Explained: Why Lando Norris’ sprint pole lap was deleted - and then reinstated

Why was Lando Norris’ pole lap at the F1 Chinese Grand Prix sprint race deleted - and then reinstated?

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL38. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5, Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai, China, Sprint
Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren MCL38. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5,…

Lando Norris beat Lewis Hamilton to pole position for the sprint race at the F1 Chinese Grand Prix after having his fastest lap time deleted and then reinstated.

In wet conditions, the McLaren driver posted a 1m57.940s in SQ3 to go 1.261 seconds quicker than Hamilton’s Mercedes, only to see the lap subject to an unexplained delegation.

That appeared to hand pole to Hamilton, only for Norris’ time to be reinstated in the closing moments of the session.

But what exactly happened to Norris?

Norris went off at the final corner on the push lap prior to the one that eventually secured him pole.

Under normal circumstances, that would have resulted in him losing the next lap for exceeding track limits, but it turned out that Norris gained no advantage by running wide.

During Sky Sports F1’s commentary, David Croft said: “What I think has happened here, is that Norris had a lap time deleted because we went off-track. They decided he had. They took away his next lap.

“What normally happens is that, if you go off and you exceed track limits at the final corner, that lap and your next lap are deleted.

“The argument being that you get your car straighter, and earlier, to start your next lap.

“Now obviously McLaren have argued that, in these conditions, it made absolutely no difference.

“And Race Control have agreed with them.”

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren celebrates pole position in Sprint qualifying parc ferme. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5,
Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren celebrates pole position in Sprint qualifying…

Analysing the incident back at Sky’s studios, Karun Chandhok explained that Norris had actually lost three-tenths at the start of his pole lap due to going off track.

“Basically, to highlight the rule; if you have a track limits violation at the final corner, what happens is - the lap is deleted, but also the next lap [is deleted] because you gain an advantage,” he said.

“Now, in this case… as he comes up to the last corner, we can see he turns in, slightly wide of the apex, that puts him out wide. Quite clearly, he has gone over the white line, there is no debate around it.

“But you can hear that he is way off the throttle. He is struggling to rejoin the track.

“He started it three tenths slower. That’s the argument they used. They managed to get it through. His time got reinstated for the next lap.

“The previous lap is a write-off. He started the next lap three tenths slower, which is the critical point.

"Even though he did a faster lap, there was no advantage gained. That’s the argument that McLaren used. To me, it is logical.”

McLaren boss Andrea Stella revealed that F1’s governing body the FIA made the decision without input from the team.

"It was reinstated by the FIA themselves,” Stella told Sky Sports F1.

“You go off at the last corner, you launch at much lower speed, and effectively Lando loses almost three-tenths because he’s been off at the previous last corner.”

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