emit smoke shortly before the third practice session on Saturday morning.

Norris said the team would not be able to use the facilities on race day. While insisting he was not complaining, he said the incident deprived him of the room he used to “relax” and concentrate.

“Tomorrow it might have a bigger impact for me because I won’t be able to enjoy that quiet time that I love,” Norris said.

He certainly didn’t look rattled in qualifying.

With Verstappen seconds away from securing another top position, Norris lapped the Barcelona-Catalonia circuit in 1 minute 11.383 seconds, 20 thousandths of a second slower than Verstappen.

Norris earned his first career victory in May when he won at Miami. He started this race from fifth place.

“It was almost a perfect lap, so I’m very, very happy,” Norris said. We’ve been close for two months, since Miami. We probably missed some leading positions because we didn’t have that perfect lap. We made some changes in the last lap and found room to improve. »

The holder of the leading position has won 24 of the 33 races on this track.

Britons Lewis Hamilton and George Russell allowed Mercedes to occupy the second row on the grid. The Ferraris are also grouped together with the Monegasque Charles Leclerc in fifth position and the Spaniard Carlos Sainz fils just behind.

The Frenchman Pierre Gasly (Alpine), the Mexican Sergio Perez (Red Bull), the Frenchman Esteban Ocon (Alpine) and the Australian Oscar Piastri (McLaren) followed, in order. Perez will, however, start 11th due to a three-place penalty awarded at the end of the Canadian Grand Prix.

Quebecer Lance Stroll will start from 14th position. His Spanish teammate at Aston Martin, Fernando Alonso, will start 10th.

After a good performance in Montreal, where both drivers finished sixth and seventh, Aston Martin expected a more difficult race in Spain since the circuit is less suited to the characteristics of its car.

“We knew qualifying was going to be tough, so I think two cars [qui ont accédé au deuxième segment des qualifications] was the maximum possible today, said Stroll, according to the team’s official website.

“The car just lacks the pace to fight with the best teams on this track. We got caught in a bit of a trap. Our pace on the long runs seems a little stronger than in qualifying, so we’ll see what we can do in the race tomorrow. »

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