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Motor racing-Norris snatches pole with 'perfect lap' in Spain



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Norris seizes pole from Verstappen

Mercedes on second row with Hamilton third

Ferrari pair fill third row

Adds details

By Alan Baldwin

BARCELONA, June 22 (Reuters) -Lando Norris hailed a perfect lap to putMcLaren on pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix on Saturday and denyRed Bull's triple Formula One world champion Max Verstappen the top slot.

Verstappen had taken provisional pole with a time that looked hard to beat but Norris took it to another level and went 0.020 quicker than his Dutch rival at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.

The pole was only the second of the 24-year-old Briton's Formula One career, the last coming at the Russian Grand Prix in 2021.

"It was pretty much a perfect lap. You know when you are on a good lap and you are getting excited," Norris said after setting a time of one minute 11.383 seconds.

"It has been close all weekend but really it was about a perfect lap and that is what I did today."

Championship leader Verstappen had banged in a lap of 1:11.673 to take provisional pole with his first effort, still slower than his 1:11.653 in the second phase, but improved the time on his second run to 1:11.403.

The driver who started the season with seven successive poles, and is chasing a third Spanish win in a row, might have thought it job done.

"I was quite happy in qualifying. I got a nice (aerodynamic) tow from Checo (team mate Sergio Perez) in Q3 (the final phase) but unfortunately it was not enough," said Verstappen.

"That's how it goes sometimes, but overall we can still be happy with that performance and it's all to play for tomorrow."

Norris was the fourth different driver on pole in the last four races, another sign of the battle between the top teams getting ever closer and Red Bull's dominance being steadily eroded.

Pole position in Spain has translated into victory 24 times in 33 races at the track north of Barcelona and only three drivers have won there without starting on the front row -- one of them Verstappen in 2016.

FIRE DRAMA

The pole was a boost for McLaren whose day started with unwanted drama when their paddock hospitality unit caught fire, with one team member taken to hospital as a precautionary measure before being released.

Norris was one of those in the structure when it was hurriedly evacuated, with the driver losing a pair of shoes and also having to prepare for qualifying without his usual music.

"I have one or two sets of everything and they managed to get some stuff out, some of it smells pretty bad from the fire," he said.

Mercedes's Lewis Hamilton was third fastest by a wafer-thin margin of 0.002 overteam mate George Russell.

"Slowly the car is crafting into a racing machine with which we can hopefully fight the guys in front," said seven-times world champion Hamilton, who outqualified his team mate for only the second time in 10 races this season.

Russell had angrily questioned Hamilton slowing ahead of him to prepare for his flying lap but accepted later that he had been "a bit hotheaded" on the radio.

"As a team, we are in the mix. I think Lando did a really great lap. I don’t think Lewis or I put it together perfectly. I felt there were two tenths on the table," he said.

"We’re on the second row and I think it’s going to be a good fight with Lando and Max tomorrow. I think we’ll probably just have the edge on Ferrari."

Ferrari's CharlesLeclerc and Carlos Sainz, preparing for a home race,filled the third row.

Pierre Gasly boosted struggling Alpine's morale with seventh place on the grid for the Renault-owned team and Perez was eighth but will drop three places due to a grid penalty.

That will lift Alpine's Esteban Ocon to eighth with McLaren's Oscar Piastri ninth, after having his final laps deleted for exceeding track limits, and Aston Martin's home hero Fernando Alonso 10th.



Reporting by Alan Baldwin,
Editing by Mark Potter, Ed Osmond and Toby Chopra

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