Motorsport: Stroll will get the shock of the Turkish GP pole, Hamilton sixth

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© Reuters. Turkish Grand Prix

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By Tuvan Gumrukcu

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Canadian Lance Stroll took an amazing first Formula 1 pole position on Saturday in a crazy, weathered Grand Prix qualifying in Turkey that kicked off a 14-race series for the dominant Mercedes.

While the 22-year-old Racing Point driver celebrated wildly on team radio, six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton qualified only in sixth for a race that could crown him world champion for the seventh time.

Mercedes team-mate and only title rival Valtteri Bottas finished ninth.

Mercedes, whose pole run dates back to the end of the 2019 season in Abu Dhabi, never looked controversial on a track that returned for the first time since 2011, but instead became slippery from rain and newly laid asphalt.

Stroll, whose billionaire father Lawrence owns the Silverstone-based team, was reinforced when it came down to it that Racing Point timed the move from wet to mid-weight tires to perfection.

The Canadian, who returned from a missed race and tested positive for COVID-19, will become his country's first pole sitter since 1997, world champion Jacques Villeneuve.

"I can't put it into words right now. I'm shocked. I didn't expect to be here," said Stroll, who had greeted his pole with shouts of "Let's go, let's go" before explaining, "Me love "my job."

“I had confidence in the car and nailed pretty much every corner. It's such a nice way to get back on my feet after a tough couple of weeks, so it feels really good.

"It is a special moment for me, one of the greatest highlights of my career."

Red Bull's Max Verstappen joined Stroll in the front row, a disappointment for the Dutchman after topping the timesheets in every practice session, even if the lap times on Friday were largely irrelevant.

"If you're first and second all the time, you don't want that. I just hope we have a good race tomorrow," he said.

NO HANDLE

Racing Point's Mexican Sergio Perez qualified third and fell back after taking provisional pole on the intermediate tire before Stroll's flying lap. Red Bull's Alexander Albon finished fourth.

The Australian Daniel Ricciardo, z Renault (PA :), qualified fifth and ahead of Hamilton, who has a record of 97 F1 Poles, but this time couldn't find a stop.

"We did our best and did our best, and that was the fastest we could drive," said the Brit who planned the surface on Friday. "The track feels terrible.

"It's like driving on ice. For some reason, some people can turn the tires on a little better than we do. I think we all had problems in the end, but some are better than others."

"I did my best. I didn't shoot, I didn't make any mistakes, so I did everything I could with what I had," he added.

Bottas, who needs to score at least eight points more than Hamilton to stay in math competition with three races after Sunday, said he couldn't get heat in the tires.

"I think today the teams that could get the tires running are in the lead and we didn't work well enough today," said the Finn.

If his chances of winning seemed to have diminished, the slippery conditions caused by the rain and newly laid asphalt created a lot of uncertainty on Sunday without a Mercedes driver feeling comfortable in the car.

The first phase of qualifying was marked twice with long delays when the rain got heavier and the drivers drove away.

Verstappen stayed in 15th place and was about to run out, three and a half minutes from time, and the opening session was canceled.

Then he drove eight seconds faster than anyone, with Hamilton only finishing 14th.

The second phase started alarmingly with a crane still hauling Nicholas Latifi's stranded Williams (NYSE 🙂 back from the side of the track as the cars pulled out.

Ferrari (NYSE 🙂 had a miserable session with Sebastian Vettel as 12th and Charles Leclerc as 14th.

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