Lewis Hamilton was actually fastest on the day and won qualifying, but he will start from 11th due to a 10-place grid penalty.
Although Lewis Hamilton was the fastest in qualifying on Saturday for the Turkish Grand Prix, the world champion will not start from pole position due to a grid penalty for using a new engine. His Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who finished second, will start on pole, alongside Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Hamilton will start from 11th due to a 10-place penalty. Charles Leclerc of Ferrari will start third, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly starting fourth. Concerned about engine reliability in the remaining seven races, Hamilton’s Mercedes team chose to install the new engine – their fourth, one more than the regulations allow – at a track where they hope their championship leader will be able to come through the field and minimize the potential points loss to his title rival Verstappen.
The Briton has every opportunity to do so. He has been clearly quick all weekend, topping both of the first two practise sessions, and in a GP2 race here in 2006, he came back from a spin that dropped him to 19th to finish second.
Verstappen successfully mitigated the impact of installing a new power unit by finishing second after being last on the grid in Russia, and Hamilton took a two-point lead. Red Bull, which led the constructors’ championship earlier in the season, is now 33 points behind Mercedes. With the battle between Hamilton and Verstappen so close, Bottas will be expected to play a team game to ensure that the world champion earns the most points. Team orders may be used if necessary, but the Finn’s primary responsibility is to stay ahead of Verstappen.
The pole is a boost for Bottas, who will be replaced at Mercedes by George Russell of Williams next season. It is his first pole position since the third race of the season, at Portimao, and his 18th of his career. He has never won in Turkey, but Hamilton did win here last year to claim his seventh title.
After a wet morning in Istanbul, Bottas set the pace on his first hot lap in Q3 on a cold but drying track. The newly resurfaced track was severely lacking in grip last season; this year, after ageing and being water-blasted, it was greatly improved, but with the surface still damp, it remained testing. Bottas, who was particularly strong in the first and third sectors, set a new benchmark with a time of 1min 23.071sec, two-hundredths faster than Hamilton.
The pressure increased on their second run, with the sun shining and the conditions being the best they had been all day. Hamilton took to the track first thing in the morning and immediately flew. He set the fastest time in all three sectors with a time of 1.22.868. He had provisional pole but cruised for a lap before returning on the same tyres for a second run. It wasn’t necessary because no one could match that first time when he had it perfectly hooked up. Bottas was a tenth of a second slower than Verstappen, who was three tenths slower.
Earlier in the day, with the track still damp from heavy rain earlier in the day, the conditions were difficult when the session began, with several drivers spinning and having times deleted for running wide. However, the predicted rain did not fall during Q1, and the times quickly began to drop as the track dried. Hamilton was quickest in Q1 by just seven-thousandths of a second over Verstappen, and he was even faster in Q2.
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso finished sixth, Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez finished seventh, and McLaren’s Lando Norris finished eighth. Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll finished ninth, and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda finished tenth.
Carlos Sainz was 15th for Ferrari, but the team did not run him competitively in Q2 because he will start from the back of the grid after a complete power unit replacement. Mick Schumacher put in an outstanding performance to qualify for Q2 and finish 14th for Haas. Sebastian Vettel was eleventh for Aston Martin, Esteban Ocon was twelfth for Alpine, and Russell was thirteenth for Williams.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo finished in 15th place. Williams’ 17th place finisher was Nicholas Latifi. Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen finished 18th and 19th, respectively, with Haas’ Nikita Mazepin finishing 20th.