Lando Norris takes F1 Chinese Grand Prix sprint pole from Hamilton

 McLaren's Lando Norris had his fastest lap deleted and reinstated as he seized pole position for the Chinese Grand Prix sprint race at the end of a wet and chaotic qualifying on Friday.

Mercedes' seven-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton made it an all-British front row, with Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso securing the third slot for Saturday's 100-km race, the first sprint of the season.

Red Bull's championship leader Max Verstappen will start from fourth on the grid after twice going off in the final top 10 shootout, with Ferrari's Carlos Sainz fifth and Red Bull's Sergio Perez sixth.

Hamilton appeared to have secured the pole for the points scoring sprint but Norris then went top with a time of one minute, 57.940 seconds and 1.261 faster than the Mercedes.

The younger Briton then had the lap deleted for seemingly exceeding track limits, putting Hamilton back on provisional pole, before the time was reinstated moments later by stewards.

"It was (wild)," said Norris of the conditions, describing his pole lap as all-or-nothing after aborting two previous attempts.

"I got a bit nervous but they're conditions where you've just got to risk a lot, you've got to push, build tire temperature.

"I was quick, I just kept catching the Ferrari so I had to keep backing off ... I got a good final lap, a good enough one for pole so I'm happy. Sad it's not for a proper qualifying but good enough."

The main qualifying for Sunday's grand prix is on Saturday afternoon, after the sprint.

Completely clean

There was some uncertainty about the lap deletion and reinstatement but McLaren principal Andrea Stella told Sky Sports television he believed it was because Norris had gone off at the final corner of the previous lap.

"They might have thought in this case having been off at the last corner it kind of has implications for the following lap," he said. "That (pole) lap is completely clean, there is no problem at all."

The qualifying started dry then turned damp before rain at the end with a small trackside fire also flaring up early on and blamed on sparks from the cars' skid blocks.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc qualified seventh, despite earlier skidding off and damaging his car's front wing, with McLaren's Oscar Piastri eighth and the Saubers of Valtteri Bottas and home hero Zhou Guanyu delighting the crowd to complete the top 10.

Hamilton's lap came as a surprise even for Mercedes, who had George Russell qualify only 11th.

Hamilton, winner a record six times in China with six poles there also, was only ninth in the second phase before the rain came down but made the most of the treacherous conditions.

"I think obviously the driving is most important in the wet but I think it shows it's about tire preparation," said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

"On the final run the tires were in the sweet spot, combined with a great drive. That made the time."

Verstappen, winner of three of the season's first four races, was more than two seconds slower than Norris.

"It was incredibly slippery. I just struggled a lot to get the temperature in the tires," said the triple world champion. "That's why it was very difficult to keep the car on track and it never really switched on for me.

"It was just like driving on ice. I think it's quite deserved where we are in qualifying, it was just not really working for me in the wet even though I think in the dry we look quite good."

Friday's track action marked Formula One's return to the Shanghai International Circuit for the first time since 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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