Somerset motor racing star Lando Norris mastered a rain-hit qualifying to secure pole position for Saturday’s sprint race at the Chinese Grand Prix.

In soaking conditions at the Shanghai International Circuit, Norris finished 1.2 seconds clear of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in an all-British front row for Saturday’s 19-lap dash.

Hamilton looked to have taken top spot after Norris’ best lap was deleted by the stewards only for it then to be reinstated.

“Simply beautiful,” said Norris after he was informed of his pole. Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso qualified third, one place ahead of triple world champion Max Verstappen, who ran off the road on numerous occasions.

Rain threatened throughout qualifying and finally arrived for the decisive Q3 session.

Charles Leclerc was the first to fall foul of the torrid conditions when he lost control of his Ferrari. The Monegasque pirouetted through the gravel before hitting the wall at Turn 2 and braking the front wing on his Ferrari.

Verstappen also made an error, falling off the road in his first attempt, before then running through the sandtrap at the final corner. The driver, who has dominated Formula One, had to settle for fourth.

Hamilton has had a season to forget – statistically, at least, the worst of his career so far. But for a moment here, he topped the time charts only to see Norris edge him out with an impressive lap.

Norris’ time was initially chalked off for exceeding track limits but after the British driver, 23, complained he “didn’t go off anywhere”, the stewards u-turned on their decision.

“It was tricky,” said Norris. “You always know it is going to be in a session like this.

“You only have three laps. The first two I aborted so that last lap was all or nothing.

“I was nervous because I made a few mistakes, but you have to risk a lot and push and I was quick.

“I got a good final lap in for pole so I am happy, sad it is not real qualifying, but it is good enough. It gets your heart going and it is what we wanted.”

Mercedes’ wretched run looked set to continue after George Russell was eliminated in 11th but when the rain arrived, Hamilton looked at home to secure his spot on the front row.

Elsewhere, Carlos Sainz finished fifth for Ferrari ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez with Leclerc seventh.

F1 is back in China following a five-year absence and home favourite Zhou Guanyu sent the home crowd happy after he qualified 10th.

Earlier, the start of Q2 was delayed by several minutes following a second bizarre track fire of the day.

Practice was red-flagged when a patch of grass next to Turn 7 caught fire. And there was a similar incident in qualifying, this time at Turn 5.

Although both blazes were quickly extinguished, the incidents – which the FIA believe were caused by sparks flying off the drivers’ cars – will be a concern for the sport’s bosses.

Saturday’s sprint takes place at 11am local time (04:00 BST) ahead of qualifying for Sunday’s main event.