until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Stroll beats Verstappen to pole in wet Turkish GP qualifying

by Matt Beer
4 min read

Lance Stroll denied Max Verstappen to claim an extraordinary first Formula 1 pole at the Turkish Grand Prix, as Mercedes qualified only sixth and ninth.

In wet conditions at Istanbul, a well-timed early move to intermediates allowed Racing Point to take control of Q3 at the end of an interrupted session that Verstappen had been the class of up to that point.

Racing Point looked set for a front-row sweep at one stage before Verstappen managed to salvage second.

Lewis Hamilton, who can clinch a record-equalling seventh F1 title tomorrow, starts only sixth, but that’s three places ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, as the constructors’ champion team struggled for speed throughout.

Eleven minutes of Q1 were run before the red flag came out amid worsening rain, decreasing visibility, increasing visits to run-off areas and ever more vehement radio protestations from drivers.

Esteban Ocon sat on the top spot at that point ahead of Bottas, with the order staying that way for three-quarters of an hour while the officials waited for the conditions to improve.

Even when qualifying resumed, the state of the circuit was made very clear by Kimi Raikkonen spinning on a virtually straight piece of track on his out-lap.

And only three minutes of running were managed before Romain Grosjean beached his Haas in the Turn 1 gravel – a fate Charles Leclerc narrowly and skilfully avoided when he slid off at the same point moments earlier.

But that stoppage proved brief, and Verstappen showed what was possible by smashing in a 1m57.485s – over 8.5s quicker than Ocon’s benchmark – in the remaining running.

Max Verstappen Red Bull F1 2020

Even as others improved, Verstappen stayed nearly two seconds clear of team-mate Alex Albon in a Red Bull 1-2, with third-placed Raikkonen 3.8s off.

Grosjean was joined by fellow spinners Daniil Kvyat and Nicholas Latifi in being eliminated, along with George Russell (who has a grid penalty for new engine elements anyway) and Kevin Magnussen.

Sixteenth-placed Magnussen furiously argued that he’d only been knocked out because others declined to slow for the many yellow flags at the end of the session. The stewards will be reviewing a significant number of lap times after qualifying.

It was a similar story at the front in Q2, which Verstappen led by 3.5s at one stage – and which controversially began while Latifi’s Williams was still being retrieved from the Turn 8 gravel by marshals and a recovery tractor.

Albon was again second but again 2s behind his team-mate, while the Mercedes – which had only been ninth (Bottas) and 14th (Hamilton) in Q1 – struggled to get up to speed at the same rate.

They eventually crept forward to third and sixth, Hamilton the faster of them by a second but still 2.4s away from Verstappen.

The McLarens, Ferraris and the remaining AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly also exited in Q2, with Sebastian Vettel in 12th outqualifying 14th-placed team-mate Leclerc for the first time since Hungary in July.

Carlos Sainz Jr was subsequently given a three-place penalty, which will drop him from 13th to 16th, for impeding Sergio Perez.

Carlos Sainz McLaren F1 2020

Verstappen carried his astounding form into Q3 with an initial lap 4.1s quicker than then-second-place man Bottas. Only Stroll got within a second and a half of Verstappen at that point.

But Perez made an early swap to intermediates and pinched provisional pole, prompting Verstappen to abandon an even faster lap to grab inters himself – while Perez proved life was still tricky on those tyres by spinning on the next lap.

Verstappen struggled to get up to speed quick enough on inters and was left temporarily floundering as Perez improved his provisional pole mark to 1m49.321s – 3s clear of the field at that point.

Stroll was even faster, though, putting in a 1m47.765s while Perez went off on his next lap.

Verstappen did manage to close to within 0.290s of Stroll, but it was Racing Point that ended 2020’s streak of Mercedes poles at last.

Stroll was later investigated over a potential yellow flag infringement, but cleared of any wrongdoing by the stewards.

Albon backed Verstappen up with fourth place, while the Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Ocon sandwiched Hamilton.

Alfa Romeo also showed good form throughout. Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi will start either side of Bottas in eighth and 10th.

Qualifying Results

Pos Name Car Q1 Q2 Q3
1 Lance Stroll Racing Point-Mercedes 2m07.467s 1m53.372s 1m47.765s
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1m57.485s 1m50.293s 1m48.055s
3 Sergio Pérez Racing Point-Mercedes 2m07.614s 1m54.097s 1m49.321s
4 Alex Albon Red Bull-Honda 1m59.431s 1m52.282s 1m50.448s
5 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 2m05.598s 1m54.278s 1m51.595s
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2m07.599s 1m52.709s 1m52.56s
7 Esteban Ocon Renault 2m06.115s 1m53.657s 1m52.622s
8 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 2m01.249s 1m53.793s 1m52.745s
9 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 2m07.001s 1m53.767s 1m53.258s
10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 2m07.341s 1m53.431s 1m57.226s
11 Lando Norris McLaren-Renault 2m07.167s 1m54.945s
12 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 2m03.356s 1m55.169s
13 Carlos Sainz McLaren-Renault 2m07.489s 1m55.41s
14 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 2m04.464s 1m56.696s
15 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 2m05.579s 1m58.556s
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 2m08.007s
17 Daniil Kvyat AlphaTauri-Honda 2m09.07s
18 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 2m10.017s
19 Romain Grosjean Haas-Ferrari 2m12.909s
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 2m21.611s
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