Lance Stroll has captured his maiden Formula 1 pole in extraordinary fashion as the Racing Point youngster denied wet-weather maestro Max Verstappen in a wet and wild Turkish Grand Prix qualifying.
Stroll’s teammate Sergio Perez had initially surged to the head of the timesheets after the opening runs in the Q3 shootout were completed making a late call to switch from the extreme wet tyres to the intermediate compound.
However, as the rain began to abate, the remaining few drivers all fitted a set of the intermediates for their final few runs.
Unlocking a fresh wave of confidence, Stroll expertly navigated a treacherous Istanbul circuit to snatch away provisional pole. He then denied earlier pace-setter Verstappen by a little over two-tenths to give his P1 start a crucial insurance marker.
Reigning world champions Mercedes suffered a difficult session with Lewis Hamilton starting only sixth. At the same time, teammate Valtteri Bottas is a further three places back.
Yesterday had the paddock battling ‘invisible rain’ as the recently laid track surface coupled with an unusually hard compound choice by tyre supplier Pirelli had drivers slipping off the circuit and unable to string together a competitive lap.
Today saw any rubber laid down yesterday washed away with a heavy band of rain interrupting what was forecasted as a mostly dry weekend.
Only 11 minutes were run in qualifying before race control showed the red flag as the rain began to intensify.
Esteban Ocon sat on the top spot at that point ahead of Bottas, with the Renault one of a handful of drivers able to keep himself in a straight line across the opening stages of Q1.
Three minutes into the first restart and the session was again neutralised when Romain Grosjean beached himself at Turn 1.
Daniil Kvyat then experienced a similar drama moments later. However, this time race control allowed everyone to complete their laps, and Verstappen capitalised to saunter from 16th to 1st with a stunning lap – over 8.5s quicker than Ocon’s benchmark.
Verstappen headed the second segment of qualifying to front a Red Bull 1-2 with Alex Albon two-seconds adrift.
Exiting Q2 were both Ferraris and McLarens, as well as the remaining AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly.
Carlos Sainz was later given a three-place penalty, which will drop him from to 15th, for impeding Sergio Perez. Lando Norris has incidentally been penalised five spots for ignoring yellow flags, and he will start 16th on the grid tomorrow.
With Mercedes having failed to deliver any sort of expected knockout blow in qualifying thus far, Q3 looked to be all about Verstappen. The Dutchman proved this with a monstrous lap that was 4.1s quicker than then-second-place man Bottas.
Demoted to second courtesy of a brave switch to intermediates for Perez, it prompted Verstappen to abandon an even faster lap to grab a set of the softer green-walled tyres himself.
With all the field now on the quicker wet-weather rubber, it was Stroll that went even faster to post a 1m47.765s, two-seconds clear of Perez.
Verstappen floundered on his first few laps as he struggled to generate sufficient heat but did salvage second as he managed to close to within 0.290s of Stroll.
Albon backed up Verstappen’s pace with fourth place, while the Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Ocon sandwiched Hamilton.
Alfa Romeo also showed good form throughout. Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi will start on either side of Bottas in eighth and 10th.
|Carlos Sainz Jr.