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Opinion

A wet qualifying in Turkey sees Lance Stroll as the surprise pole sitter

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Roar Guru
14th November, 2020
1

Formula One on ice sounds like one of Bernie Ecclestone’s madcap ideas but it’s not far off what we saw in qualifying for Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix.

Not that the session was held on actual ice, obviously, but it would have felt like that was the case as the first phase of qualifying got underway in some of the most atrocious conditions ever seen.

A combination of heavy rain, low track temperatures and a newly resurfaced track meant drivers had limited grip as they tippy-toed around Istanbul Park.

With cars spinning, sliding and generally going off the track left, right and centre, race director Michael Masi took the sensible decision to throw the red flag with just under seven minutes remaining in Q1.

As the action got back underway, the rain cleared and the sun began to peek through the clouds, although the track was still wet enough to present a challenge to the drivers.

Max Verstappen continued to see off such challenges as he had done on the way to being fastest in all three practice sessions as well as Q1 and Q2.

But Q3 is when it matters most and there was one last challenge that ultimately Verstappen, who was in the box seat for pole position, couldn’t conquer.

It came in the form of our unlikely pole sitter, Lance Stroll.

The Canadian had been there or thereabouts at the top of the timesheets throughout qualifying but the defining moment came when Stroll’s teammate at Racing Point, Sergio Perez, took provisional pole on the intermediate tyres, forcing Verstappen to change course and switch to the intermediates.

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Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi

Netherlands and Red Bull racer Max Verstappen. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

From there on in, the ball was in Racing Point’s court and, as Perez aborted his final lap, the stars aligned for Stroll to take his maiden pole position in Formula One, with Verstappen just under three-tenths behind in second position.

“It’s a special moment for me,” said Stroll. “One of the highlights of my career, for sure.”

Meanwhile, a visibly dejected Verstappen was sat on the floor in a walkway thinking of what could have been.

Tomorrow’s race looks set to be one for the ages regardless of the weather conditions, particularly as both Mercedes drivers were off the pace in qualifying, struggling with tyre temperatures, and so Lewis Hamilton only starts sixth on the grid with Valtteri Bottas starting in ninth.

On a track that Hamilton has had some choice words about so far this weekend, the Briton can secure a record-equalling seventh world championship, provided he finishes ahead of his teammate, Bottas, although there are a multitude of other permutations.

The championship will be an afterthought though, as all eyes will be on the battle out front between Racing Point and Red Bull.

All that needed to happen for this scenario to present itself was a simple, tried and tested method.

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Just add water.