ISTANBUL: Canadian Lance Stroll seized an astonishing first Formula One pole position yesterday in a crazy weather-hit Turkish Grand Prix qualifying that snapped a 14-race streak for dominant Mercedes.
While the 22-year-old Racing Point driver celebrated wildly over the team radio, six-times world champion Lewis Hamilton qualified only sixth for a race likely to crown him world champion for a record-equalling seventh time.
Mercedes team mate and sole title rival Valtteri Bottas will line up ninth.
Mercedes, whose pole run extended back to the 2019 season-ender in Abu Dhabi, never looked in contention on a track returning for the first time since 2011 but made slippery by rain and newly-laid asphalt.
Stroll, whose billionaire father Lawrence owns the Silverstone-based team, stepped up when it mattered as Racing Point timed the switch from wet to intermediate tyres to perfection.
The Canadian, who has come back from missing a race and testing positive for Covid-19, will be his country’s first pole-sitter since 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen joined Stroll on the front row, a disappointment for the Dutchman after topping the timesheets in every practice session even if the Friday lap times were largely irrelevant.
Racing Point’s Mexican Sergio Perez qualified third, dropping back after taking provisional pole on the intermediate tyres before Stroll’s flying lap, with Red Bull’s Alexander Albon fourth.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo, for Renault, qualified fifth and ahead of Hamilton, who has a record 97 F1 poles but this time could find no grip.
Bottas, who must score at least eight points more than Hamilton to remain in mathematical contention with three races remaining after today, said he could not get heat into the tyres.
If his chances of winning appeared to have receded, the slippery conditions caused by the rain and newly-laid asphalt left plenty of uncertainty hanging over Sunday with neither Mercedes driver comfortable in the car.
The first phase of qualifying was twice red-flagged with long delays as the rain intensified and drivers spun off.
Verstappen was left in 15th place and on the cusp of elimination with three and a half minutes remaining and the opening session stopped.
He then lapped eight seconds faster than anyone else to go through, with Hamilton only 14th.
The second phase started alarmingly with a crane still recovering Nicholas Latifi’s stranded Williams from the side of the track as cars ventured out.
Ferrari endured a miserable session with Sebastian Vettel 12th and Charles Leclerc 14th.