Not Lewis Hamilton, not Valtteri Bottas, the 2020 Turkish GP qualifying upheld the triumph of Lance Stroll as the Racing Point driver aced a career-best (quali) drive in taking pole position for the returning event.
Amid a qualifying session besieged by heavy rains, the Intercity Istanbul Park gave drivers not even an iota of grip. But that didn’t bother the two Racing Points with Lance Stroll taking a maiden career pole, also his first for Racing Point as Sergio Perez finished with a very strong third.
Both Mercedes-powered cars grabbed the front and second row, respectively acing the challenging rain-marred session on the intermediates.
Though, Max Verstappen, who finished with a respectable second made no bones about his discontent having run on the wet-weather tyres, that didn’t really help the Red Bull driver’s cause.
Yet, it’s a P2 for Mad Max and with an entire race to go with no Mercedes AMG car out in his front, that shouldn’t really be mission impossible.
But we don’t know. This is FORMULA 1, and here uncertainty reigns supreme
Speaking of uncertainty, who would’ve imagined that Mercedes, who until arriving at Istanbul, had nailed every single qualifying in 2020, would miss the front row?
As Lewis Hamilton finished Sixth, with teammate Valtteri Bottas on ninth, it wasn’t exactly joie-de-vivre for the Toto Wolff-led team as the Mercedes duo endured an insipid qualifying run.
Meanwhile, Q3, replete with drama and uncertainty unfurled a much pleasant sight for the likes of Alex Albon- Fourth- and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo (2 podium finishes so far)- P5.
That’s not all; Esteban Ocon in the other Renault, who had topped the time sheets in the opening qualifying run on Saturday, collected a decent Seventh on the grid, stacking his RS 20, behind the six-time world champion.
That said, the Turkish GP Qualifying produced a stellar result for the two Alfa Romeos.
Not once in 2020 had the two Alfa Romeos made it to Q3, a dismay in fortunes completely overturned by Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi’s sensational drive in rain-soaked Istanbul.
The Finn, who for the better part of Q3 was running well inside the top-five gathered a fighting eighth in the end, with Italian teammate Giovinazzi managing a very fine tenth.
It could be said the new contract for the duo- the most experienced racer on the grid and a fine young talent- has sparked off an encouraging result that should hopefully yield a competitive finish on the race-day.
That told, it wasn’t that great a qualifying run for the two Scuderia Ferrari drivers, with Leclerc and Vettel, who demonstrated raw pace on Friday- such a welcoming departure from the lacklustre 2020 run- finishing outside of the top ten.
Heartbreaks on a slippery day
While the young Monegasque begins his maiden Turkish GP drive from thirteenth on the grid, his German teammate Seabastian Vettel begins from a place higher up, though a welcome respite for the former four-time world champion.
That Lando Norris, due to begin from eleventh, and Sainz, to begin from Fifteenth on the grid, also failed to muster a fight in what were challenging situations meant both McLarens endured an ordinary run.
There wasn’t much respite for Monza-winner Pierre Gasly either, due to begin from Fourteenth on the grid, managing to stack himself right behind Leclerc but ahead of the Spaniard.
Meanwhile, Magnussen, who had been doing a significantly better job in Q2 couldn’t continue with his fine run, managing a lowly Sixteenth, albeit emerging as the better of the two Haas’.
It was another disappointing day in the field for French-Swiss driver Romain Grosjean, who found himself stuck in the gravel, having slid off the track in the run down to Turn 1, which turned out to be a tricky challenge to negotiate. A P19, as a result, for the man in the other Haas.
That told, George Russell, who endured arguably speaking his biggest heartbreak at Imola where he crashed out behind the safety car (seeming all set to squeeze in his maiden F1 points) suffered a poor run, garnering a lowly Eighteenth.
His teammate Nicholas Latifi, meanwhile, yet another driver who slipped out in the testing rains is all due to begin from the rear-end of the pack. Can a P20 ever seem pretty for a rookie?
All of that said, Sunday’s Turkish GP shall hopefully produce a belter of a contest wherein the key talking point shall be whether the two Racing Points can negotiate Max Verstappen’s “Bull Run?”
Should Lance hold onto his own, having clear race track in front of him, it could well be a memorable day for the first Canadian to take pole position in FORMULA 1 since Jacques Villeneuve. What do you reckon?