CHAOS at Mercedes! Lewis Hamilton crashes in the PITS as Lando Norris swoops in for pole


Lando Norris dethroned Lewis Hamilton as the youngest-ever British pole sitter and went back to his hotel room to celebrate with apple crumble and ice cream.

While the 21-year-old from Glastonbury was wreathed in smiles, the seven-time world champion was racked with self-recrimination for hitting the pit wall, then spinning off and finally qualifying fourth for the Russian Grand Prix in wet-dry conditions.

Aged 36, this great driver might also ponder how the rising tide of English motor racing is lapping at his feet, with George Russell, his team-mate of next year and still only 23, starting a place ahead of him on Sunday.

McLaren’s Lando Norris took the first pole position of his career at the Russia GP on Saturday 

Lewis Hamilton crashed in the pit-lane and wrecked his chances of taking a much-needed pole

In the title picture, it was a dreadfully disappointing day for Hamilton. He trails Max Verstappen by five points and this is his great chance to overturn the deficit: it is a track his Mercedes team have triumphed upon seven times out of seven, and his Red Bull rival is already condemned to start from the back of the grid after taking on a new engine.

But once the morning’s thunder and lightning had cleared, it was Norris, driving for McLaren, who stole the show. Just as Hamilton had in gaining the first of his 101 poles on June 10, 2007 in Montreal. Hamilton went on to win that race.

Speaking to me in the paddock an hour after his resourceful lap, Norris admitted he still felt a knot of tension in his stomach and was trying to banish thoughts of gaining his own maiden triumph here by the Black Sea. It is a tough task not least because the 380-yard drag into the first braking zone is a long way to travel with a target on your back.

On hearing of his new status as the country’s youngest pole man, he said: ‘Oh, I am? That’s pretty cool, to have a part of history. Well, for now. Hopefully, it never gets beaten! To knock anyone off is great but it is cool that it is Lewis because he is the best driver in Formula One. 

Max Verstappen will start at the back with a penalty on Sunday, so he didn't set a Q1 time

Max Verstappen will start at the back with a penalty on Sunday, so he didn’t set a Q1 time 

A rain-affected qualifying session saw McLaren make it back-to-back front-row weekends

A rain-affected qualifying session saw McLaren make it back-to-back front-row weekends 

‘It was a great feeling to be up there with Carlos (Sainz, second quickest for Ferrari, half a second behind Norris) and George, another Brit, to show we don’t have the best cars but are capable of risking more and taking advantage of conditions. We are ahead of cars that are much quicker than us and it will be tough.

‘I will call my mum and dad now to say hello. It will be normal revision before the race, looking at what happens if you get a good start from pole, what happens if you have a bad start, how to defend, how to get the guy in second place out of the dirty air because it is a long run down to Turn Two. It is not going to be easy to hold on.

‘Last night I had apple crumble with vanilla ice cream in the hotel, two actually, so maybe I will have three tonight.’

The uplifting news for British fans is that a bright future post-Hamilton is assured. Norris and Russell, who again hugely flattered in his sluggish Williams, are perhaps the best equipped pair on the grid to take on Verstappen, in his seventh season but still only 23 himself.

Norris has had a sensational season, cementing himself as one of the sport's future superstars

Norris has had a sensational season, cementing himself as one of the sport’s future superstars

George Russell joins his countryman in the top-three after another storming Williams drive

George Russell joins his countryman in the top-three after another storming Williams drive 

Russell was helped by being the first to switch from intermediate to slick tyres and so had extra time to warm them up, an opportunity he exploited ruthlessly. As for Hamilton, what a mess! Not only my verdict but his, too.

The impression was compounded by his error on Friday, when he overshot his pit box and knocked over his jack man.

Yesterday, he was returning to his garage to move on to slicks when he hit the pit entry and damaged his front wing. The repair work cost him more than a minute, so he could only fit in two more laps.

On the last of those, struggling for grip on his undercooked tyres, he pirouetted off into the barriers. ‘It was just my mistake,’ said Hamilton of his initial error. ‘Ultimately I am incredibly disappointed with myself. Embarrassing.

‘Until then I was in a groove, in the zone, and I am really sorry for all the team here and back in the factory. Twice in the wall is very rare for me. That is not what you expect from a champion. It is what it is and I will give it my best shot at trying to rectify it.’

Relive Sportsmail’s coverage of Saturday’s qualifying with TOBY MILES…