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Qualifying report & highlights from the 2021 Russian Grand Prix: Norris beats Sainz and Russell to claim sensational maiden pole in Sochi

Fresh from the team’s first one-two in over a decade at the Italian Grand Prix last time out, McLaren’s Lando Norris claimed pole position for the 2021 Russian Grand Prix, overcoming damp conditions at the Sochi Autodrom to take a shock P1, with the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz and the Williams of George Russell rounding out a surprise top three.

With heavy rain on Saturday morning having seen Free Practice 3 cancelled, qualifying marked the first Saturday track action for the F1 drivers. But with the fastest laps on Q1 and Q2 having been set on intermediate tyres, a drying Sochi track prompted a late move to slicks.

And it was ultimately Norris who strung a lap together to claim his first ever career pole position, and McLaren’s first pole since 2012, winding up 0.517s up on second-placed finisher Sainz, as Russell also starred for Williams to take P3, for his second top-three start in four races.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was on provisional pole going into the final laps of Q3. But the seven-time champion then hit the pit wall as he came in to change for slicks, before failing to improve as he spun on his last lap and claiming P4.

Monza winner Daniel Ricciardo was fifth for McLaren, ahead of the Alpine of Fernando Alonso, as the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas claimed P7 – an upset for Mercedes, who took a one-two in every session and segment leading up to Q3 – with Lance Stroll P8 for Aston Martin, ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon.

Meanwhile, with a back-of-the-grid start for Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen opted not to set a lap taking P20 on the grid. Verstappen will be joined at the back by Charles leclerc and Nicholas Latifi who will both he hit with penalties for changing power units.

So the story just keeps getting better for McLaren – but what can Lando Norris and the team achieve in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix?

More to follow…

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