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Norris: F1 US GP front row unexpected but I should have grabbed pole

McLaren Formula 1 driver Lando Norris reckons a front-row start for the 2023 United States Grand Prix was “not expected” but nevertheless reckons he should have nicked pole position.

Lando Norris, McLaren, and pole man Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, congratulate each other after Qualifying

Lando Norris, McLaren, and pole man Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, congratulate each other after Qualifying

Mark Sutton

In the Friday evening qualifying session to determine the Sunday GP grid, Ferrari racer Charles Leclerc topped the times with a 1m34.723s final flying lap to pip Norris by 0.13s.

They were helped by Max Verstappen having his lap time binned for exceeding track limits at Turn 19 after he ran wide on exit. The Red Bull driver was subsequently demoted to sixth place.

With Verstappen out the way, Norris says pole position was up for grabs even if his expectation ahead of the session had not even been to make the front row of the grid.

“I'm happy. It's been a good day,” he said. “Probably not expected from the end result so a good bonus for the whole team.

“I didn't make as many mistakes as I made [in Qatar], which is a good thing. But I think we had it today. I think there was enough in it to get pole.

“I know Charles said he made a few mistakes, but so did I. So, it's a bit of a shame. That one opportunity maybe we missed again, but I'm so happy, nevertheless.”

Norris explained that he had left time on the table through the Turn 11 left-hander that leads onto the long back straight.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

He reckoned the car consistency and braking performance was better than anticipated. So, although he braked later to gain time, the car still rotated more than expected.

As such, having thought that he would miss the apex, he then clipped the kerb to compromise his run down the backstraight at a cost of a tenth. Norris also picked fault with his final corner.

Previously at Austin, starting from second place has proved advantageous as it puts the driver on the inside line for the opening left-hander.

Rating his chances, Norris said: “It's different every year, but you never know… we’re in a good position.

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“Charles is normally a good starter, to be honest. So, it's going to be difficult to get him off the line. But we're in almost the best position you can have for Sunday. So, I'm happy with that.”

Leclerc added: “Into Turn 1 is always tricky here. But at the same time, it's always better to be starting in the front rather than being in the back.”

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