SPO_240419 F1 3-1713542144175
McLaren's British driver Lando Norris reacts after the sprint qualifying session ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix on Friday. Image Credit: AFP

Shanghai: A fearless “all or nothing” lap from McLaren’s Lando Norris in wet and wild conditions denied Lewis Hamilton pole position on Friday for the sprint race in Shanghai.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

Hamilton thought he had claimed pole in his Mercedes when Norris’s lap of 1min 57.940 sec on intermediate wet tyres was deleted for exceeding track limits, only to be dramatically reinstated a minute later.

Fernando Alonso in an Aston Martin showed his experience and guile to come third in the treacherous conditions with championship leader Max Verstappen fourth after he too had a time deleted for running too wide.

Second career pole

It was a second career sprint pole for Norris.

“It was tricky, you are always nervous going into a session like this,” said the Englishman.

SPO_240419 F1 4-1713542145888
Lando Norris drives through the rain during the qualifying session in Shanghai. Image Credit: AFP

“You just have to risk a lot, push and build tyre temperature and what not.”

“I’m happy — sad it’s not for a proper qualifying — but good enough,” added Norris.

“You only get three laps. The first two I aborted on both, so it was all or nothing, a good position for tomorrow.”

Leclerc survives a big spin

Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez was sixth, splitting the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, who survived a big spin on the wet track unscathed despite touching the barrier.

“I lost it out of turn eight,” admitted Leclerc. “That compromised our quali but there wasn’t much more we could have done.”

Fifth-placed Sainz said the rain and cool conditions made it very difficult to get his intermediate tyres warmed up.

“We didn’t manage to switch on the tyres so we couldn’t push,” said the Spaniard, the only driver to win a race this season apart from Verstappen.

SPO_240419 F1 1-1713542137704
Championship leader Max Verstappen fourth after he too had a time deleted for running too wide. Image Credit: AFP

Formula One is back in China for the first time since 2019, when Hamilton won.

A big crowd at the Shanghai International Circuit let out a huge roar when their hometown hero Zhou Guanyu made it into the third qualifying session. He will start Saturday’s sprint from 10th for Sauber.

The 24-year-old Zhou was elevated to F1 in 2022, but has had to wait till his third season to make his home debut because of the pandemic.

Zhou is yet to score a 2024 championship point but has given himself a great chance with a near-flawless qualifying show.

SPO_240419 F1-1713542131714
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc feels the spin compromised on the qualification but not worries about it. Image Credit: Reuters

Every lap in his bright green Sauber was greeted by massive cheers from the grandstand opposite the pit lane as his times appeared on the scoreboard.

Verstappen, who has won three out of four grands prix this season, again looked quickest until the rain came near the end of SQ2.

It sets up an intriguing 19-lap sprint battle Saturday morning as the three-time world champion attempts to find his way past Alonso, Hamilton and Norris.