ISTANBUL (REUTERS/AFP) – Lance Stroll upstaged Formula One’s title-chasing Lewis Hamilton on Saturday (Nov 14) when he grabbed the first pole position of his career at the Turkish Grand Prix.
The 22-year-old Canadian made the most of drying conditions on a treacherous track to end Mercedes’ 13 race domination of qualifying this year.
Stroll delivered a dazzling fastest lap for Racing Point in one minute and 47.765 seconds in the closing seconds to usurp his team-mate Sergio Perez and then resist a last surge from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
The disappointed Dutchman was second, three-tenths behind Stroll, but ahead of Mexican Perez who claimed his career-best starting position after finishing fourth nine times in the past.
Stroll said: “I can’t really put it into words. I’m shocked. I didn’t expect to be up here after FP3.
“There were a lot of things we weren’t sure about coming into qualifying. We didn’t look that competitive in Q3. I’m so happy right now, I put that lap together at the end and I was under a lot of pressure.
“I only had one lap to do i at the end because we started on the wet tyre and then boxed for inters. I had one lap were I got traffic – or Valtteri [Bottas] who spun in front of me – I had one lap at the end and had the confidence in the car. I nailed pretty much every corner and put it together.
“Since Mugello, it has been a pretty rough ride for me so it feels good. Feels really good right now.
“I knew [Perez] was up there at the front. Listening to my engineer, he was giving me feedback about where we were. But in these conditions you don’t really have time to think about what’s going on around you. It’s really just about the next corner in front of you.
“One we got on the inters, the car was pretty hooked up for these conditions. To put it on pole is a special moment for me. The highlight of my career.”
Stroll was the first Canadian to take pole since Jacques Villeneuve at the 1997 European Grand Prix at Jerez and it was the Silverstone-based Racing Point team’s first pole since, racing as Jordan, they did so at the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix.
The outcome left Mercedes well-beaten on the weekend when Lewis Hamilton bids to seal a record-equalling seventh drivers’ championship and draw level with seven-time champion Michael Schumacher.
The six-time champion wound up sixth behind Alex Albon in the second Red Bull and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo whose team-mate Esteban Ocon qualified seventh.
Kimi Raikkonen and his Alfa Romeo team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi were eighth and 10th with Valtteri Bottas ninth for Mercedes.
“Yes, Yes, Yes boys,” Stroll screamed on team radio. “I am so happy,” he added. “It’s been a tough time, but this is so good.”
His surprise qualifying performance comes after a tough few weeks when he had to miss the Eifel Grand Prix, testing positive for coronavirus the next day.
Verstappen was left fuming and said: “In Q1 we tried to go out on the inters, it was faster in Q3, but for us the inters were horrible. The extreme tyres were good for us.
“At the moment I’m just a bit disappointed, of course, there’s still a race tomorrow.
“When you are first all the time and come out second it’s not what you want to do. I just hope we have a good race tomorrow.”
This is the first time this season that neither Hamilton (nine) nor Bottas (four) have topped qualifying.
Hamilton can seal a record-equalling seventh drivers’ world title on Sunday if he prevents Bottas from outscoring him by eight points.