Lando Norris says he was “surprised” to have come so close to a maiden Formula 1 pole position during qualifying for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Briton produced an outstanding lap to take fourth place in his McLaren with an effort that was just 0.251 seconds off pole and good enough to put himself ahead of Red Bull’s Alex Albon and behind only Max Verstappen and the Mercedes duo.

Norris admitted after qualifying that “I don’t know where it came from” as he recorded his joint-best qualifying of the season and also secured his 2020 qualifying head-to-head against teammate Carlos Sainz, who was sixth-quickest in his last Saturday outing for McLaren ahead of his 2021 Ferrari switch.

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Asked if he was surprised to have been so close to pole, Norris replied: "Yes, a lot. I don’t know where it came from.

“We’ve been confident all weekend, and been dong a good job and the car has been much nicer this weekend than it was last weekend,” Norris said. “So we understand some things.

“But at the end of the day, to only be two tenths off pole, that’s what surprises me a bit more. I’m happy because I felt like I did a very food lap, and my gap to Carlos was three and a half tenths one of the biggest of the whole year.

“I’m very happy, as I feel like I deserved it and put a very good lap together but at the same time to be two tenths off pole position is not that much at the end of the day. Surprised but also very happy and in a good position for tomorrow.”

It marks an important result for McLaren in the intense battle to seal third place in the constructors’ championship, with both its drivers starting inside the top 10 for Sunday’s final round of the season and its nearest rivals further back.

Lance Stroll qualified eighth for Racing Point with teammate Sergio Perez facing a back-of-the-grid start having exceeded his engine allocation for the year, while both Renaults were knocked out in Q2 and will start from 11th and 12th.

Racing Point currently occupies the much-coveted third spot in the championship, 10 points clear of McLaren, with Renault a further 12 points adrift in fifth.

“It’s a good position for us tomorrow,” Norris explained. “But Sergio was last at last weekend’s race after T4 and he won the race.

“They are going to be coming through, will be very fast tomorrow. Sergio has been quite a bit quicker than lance all weekend, so if anyone is going to be coming through, it’s going to be Sergio.

“And the car is very quick, but at the same time, we were in a good rhythm the car was performing well. Will see what we can do tomorrow, still a different story, it’s not confirmed yet.”