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Spanish GP: Lando Norris aims to capitalise after Max Verstappen declares dominance 'completely gone'

Lando Norris and Max Verstappen line up together on the front row in Barcelona, with the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in behind; watch the Spanish Grand Prix at 2pm, with build-up from 12.30pm, live on Sky Sports F1 on Sunday

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Lando Norris takes pole at the Spanish Grand Prix ahead of Max Verstappen

Lando Norris is determined to grab the "opportunity" presented by his second career F1 pole position in Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix after Max Verstappen declared Red Bull's dominance to now be "completely gone".

Norris will start from pole position ahead of championship leader Verstappen having produced what he described as the best-ever lap of his career in a blistering end to qualifying at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Saturday.

The Briton, who won his maiden Grand Prix in Miami last month, has finished in the top two at three of the past four events and starts from the head of the grid on a Sunday for the first time in nearly three years.

And although aware that the Barcelona polesitter can be vulnerable to attack owing to the long run down to the first corner, Norris is excited by what is to come in a 66-lap race that he believes any of the increasingly-close leading four teams could yet win.

"It's probably one of the places you don't want to start on pole, but it's an opportunity for us to go out and try and win a race you know.

"We've not done loads of long running. We've done a bit and I think we were close, as it always has been.

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Onboard Lando Norris' pole lap at the Spanish Grand Prix

"I think tomorrow is not like this car is way quicker. I think between Mercedes, ourselves, Red Bull, Ferrari, there's eight cars that could have probably been on pole today and that have a chance of probably winning the race.

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"So it's about making the least mistakes, similar to today, and just trying to execute another good race that we normally do."

Speaking to Sky Sports F1, Norris added: "The race pace between everyone is extremely close. I think it is interesting tomorrow to see what happens laps 10-20."

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Zak Brown felt Lando Norris' pole lap was 'fantastic' after McLaren suffered a fire in the motor home prior to P3

Max: Red Bull dominance 'completely gone' - but 'excited' for victory tussle

While Verstappen may have missed out on pole by a miniscule margin of just 0.020s, the 12-month turnaround in fortunes for Red Bull at the fast, flowing Spanish circuit was still stark.

At last year's race, Verstappen claimed pole by almost half a second. He then won on the Sunday by the best part of half a minute.

Red Bull had brought more upgrades to their 2024 car this weekend, whereas McLaren had not, and Verstappen said of the RB20's pace: "I think it's been OK, but not good enough, clearly.

"These kinds of tracks, I was hoping, of course, to be ahead. But the other teams are catching up. We've seen this already in the last few races, so it's definitely a lot harder. We need to do everything perfect to be first. We just need to bring more performance to the car."

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Highlights of qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix

He then more bluntly added: "We need to push on. We need to bring parts faster, better. I mean, we've had a very dominant car last year. That is very, like… I mean, it's completely gone, naturally.

"And, yeah, we just need to really try and make a step ahead again."

Not that the disappearance of their two-season advantage means to say that the Dutchman - who beat Norris and Mercedes' George Russell to win in Canada despite not having the weekend's fastest car - is anywhere near out of the equation to claim a seventh win of the campaign and increase his 56-point championship lead.

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Wee take a look back at some of the most dramatic moments from previous races at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya

"I think it is just going to be exciting to see how we fare against them in race pace," he told Sky Sports F1.

"When I look at my race pace, I think it is OK but nothing special compared to Mercedes or McLaren, Ferrari.

"I felt OK, but I didn't really feel like there was a very strong pace compared to others.

"Also just trying to fine tune our balance as well.

"So, I think what we did going into qualifying will help for [the race]. I felt a bit draggy in qualifying with the wing that we had, it was quite big, but hopefully it will help a bit [the race]."

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George Russell was unhappy with team-mate Lewis Hamilton's pace during qualifying at the Spanish Grand Prix

Can Hamilton and Russell work together?

On the second row, Lewis Hamilton and Russell line up together with both Mercedes drivers knowing it could be important to be ahead of one another to get strategic priority.

