Explained: Why Norris's Pole Position Lap Was Initially Deleted And Then Reinstated

Friday, 19 April 2024 at 15:00
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Lando Norris's pole position lap during the Sprint Shootout at the Shanghai International Circuit was initially deleted; here is why.
The top ten drivers found themselves in a tricky situation going into the final part of the Sprint Shootout on Friday during the 2024 Chinese Grand Prix weekend.
The track got completely wet between SQ2 and SQ3, which meant they had to change the intermediate tires and start exploring the grip.
Everyone hassled their cars as they tried to put in the fastest lap while avoiding crashing, and there was a very thin line between those two.
The driver must stay within the white lines during a flying lap; otherwise, his lap time gets deleted, and almost all the top ten drivers have experienced this at some point during the Sprint Shootout.
Lando Norris went wide out of the track on the last corner during his penultimate lap and was nowhere near the top in the provisional standings, but then he put in an incredible lap time of 1:57.940, which was -1.261 faster than the second-best time set by Lewis Hamilton.
However, the stewards deleted it shortly after. Why? If a driver runs out of track limits on the final corner, it typically gives him an advantage going into the following lap, as he can carry more speed.
Therefore, stewards initially deleted Norris's lap straight away. But after careful assessment, it became clear that running wide in the last corner gave Norris no advantage this time around as he also went over the gravel trap.
What's more, the 24-year-old's gap to the second place was so big that gaining an advantage by running wide ahead of the start/finish straight couldn't account for all of it. McLaren's team principal, Andrea Stella, told the media after the race:

"We were ready to battle that decision. I think maybe that was deleted because Lando, on the previous lap, went off at the last corner. But actually, if you go out at the last corner on the previous lap, then you lose a lot of time in the following lap because you launch at much lower speed."

"I guess race control realised that themselves and Lando deserves the pole position and it’s good that the lap has been reinstated."