Racing Point's Lance Stroll has sprung a surprise in Turkey by going fastest in very challenging conditions at Istanbul Park. Favourite Max Verstappen ended up in second while Sergio Perez in third made it a great qualifying session for Racing Point.
Qualifying kicked off in the same conditions as FP3 saw nearly no running. With the track properly wet, most drivers went out on full wets, although Verstappen, Perez, both Ferraris and both McLarens chose for intermediate tyres.
This immediately brought some interesting moments for Verstappen as he spun off and generally had trouble staying on the track. On his flying lap, or what it was supposed to be, he got overtaken by Norris who seemed to enjoy more grip on the same type of tyre. Verstappen then returned to the pits to change to full wets, and even with those, he struggled.
But, after both Racing Points ended up atop the timesheet, Ocon and Bottas improved those times by more than a second, underlining that the full wet at the time seemed like the better tyre. Soon enough, lots of cars pitted to change to full wets.
5 minutes into the session it started raining again, making it tricky for anybody to still improve. Ocon at the time stood atop the timesheet, ahead of Bottas, Stroll, Hamilton, Perez, Norris and Magnussen. Verstappen and Leclerc, who both did well this weekend so far, held only 15th and 16th.
The situation was subsequently considered too tricky to drive, so the session was stopped with 6 minutes and 56 seconds left on the clock.
After a 30 minute break during which the safety car completed several laps, and a cleaning machine was sent out to clear some standing water and dirt, the session was restarted with both Red Bulls ahead of the rest, as they were first to take their positions in the queue to exit the pitlane.
As the rain had stopped, the situation slightly improved, but after some minor spins and offs from various drivers, Grosjean got stuck in the gravel at Turn 1, resulting in yet another stoppage, and more worries for Leclerc, as there now remained just 3:50 on the clock for him to qualify for Q2.
6 minutes later, they're off again, this time with Verstappen ahead of Albon.
The Dutchman's out-lap had two purple sectors immediately, despite obvious issues to keep the car on the track. His flying lap also proved considerably faster than what was seen so far in qualifying, meaning he jumped to the top of the timesheet, a whopping 8.630 seconds faster than Ocon's previous best.
Albon, Raikkonen and both Ferrari's also massively improved and all moved into the top 5. Many others did so as well, but as Latifi then spun off and got stuck in the gravel, any further improvements from the cars behind him were impossible. This impacted the Racing Points and both Mercedes, but all made it through into Q2.
Magnussen did get eliminated, and disappointedly said to his engineer "how do you want me to improve, when there are yellow flags all around?". In fact, the race director reported that any lap time set under yellows was set to be investigated after the session.
That start of Q2 saw both McLarens take on intermediate tyres. Norris, who was first out on the track, soon ended up on top, but his success was short-lived as the McLaren driver's time was deleted for going off track. His second attempt was valid, but only 9th fastest as others on full wets had meanwhile set much better times. Both McLarens subsequently pitted and changed back to full wets.
As the track improved and times tumbled, Verstappen consistently remained at the top of the timesheet. With 5 mins left on the clock, he set a 1:52.036, 1.7s faster than Bottas, with Hamilton, Albon and Perez each an additional tenth further behind.
Both Renaults and both Alfas also performed well, with Raikkonen repeatedly drawing some spotlights upon him.
Two minutes later, Verstappen improved another 1.8 seconds. Raikkonen followed up and moved forward up into third place, slotting in between both Mercedes with his Alfa Romeo.
Giovinazzi eventually also improved into 5th, underlining the strong pace of the Alfa Romeo in these conditions.
Meanwhile, as the clock ticked away, neither McLaren made it into Q3 as they got eliminated alongside both Ferrari drivers. At Ferrari, the gap between both drivers is remarkable though, with Vettel 1.6s faster than Leclerc.
Q3 kicked off with Verstappen first out on the track, still on full wets, just like most others. This time, Ocon and Perez went for intermediates.
Verstappen's lap proved the benchmark that nobody managed to beat on their first outings, until Sergio Perez crossed the line and shaved off 3 tenths with a lap on intermediates. Verstappen immediately decided to pit to change to intermediates as well, despite being on track for another considerable improvement on his previous time.
While Stroll and both Mercedes also pitted for inters, Raikkonen and Ricciardo kept on going, but both only managed to beat each other, without making immedate progress past the Red Bulls.
2 minutes from the end, Perez improved another two seconds, but one lap later, even that was not enough for pole, as Stroll cut off another 1.5s.
Verstappen still got second back from Perez in the closing seconds, but that could well be a disappointing position for the Dutchman who mastered the weekend so far.
Ricciardo is 5th, and the first behind the Red Bull and Racing Point front rows here at Turkey. He'll get Lewis Hamilton next to him on the third row in another disappointing session for Mercedes.
|1||18||Lance Stroll||Racing Point Bwt Mercedes||2:07.467||1:53.372||1:47.765||22|
|2||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:57.485||1:50.293||1:48.055||26|
|3||11||Sergio Perez||Racing Point Bwt Mercedes||2:07.614||1:54.097||1:49.321||21|
|4||23||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:59.431||1:52.282||1:50.448||26|
|8||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||2:01.249||1:53.793||1:52.745||27|
|10||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari||2:07.341||1:53.431||1:57.226||26|
|11||4||Lando Norris||McLaren Renault||2:07.167||1:54.945||-||18|
|13||55||Carlos Sainz||McLaren Renault||2:07.489||1:55.410||-||18|
|15||10||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri Honda||2:05.579||1:58.556||-||17|
|16||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||2:08.007||-||-||10|
|17||26||Daniil Kvyat||AlphaTauri Honda||2:09.070||-||-||8|
|18||63||George Russell||Williams Mercedes||2:10.017||-||-||9|
|19||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||2:12.909||-||-||7|
|20||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||2:21.611||-||-||9|