It's a long run down to Turn One, so the Mercedes pair will be in the slipstream of Norris and Verstappen, with the two Ferraris right in behind for good measure.

Their long run pace throughout practice has been competitive and Russell is optimistic they can challenge for the win.

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Lewis Hamilton reflects on a successful qualifying session after securing P3 at the Spanish Grand Prix

"I think strategically, the tyre degradation, you can do some things with the strategy, but if you have got one-tenth of pace in the car, that will always win out over strategy," Russell told Sky Sports F1.

"For sure we will try something but we hope we have got the pace to fight with Max and Lando.

"I think we do have the pace to fight with Max and Lando for victory."

Hamilton and Russell collided at the start of last year's Qatar Grand Prix when both drivers sniffed a potential chance of victory.

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Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and George Russell collide on the opening lap of the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix

They were free to race last time out in Canada, with Russell coming out on top, but they may need to work together to stand a chance of outfoxing McLaren and Red Bull.

"I think it would be very difficult. I think these two [Norris and Verstappen] will be very quick, but position is everything," said Hamilton.

"Also there's two of us, so hopefully we can apply pressure as a team to both of the cars ahead in order to maybe play out something in strategy and slowly climb up.

"I think it's all about degradation and how you look after the tyres, so we won't know until we get into that first run."

Spanish GP Grid

Driver Team
1) Lando Norris McLaren
2) Max Verstappen Red Bull
3) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
4) George Russell Mercedes
5) Charles Leclerc Ferrari
6) Carlos Sainz Ferrari
7) Pierre Gasly Alpine
8) Esteban Ocon Alpine
9) Oscar Piastri McLaren
10) Fernando Alonso Aston Martin
11) Sergio Perez Red Bull
12) Valtteri Bottas Sauber
13) Nico Hulkenberg Haas
14) Lance Stroll Aston Martin
15) Zhou Guanyu Sauber
16) Kevin Magnussen Haas
17) Yuki Tsunoda RB
18) Daniel Ricciardo RB
19) Alex Albon Williams
20) Logan Sargeant Williams

Multiple pit stops to cause strategy chaos

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is one of the toughest tracks on tyres due to the long and high-speed corners.

Most drivers went for a two-stopper last year, with a mixture of softs, mediums and hards being used.

A key difference will be rain is expected overnight so the track will be "green" and all the rubber that's been laid down will be washed away, which, in theory, will increase tyre degradation.

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Lando Norris analyses his pole lap along side Anthony Davidson at the Spanish Grand Prix

Temperatures will also be cooler compared to how they have been so far, which will also affect how the tyres perform.

Normally, the drivers in the top 10 start on the mediums but the soft tyre has been holding up well and that extra grip off the line to get track position may tempt some front-runners to start on the soft.

Both Ferrari drivers have saved a new set of softs for the race, so Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in fifth and sixth have that card to use at some point.

The undercut is very powerful and a key number to remember is you lose around 23 seconds when making a pit stop during green flag conditions.

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There hasn't been a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car at the Spanish Grand Prix since 2021, but pitting under those conditions means you only lose approximately 14 seconds, and we have already seen this year how a SC or VSC can turn a read on its head.

This is where Mercedes or Ferrari, with two cars towards the front, may opt to run a driver long and gamble on a timely Safety Car intervention.

We thought this track would tell us the pecking order in F1 and it really looks like the field has converged, which sets us up for a brilliant race on Sunday.

Sky Sports F1's live Spanish GP schedule

Sunday June 23
7.45am: F1 Academy Race 2
9am: F3 Feature Race
10.30am: F2 Feature Race
12:30pm: Grand Prix Sunday: Spanish GP build-up
4pm: Chequered Flag: Spanish GP reaction

Formula 1 heads back to Europe as the championship moves on to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix and the start of a triple-header. Watch every session at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend, live on Sky Sports F1. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership - No contract, cancel anytime

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