Lando Norris delivers best lap 'ever' after McLaren fire at Spanish GP

BARCELONA, Spain -- McLaren went from evacuating its hospitality unit to celebrating pole position on Saturday courtesy on Lando Norris, who made it happen with what he described as the best lap of his life.

Norris pipped Red Bull's Max Verstappen to pole by just 0.02 seconds, his first since the 2021 Russian Grand Prix.

Several hours earlier, one pair of Norris' race shoes had been lost in the confusion which followed a fire breaking out in its hospitality centre -- one McLaren team member went to hospital as a precaution after the team and its guests had been successfully escorted outside.

Despite the drama, Norris said his preparations were unaffected.

"A bit of a scare for the whole team, never a nice thing," Norris said in the post-qualifying press conference. "But just a bit more probably of a stressful day than I would have liked.

"I lost my shoes, and that was probably as bad as it got for me honestly. Just different, I've not been in my normal room, I've not been maybe able to relax and chill out as much as I normally do."

He added: "It's all been a little bit messy. I think I have one or two sets of everything, and I think they managed to get some stuff out. But some of it's probably not the best to use, or it smells pretty bad from the fire.

"Some things I got out, but like, I like to listen to music and stuff before, and Oscar [Piastri] complains a lot because my music is so loud pre-sessions. But I just didn't have that this time."

After the hospitality unit was cleared out and the fire was put out, McLaren's team and the guests of its hospitality unit were scattered around the paddock, with other teams chipping in to look after people.

"I've had a lot of offers from people, it's been great. A lot of the teams honestly have been very, very nice to us, McLaren, in offering help and things like that, so that was all good from that side. But a shame it won't be used today or tomorrow I don't think for anything, and maybe not into the future. But that's not anything that I know about for now."

As for the lap itself, Norris reckoned it was one of the best he's ever done.

"It feels great, yeah," he said. "Poles always feel good ... Been a while since Sochi, all the way back then. It feels great. It was an amazing lap, honestly it was my best lap by a long way.

"I pretty much put the whole lap together, so I got a nice slipstream. Yeah. It was probably my best corners around the lap, every single part of it put together. Max was a bit ahead in Q1 and Q2, and I knew I had to do something perfect in Q3 to do it, and that's exactly what I did, so pretty happy that I managed to pull off my best lap that I've done in probably ever."

McLaren's hospitality unit seems unlikely to be back up to normal capacity by Sunday.

Norris is expecting a distraction free day again on Sunday as he looks to convert his second career pole into a second career win.

"Honestly, nothing's been an issue, and I've never been the guy to complain about these kinds of things. Honestly I could be just doing nothing and jump in the car when I need to. When you have an ability to have a few minutes to yourself, and a couple of those things, you take them because you just want to relax and think to yourself for a few minutes before you go out and do it.

"Nothing for today, maybe tomorrow will impact me a bit more, that I can't get quite just that quiet time that I love, but it's not the end of the world. So I'm not going to complain about it."

Norris will start ahead of Verstappen and the resurgent Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, who locked out the second row ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.