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Lando Norris pole lap reinstatement explained after late Chinese GP Sprint Qualifying confusion

McLaren, Lando Norris, and the Sky Sports F1 pundits on the Sprint pole lap that was, then wasn't, and then finally was again in Shanghai; watch Saturday's Sprint at 4am with Qualifying following at 8am and the Chinese GP itself at 8am on Sunday - live on Sky Sports F1

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Karun Chandhok explains the reason why Lando Norris' lap time in Sprint Qualifying was reinstated at the Chinese GP, giving him pole

McLaren boss Andrea Stella says the FIA reinstated Lando Norris' pole-position lap of its own accord after realising the Briton had not gained any advantage from running off track at the end of his previous deleted attempt.

In what was already a chaotic and wild end to a rain-affected first Sprint Qualifying session on F1's return to Shanghai, confusion briefly reigned at the end of the session when Norris' final lap time of 1:57.940 - which had moved him 1.261s clear of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton to seemingly win him Sprint pole - was swiftly deleted by Race Control on the grounds of track limits.

That decision was connected to Norris going wide at the final corner of his previous lap, which had already been deleted, when the McLaren ran with all four tyres outside the white line and into the gravel.

However, just over a minute after Norris had lost his final time, Race Control reinstated the lap and Norris' position at the head of the grid for Saturday's 19-lap Sprint, which is live at 4am on Sky Sports F1, was confirmed.

Explaining what he understood to have happened, Stella told Sky Sports: "It was reinstated by the FIA themselves.

"Definitely because you go off at the last corner you go off at much lower speed and effectively Lando loses almost three tenths because he has been off at the previous last corner."

The McLaren team principal added: "They might have thought in this case, having been off at the last corner, it might have implications for the following lap which is the pole lap.

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"That lap is completely clean, so there is no problem at all."

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Norris said he was a little nervous seeing his lap was reinstated yet happy with the pole position result he achieved

From inside the cockpit, Norris admitted he "had no idea" what was going on as he saw his name appear at the top of the timesheet but then drop down.

"I saw on the board that I wasn't at the top, but I saw when I went over the line on the TV that I was, so I got a little bit nervous," said the Briton.

"But I didn't do anything so it should be okay."

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, whose team would have gained the pole for Hamilton had Norris' time remained invalid, saw no issue with Race Control's eventual ruling.

"I haven't seen the detail, I've just seen 'four tyres off track' but honestly he was probably slower, so would have gone even faster anyway," said Wolff.

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Sprint Qualifying highlights of the Chinese Grand Prix from the Shanghai International Circuit

And Sky Sports F1's Nico Rosberg, the 2016 world champion, said there should be no debate over whether Norris ultimately deserved the pole.

"This is no discussion," said Rosberg.

"[Norris] did a super-awesome job and [pole is] fully deserved."

Norris' pole-winning advantage over second place was the largest for a qualifying session in the current turbo-hybrid era, which began a decade ago.

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Analysis: 'There was no advantage gained'

Sky Sports F1's Karun Chandhok explains:

"Normally if you have a track limits violation at the final corner, what ends up happening is that lap gets deleted - but also the next lap because you gain an advantage.

"In this case, as Lando comes up to the last corner on his penultimate lap, he turns in, he's slightly wide of the apex, and then that puts him out wide, and quite clearly he goes over the white line. There's no debate around it.

Lando Norris Sprint Qualifying
Image: Norris on his way to pole in the rain

"But you can hear he's way off the throttle, he's really struggling to rejoin the track. And, as Andrea Stella said, it's actually ended up costing him.

"That lap is basically a write-off and then he started his next lap, his final one, three tenths slower - which was a critical point. So even though he ended up doing a fast lap time by the end, there was no advantage gained.

"To me, it's logical. It's the fair result and the right result."

While it is sometimes the case, the race director's event notes for this weekend's race do not specify that there is any knock-on effect for a driver's subsequent lap if they exceed track limits at the final corner.

The event notes issued for Shanghai simply state on the issue of track limits: "During Qualifying and the Race, each time a driver fails to stay within the track limits, this will result in that lap time being invalidated by the Stewards."

Will Norris now win a Sprint for the first time?

The reinstatement confirmed Norris' second successive Sprint Qualifying pole, with the McLaren driver having also headed the grid the last time the format was in use in Brazil in November.

"You never know what to expect in conditions like this, so always hard to anticipate things and it always makes you a bit more nervous than normal," said Norris, who along with the rest of the field had only one practice session earlier on Friday to prepare for the weekend's first competitive session.

"But you never know and today proved in these conditions the car worked well. I felt very comfortable, I could push and get the car into a good window and that matters a lot in a session like that.

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A sports crossover see's Chelsea's Levi Colwill and Robert Sanchez visit Norris at the McLaren Technology Centre to go head to head at a sim racing challenge. The full feature is to air on Saturday

"[It was] tough. I didn't do a very good first two laps, I had to keep backing off, but I got a good final lap in and that's all that matters."

The 24-year-old, who is yet to win either a Sprint or full Grand Prix in F1, admitted he had "not a clue" about whether he could keep first place during Saturday morning's 19-lap dash - but that he would definitely be more hopeful if it stayed wet.

"We did some work this morning and consecutive laps to try and understand," he said.

"It depends what the weather is like. If it's like this, then the chances are relatively decent but the race is very different to qualifying.

"The pace is good, whether it's wet or dry, so we are in a decent position. The team did a good job, the car feels good and so do I."

Norris shares Saturday morning's front row with countryman Hamilton, with Fernando Alonso third for Aston Martin ahead of Red Bull's world championship leader, and pre-event favourite, Max Verstappen.

Oscar Piastri starts eighth in the second McLaren.

Sky Sports F1's live Chinese GP schedule

China schedule

Saturday April 20
3.30am: Chinese GP Sprint (race starts at 4am)*
7am: Chinese GP Qualifying build-up*
8am: Chinese GP Qualifying*
10am: Ted's Qualifying Notebook*

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A quick look back at some of the biggest moments from the Chinese Grand Prix over the years...

Sunday April 21
7am: Grand Prix Sunday: Chinese GP build-up*
10am: Chequered Flag: Chinese GP reaction*
11am: Ted's Notebook*

*also live on Sky Sports Main Event

You can watch every session of the Chinese Grand Prix live on Sky Sports F1 and steam every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership - No contract, cancel anytime

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