Turkish GP: Lance Stroll takes shock first F1 pole as Mercedes struggle
Thrilling wet qualifying leads to unexpected result with Stroll on pole for the first time in Formula 1; Hamilton sixth and Bottas ninth; But Hamilton still on course to clinch his seventh world title on Sunday with race live at 10.10am on Sky Sports F1
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 14/11/20 7:55pm
Lance Stroll claimed a totally out-of-the-blue first Formula 1 pole position for Racing Point in a pulsating wet Turkish GP qualifying session in which Mercedes were never in contention and finished sixth and ninth.
Stroll, the 22-year-old Canadian in his 75th F1 appearance, seized pole from Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Racing Point team-mate Sergio Perez with a brilliant final lap at the end of an elongated qualifying session in treacherous conditions which was suspended for 40 minutes in Q1.
Stroll faced a post-session investigation, however, by stewards for allegedly failing to slow for yellow flags at the end of Q3 but no further action was taken.
Verstappen had led every practice and qualifying session up until the pole shootout but lost crucial momentum when the conditions allowed for the intermediate rather than full wet tyres to be used in the closing minutes of Q3.
On the faster intermediates, Perez and then Stroll took control of the pole fight. The latter's final effort beat a deflated Verstappen to the head of the front row by 0.290 seconds.
But Mercedes were well off the pace on either tyre on an uncharacteristically torrid weekend so far on F1's return to Istanbul Park.
Hamilton will start sixth with Bottas ninth.
The world champions had claimed every pole up to Saturday in F1 2020 but had already struggled for grip and tyre temperature on Friday in the dry, before lapping an incredible four seconds off the leading pace in Saturday's pole fight.
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But Hamilton is still in a strong position to clinch his seventh world title on Sunday. Bottas must outscore Hamilton by at least eight points, but starts three places behind his Mercedes team-mate.
Alex Albon took fourth in the second Red Bull, with Daniel Ricciardo fifth for Renault.
Alfa Romeo enjoyed their best Saturday of a difficult season with both Kimi Raikkonen (eighth) and Antonio Giovinazzi (10th) starring in the wet to each make Q3 for the first time in 2020.
But Ferrari's promising practice pace gave way to fresh disappointment with Sebastian Vettel (12th) and Charles Leclerc (14th) knocked out in the second stage after lapping four seconds off the pace.
McLaren also suffered a costly double Q2 elimination on a day Constructors' Championship rivals Racing Point and Renault got both their respective cars into Q3.
The opening session was red-flagged after 11 minutes after numerous spins from drivers amid worsening rain, which had been falling intermittently throughout Saturday. After a 40-minute delay to the action, Haas driver Romain Grosjean then caused a second brief red-flag when the session resumed after beaching his car in the gravel.
Williams' Nicholas Latifi also span off the circuit at the end of Q1.
Stroll overjoyed, Verstappen annoyed
"I'm shocked," admitted Stroll in the immediate aftermath of the biggest qualifying surprise in F1 of not just this Mercedes-dominated season, but for many years.
The Canadian had previously qualified on F1's front row in the wet for Williams at Monza in 2017 and Saturday's result was no less impressive.
"We didn't look too competitive in final practice but I'm so happy right now, I really put that lap together at the end, I only had one lap to do it on the inters," said Stroll.
"I had the confidence in the car and I just nailed pretty much every corner, pieced it together nicely and such a nice way to bounce back after a few tough weeks."
Stroll has not scored points since finishing third in the Italian GP at the start of September and missed last month's Eifel GP due to illness. He later tested positive for coronavirus and struggled for form on his return at Portimao and Imola.
While the late improvement in track conditions brought the Racing Points into play, the switch to intermediates took away what had appeared a shoe-in pole position for Verstappen.
The Dutchman topped Q1 and Q2 by two seconds apiece and his first lap at the start of Q3 was four seconds faster than those drivers also on the full-wet tyres.
But Perez, starting the final phase on the shallower intermediates, lapped faster and forced Red Bull to pull Verstappen into the pits for a change of tyres.
"Already in Q1 when we tried to go out on the inters we had no grip," said Verstappen. "The track was a lot better in Q3 but for us the inters were horrible.
"The extreme tyres were good and was very comfortable. Not good."
Turkish GP Qualifying result
1) Lance Stroll, Racing Point
2) Max Verstappen, Red Bull
3) Sergio Perez, Racing Point
4) Alexander Albon, Red Bull
5) Daniel Ricciardo, Renault
6) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
7) Esteban Ocon, Renault
8) Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo
9) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
10) Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo
Knocked out in Q2
11) Lando Norris, McLaren
12) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
13) Carlos Sainz, McLaren
14) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
15) Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri
Knocked out in Q1
16) Kevin Magnussen, Haas
17) Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri
18) George Russell, Williams*
19) Romain Grosjean, Haas
20) Nicholas Latifi, Williams
*starts at back of grid due to engine penalties