Norris was fastest in both Q1 and Q2 before he hit the barrier at the top of Raidillon at the start of a soaking wet Q3 session, which Aston Martin’s Sebastien Vettel had moments earlier said should have been stopped due to standing water.
The incident brought out a red flag and led to a long delay while Norris was taken to hospital for checks, including an x-ray on his elbow. He has been passed fit to race and returned to the track on Saturday evening.
Having not set a time in Q3, he was classified 10th but was due to start one spot higher as eighth qualifier Valtteri Bottas carries over a five-place grid penalty for causing the first Turn 1 accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix last time out.
However, McLaren has subsequently confirmed that while the chassis can be salvaged and Norris will not need to start from the pitlane, he will need a new gearbox and take a five-place grid penalty.
Norris, who will therefore start 14th, admitted that he thought conditions were too bad for the cars to run at the start of Q3, but felt confident in his car to contend with ultimate poleman Max Verstappen and shock runner-up George Russell.
“Everything was going extremely well,” he explained.
“Since the first lap in Q1 things were going perfectly, and the car was feeling hooked up, I felt confident with the car.
“I guess it was tricky going out in Q3 because even on the out lap, I was saying how wet it was and saying it should be should be stopped or something, because I was aquaplaning quite a bit.
“So it was just a difficult situation to be in: how much do you want to push, how much do you not? I think it’s combination of pushing a bit too much for the weather at that point, aquaplaning a little bit in the middle of Eau Rouge, which obviously doesn’t end too well, and ends up being the way it was in the end.
“Of course, I feel bad because things were going very well, the car was on fire, and Q1 and Q2 were extremely good. I think I could have quite easily fought for pole position.
“I’ve now given the team a lot of work to do and probably a very late night, but not a lot I can do now.”
Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M
Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images
Some drivers – including Lewis Hamilton – have suggested that a bump at the bottom of Eau Rouge had made life harder at Spa this year. Norris agreed that the “different tarmac strip at the bottom” might have contributed to him losing control.
“It definitely makes a lot trickier, especially in those conditions, when it’s that wet,” Norris said.
“I think it was one of the first laps where it basically wasn’t flat out. And it wasn’t like I tried to do it flat out on my first attempt, I still lifted and whatever.
“But I think you get these tram lines from where people go. And as soon as you go at the speed I was going, a little bit offline, you just kind of hit all the standing water, and the wet tyres, with how much water was coming down, these bumps as well in the bottom of Raidillon going through Eau Rouge, it was too much for what I had to do.
“I think at the end of the day I guess my mistake, and my bad. But I didn’t feel like I was taking too many risks at the same time. I think it was just the conditions were was so tough.
“And from what I heard a lot of other drivers were complaining that it should get stopped at the same time. So yeah, of course, I was frustrated and annoyed, but we’ll try and make up for it tomorrow.”
Explaining his physical condition, Norris said he was “a bit bruised” after the impact, but stressed he was “ready to race tomorrow”.
“I want to get back on track already, because it didn’t end the way I wanted it to,” he said.
Norris also revealed that he was cheering on Russell while travelling to the hospital in the ambulance.
“I’m very happy for George as well, I was watching in the ambulance on the way, I wanted to watch quali still,” he explained.
I was cheering on George to go for that pole.”