Lando Norris says he risked “quite a bit” on his final lap in qualifying to take his maiden Formula 1 pole position for the Russian Grand Prix.
McLaren, who ended its nine-year winless streak with a 1-2 finish at Monza two weeks ago, claimed its first pole position since Brazil 2012 at the Sochi Autodrom after a late gamble to put Norris on slick tyres.
Norris topped qualifying by over half a second from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, with the decision to switch from intermediates to dry tyres paying off for the British driver.
“It feels amazing, I don’t know what to say,” Norris said.
“It was quite a manic session. We were going well, and obviously we made the decision in the end to go slicks.
“You don’t think you’re going to get a pole until you get it and now I’ve managed to do it so yeah, extremely happy.
“Big thanks to the team as well, they’ve done an amazing job.”
There had been doubts over qualifying taking place after the morning’s final practice session was cancelled due to heavy rain, but a break in the weather saw the session go ahead.
The track remained damp until the final moments in Q3 when drivers opted to make the switch to slick tyres, with Norris admitting the conditions made for a “tricky” session.
“I’m obviously going to make myself sound good, but it was tricky,” Norris said.
“It was that crossover section and the lap before I was like, two seconds down, and I wasn’t very confident we were going to improve on the previous lap.
“But I kept the tyres warm and prepared the final lap, and I risked quite a bit, I’m going to admit, and it paid off, so I’m a happy boy.”
Despite its victory at Monza, McLaren downplayed its chances of carrying over its form to Russia this weekend, with Norris conceding his pole lap was a surprise to him and the team.
“I guess coming off of Monza this is not something we really expected, but these kinds of conditions are when we can take opportunities,” Norris said.
“That’s exactly what we did today, so especially after Monza, this is an awesome way to start, and hopefully we can continue it again tomorrow.”