Lewis Hamilton was clearly the quickest man on track in qualifying for the Turkish Grand Prix, but his dominant performance will not be recorded in the history books as pole position – a rule in Formula One that seems to irritate the sport’s top drivers.
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Hamilton will start from 11th position due to a 10-place grid penalty for switching engines, while his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas inherits pole from second, and Hamilton’s championship rival Max Verstappen completes the top row for Red Bull from third place in practice.
Hamilton has already set a new record with 101 pole positions, indicating that setting records does not keep the world champion up at night. The most important thing is that he did what he needed to do in order to recover from his grid penalty. He said that he intended to start as high up the pack as possible, and he dutifully delivered with a lap that was both class and a track record. However, pole 102 is not one of them.
All three drivers agreed that F1 should address the obvious inconsistency of not honoring the fastest driver as having taken pole when penalties are imposed.
When told that it wouldn’t go down in the record books, Hamilton quipped, “That was my greatest pole ever.” “I got pole, and I don’t believe the penalty should have any bearing on that.” Bottas concurred. He remarked, “Lewis had the quickest single lap.” “He was technically on pole, but he was dropped later, which I don’t believe is fair.” F1 should also examine its rules, according to Verstappen. “The quickest lap should be rewarded with pole position,” he added.
For the time being, it’s a moot point, and Hamilton’s attention is diverted elsewhere. The important stuff will have to wait until Sunday. He has to make his way through the field to avoid losing points to Verstappen, whom he trails by just two points in the championship.
The job of Bottas for Hamilton and Mercedes, who have dismissed him for next season, is simple: keep Verstappen in his rearview mirror. Hamilton has a far more difficult task ahead of him. He must be active from the start in the middle, but he cannot take any risks. The seven-time champion has the speed and form to win: he has been the fastest all weekend and has made his mark at Istanbul Park twice previously.
He finished second in GP2 in 2006 after recovering from a spin that put him to 19th. Last year, he came back from sixth place to win in a masterclass, securing his eighth championship. On Sunday, he said he’d take a “balanced” approach to balancing aggressiveness and caring.
“It’s not going to be easy,” he said, “but where there is a will, there is a way.” “However, getting past individuals will be difficult.” In a championship battle when there is little to pick between the two protagonists, how effectively he handles may be crucial. With Red Bull unable to match Mercedes’ speed in this race, Hamilton can at least try to catch Verstappen.
In qualifying, he demonstrated that he has the necessary skills. Bottas established the early pace on his first hot lap in Q3 on a chilly but drying circuit following a rainy morning in Istanbul. Last season, the freshly resurfaced track had a lot of grip issues. It was much better this year after maturing and having water blasted, but the surface was still wet, so it was still a challenge. Bottas was especially strong in the first and third sectors, setting a new course record of 1 minute 23.071 seconds, two hundredths faster than Hamilton.
With the sun beaming and the conditions being the greatest they’d been all day, the pressure increased on their second run. Hamilton took to the track first, with the whole track to himself, and soared away. He was the fastest in all three sectors, clocking in at 1m 22.868s.
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton and Verstappen brush off F1 pressure chatter, saying, “You’ve got to enjoy it.”
He got provisional pole but decided to take it easy for a lap before running again on the same tyres. It wasn’t necessary since no one could equal the first time he connected it up perfectly. Bottas was a tenth slower than Verstappen, who was three tenths slower. Hamilton had dominated, and now he must repeat the same on Sunday.
Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team chief, expressed confidence in Hamilton’s ability to battle from the back. “Lewis can only do his best, and when it comes to overtaking and moving through the field, I wouldn’t want any other driver in the vehicle,” he added.
Charles Leclerc of Ferrari finished fourth, while Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri was fifth.
Fernando Alonso finished sixth for Alpine, with Sergio Pérez of Red Bull seventh and Lando Norris of McLaren eighth. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll finished ninth, while AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda was tenth.
Carlos Sainz finished 15th for Ferrari in Q2, although the team did not run him in Q2 since he would start from the rear of the grid after receiving a whole new power unit. Mick Schumacher put up a fantastic effort to qualify for Q2 and finish 14th for Haas. Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel finished 11th, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon 12th, and Williams’ George Russell 13th.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo finished a dismal 15th. Williams’ Nicholas Latifi finished 17th. Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Räikkönen finished 18th and 19th, respectively, while Haas’ Nikita Mazepin finished 20th.
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