Bottas on pole for Turkish GP as fastest driver Hamilton takes grid penalty

Lewis Hamilton went fastest in qualifying for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix but will take a 10-place grid penalty for his Mercedes engine change, meaning P2 qualifier Valtteri Bottas will start on pole position on Sunday ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

The 100% risk of rain predicted ahead of the session manifested in the form of light drizzle in Q1 but the clouds soon dissipated and the track matured to see Lewis Hamilton take top spot in that session, just 0.007s ahead of Max Verstappen. Q2 saw Hamilton repeat the feat, and he delivered again in the final session with an ultimate effort of 1:22.868s – a new track record at Istanbul Park.

Bottas was 0.130s off in P2, which will be pole when Hamilton’s engine penalty demotes him to P11 – while Verstappen was 0.328s off top spot in third.

That left Charles Leclerc fourth on the grid for Ferrari ahead of Pierre Gasly, the AlphaTauri driver within half a second of pole.

Fernando Alonso outqualified Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, and the Alpine driver will have a tough task to keep not only the P7 qualifier behind him but also Lando Norris of McLaren (P8) away too.

Lance Stroll of Aston Martin and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda rounded out the top 10.

Mick Schumacher made it to Q2 for Haas for only the second time. He qualified a career-best 14th behind Williams’ George Russell, whose Q3 hopes were dashed with a late off at the final corner in Q2. McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo was a shock elimination from Q1 in P16 having set his fastest lap before the track rubbered in sufficiently.

Qualifying 15th was Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, but penalties for his new engine mean the Spaniard will start last alongside Nikita Mazepin of Haas.

Q1

Light drizzle in the air, drivers struggled for traction at the start of Q1, Max Verstappen’s early spin serving as proof while Lewis Hamilton’s first flying effort was ruined as he struggled to stay on track. The Briton was naturally eager to get pole, a 10-place grid penalty for his new Mercedes engine only adding to that desire.

Daniel Ricciardo struggled once again in the McLaren.

The rain soon retreated, and the championship rivals traded blows for the top time. It was Hamilton who emerged from Q1 in P1, his time of 1:24.585s putting him 0.007s clear of Verstappen – while Pierre Gasly took third for AlphaTauri ahead of fourth-place Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, grip levels rapidly rising.

Sergio Perez (Red Bull) rounded out the top five ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in P6, McLaren’s Russia polesitter Lando Norris in seventh, and Fernando Alonso in eighth for Alpine. Despite a back-of-grid penalty looming for Carlos Sainz thanks to his new Ferrari engine, he emerged for qualifying and spun to ruin his first flying effort, before improving to P9.

Yuki Tsunoda swapped ends at the exit of Turn 1 to jeopardise his chances of making Q2 but shot to 10th with a late flying effort, finishing ahead of Williams’ George Russell in P11 and 12th-place Esteban Ocon of Alpine.

Improving conditions paid dividends for the likes of Mick Schumacher (P14) – who reached Q2 for Haas for the second time in his career – and Aston Martin compatriot Sebastian Vettel (P15), who profited while McLaren’s Monza winner Daniel Ricciardo (P16) and Williams’ Nicholas Latifi (P17) were eliminated.

Behind them were the two Alfa Romeos and Haas’s Nikita Mazepin, who suffered two excursions off the track at Turn 1 – but it’ll be Sainz who starts last on Sunday.

Knocked out: Ricciardo, Latifi, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Mazepin

Q2

Ferrari’s Sainz sat out this session with that penalty in his mind, so 14 drivers took to the track for Q2 – which began with a Perez spin at Turn 1. All the drivers bar Tsunoda, Russell and Schumacher equipped mediums.

And it was Hamilton who set the early pace of 1:23.595s, despite his complaint that “it takes too long to get [tyre] temps” on the challenging surface. He improved to 1:23.082s to go half a second clear of second-placed Bottas, with Verstappen third and 0.650s away.

Fourth was Gasly, the AlphaTauri driver joined in Q3 by his team mate Tsunoda (P8), the rookie making the final session for the first time since Austria. Between them was Alonso in P5, Perez in P6, and Leclerc – whose first effort was aborted with a last-corner spin – in seventh for Ferrari.

Max Verstappen will hope to make the most of Hamilton’s grid penalty.

Ninth-place Stroll survived to make Q3 despite a Turn 1 lock-up on his flying lap, and it was Norris who completed the top 10 to leave Vettel in P11 and Ocon in P12, the Frenchman having suffered a snap of oversteer at Turn 4 on his final lap.

Russell swapped softs for mediums, but his final flying effort was ruined when he ran wide at the final corner, leaving him frustrated and out in P13. Schumacher finished two-tenths off in P14 – his best F1 qualifying yet – having backed out of his flying effort to slow for Stroll.

Knocked out: Vettel, Ocon, Russell, Schumacher, Sainz

Q3

The track still had more to give, and so did Hamilton. He managed an opening lap of 1:23.093s to go second, just 0.022s behind early leader Bottas – but 0.2s ahead of Verstappen. Curiously, Hamilton emerged alone after the first laps had been completed to do another run, which saw him improve to P1 with a time of 1:22.868s and a track record.

Hamilton would not improve, but team mate Bottas would – eventually going 0.130s off his team mate – for P2 and what will be pole position on Sunday. Verstappen, over three-tenths off the pace, will still start on the front row when Hamilton’s 10-place grid penalty kicks in.

Ferrari’s Leclerc managed P4 – his late run giving him a second-row start for Sunday – ahead of AlphaTauri’s Gasly in P5, while Alpine’s Alonso took P6 to ensure there will be five different teams in the top five grid spots on Sunday.

Perez could only manage P7 for Red Bull, with Norris P8 as the highest-placed McLaren – while Stroll and Tsunoda rounded out the top 10, swapping positions after their first Q3 laps.

The Turkish Grand Prix gets underway tomorrow at 13:00 GMT, with plenty of intrigue up and down the field, from Sainz’s back row start, Schumacher’s P14 charge and Hamilton hoping to make up ground from P11 – to front-row starters Bottas and Verstappen leading off the line.

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