After 1001 Days, McLaren Are Back On Pole

Formula 1 2024: Spanish Gp
Formula 1 2024: Spanish Gp

McLaren is back on pole position after an absence of 1001 days. Lando Norris was quickest today, just as he was in Sochi on 25 September 2021 in qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix. Norris’ time of 1’11”383 was just 20 thousandths quicker than Max Verstappen’s 1’11”403. Behind them, the next four drivers are all within 35 thousandths. The second row is an all-Mercedes affair (1’11”701 for Lewis Hamilton, 1’11”703 for George Russell), while the Ferrari duo occupy row 3 (1’11”731 for Charles Leclerc, 1’11”736 for Carlos Sainz). This was Norris’ second career pole, McLaren’s 157th, its tenth at this Grand Prix. The Woking squad’s last pole at the Barcelona-Catalunya track dates back to 2005 when Kimi Raikkonen was fastest.

The third free practice session saw several teams work exclusively on qualifying simulation runs, while others also replicated some parts of the race, running different fuel loads, trying to acquire further data on tyre behaviour and management.

Qualifying confirmed what had already emerged yesterday: on a track as hard on tyres as Barcelona, peak performance comes on the first flying lap and after that, it’s practically impossible to improve. For the race, having a set of new Softs available could be an advantage, especially if fitted for the start.

The Pirelli Pole Position Award was presented to Lando Norris by Massimiliano “Max” Sirena, Team Director and skipper of the Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli. Sirena is a two-time winner of the America’s Cup, in 2010 and 2017, with two wins in the Challenger Series in 2000 and 2021, competitions in which he has taken part in various roles five times before: now he has his sights set on further wins with the new AC75 in Barcelona.

Pole Man Lando Norris, Mclaren F1 Team, Celebrates In Parc Ferme
Pole man Lando Norris, McLaren F1 Team, celebrates in Parc Ferme

Lando Norris

“I’m super, super happy. We’ve been close to the front all weekend, but needed to have a perfect lap, and I think we delivered that. We’ve been quick for the last two months, and we’ve probably missed a pole by not having that perfect lap. Today, for the final run, we made a few changes, found some places to make tiny improvements and it all worked out.

“We’re in a great position to convert pole into a victory but it’s going to be incredibly tough against Max, against Lewis and everyone behind them – but we’ve been strong since Miami, we’re here to win, and that’s definitely the target.”

Andrea Stella – McLaren Team Principal

“A pole position at a circuit like Barcelona, which is very demanding for the drivers and for the cars, is obviously a great result for the entire team. We have achieved important milestones recently, but the pole position was still one of those achievements that had eluded us. It’s good that we could confirm the progress of the team, and of the car, with this pole position. A great drive by Lando, he drove Qualifying faultlessly and, when it counted, put together one of the best laps of his career.

“Again, the field proved to be very, very tight, so everything can happen tomorrow. We’ll have to stay focused and try to maximise a good start from pole for Lando.

“On Oscar’s side, the Qualifying session was a little untidy. Oscar struggled a bit more to get into a rhythm and, in Q3, couldn’t effectively put together a lap without exceeding track limits – but we know the pace is there and tomorrow is a completely different situation. We will reset, look at what we need to improve, and we look ahead to finishing in a better position to where we start and scoring important points for the team.”

Mario Isola – Pirelli Director of Motorsport

“Another extremely close qualifying, with very small gaps and several teams and drivers looking capable at some point or other of being quickest. With today’s pole for Norris, it means that four teams – Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and now McLaren – have managed to start from the number one slot on the grid. On a track that is very demanding for the entire car-engine-tyre package, today we saw that performance increases from one year to the next are really significant. Today’s pole time is almost a second quicker than last year’s and over half a second better than the average of the simulations we received from the teams.

As for tyre use in the race, one has to keep in mind the considerable drop in temperatures we saw today, particularly on the track surface, which was around ten degrees cooler than yesterday afternoon. While this drop did not have any significant effect over a flying lap, it could be an important factor tomorrow, even if in fact there is a real chance it might rain. In the dry, that means the Medium and Soft dry compounds offer the best performance. On paper, the quickest strategy does indeed involve the use of two sets of C3 and one of C2. We can rule out a one-stop strategy because it’s too slow, but the idea of a four stint, three-stop race is not so far-fetched, being only a handful of seconds slower than a two-stop. How the drivers manage tyre performance over each stint will also be very important, something which the teams worked on very carefully in the final free practice session.”

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