Lando Norris seizes shock pole in Russian Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton hits the wall

McLaren driver leads way in surprise front row while reigning champion apologises to team following pit-lane prang

McLaren's Lando Norris secured a sensational first Formula One pole position at the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday after seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton crashed into the pit-lane wall during a damp qualifying session.

Norris is joined on the front row by the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz with Lewis Hamilton starting on the second row in his latest attempt at reaching 100 wins.

Hamilton was looking good for pole after topping the timesheets in Q1 and Q2, but he then suffered late drama with three minutes left of Q3 when he hit the pit wall requiring a hastily fitted new front wing to his damaged Mercedes.

He can still expect to take the championship lead back from Red Bull rival Max Verstappen on Sunday with the 23-year-old Dutch driver starting at the back due to engine penalties. Mercedes have never been beaten in Sochi.

Norris, 21, whooped in delight at what he hoped would be the first of many poles.

"It feels amazing," he said. "We made the decision in the end to go slicks. you never think you will get pole until you get it and now I've managed to do it. Extremely happy and big thanks to the team. They've done an amazing job.

"It was tough. I am going to make myself sound good but it was tricky. The lap before I was two seconds down and I wasn't very confident we were going to improve on the previous lap. I risked quite a bit and it paid off. I'm a happy boy."

McLaren won the previous Italian Grand Prix at Monza in a one-two finish, and Australian winner Daniel Ricciardo qualified fifth in Sochi ahead of Spaniard Fernando Alonso in sixth for Alpine.

Hamilton, whose team mate Valtteri Bottas qualified only seventh, complained he could not keep heat in the tyres when he returned to the track and he spun on his final flying lap.

"It was just a mistake from myself. I'm incredibly disappointed in myself," said a deflated Hamilton of his pit lane prang. "Up until then I was in the groove, I was really in the zone.

"I'm really sorry for all the team that are here and back at the factory because obviously that's not what you expect from a champion. It is what it is and I will do my best tomorrow to try and rectify it."

Verstappen, five points clear of Hamilton after 14 races, made only a brief appearance in qualifying with nothing to achieve.

"We decided not to do too many laps as the risk of having a moment or an accident would not be worth it," he said. "The track conditions were fine and there was good grip, I think it will be similar conditions during the race."

Updated: September 25th 2021, 4:45 PM
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