Lance Stroll took the first pole position of his Formula One career at a rain-soaked and chaotic qualifying session for the Turkish Grand Prix on Saturday.
The Canadian driver placed 0.3 seconds ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who looked certain to take pole after topping the first two sections of qualifying and had the leading time in Q3 when his team aborted the lap to switch him from wet tires to intermediate tires.
The move backfired and Verstappen was left feeling bitter and angry at the call, using an expletive over the team radio to describe the tires.
Stroll becomes the first Canadian since Jacques Villeneuve to take a pole position at an F1 Grand Prix.
On a strong day for Racing Point, Stroll’s teammate Sergio Perez was third, while Red Bull’s Alexander Albon finished fourth ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.
It was a miserable day for Mercedes, with championship leader Lewis Hamilton qualifying sixth and teammate Valtteri Bottas only ninth.
Both Ferraris failed to make it into Q3, with Sebastian Vettel in 12th place and Charles Leclerc 14th. Embarrassingly for Ferrari, Alfa Romeo drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi both made it into Q3 — using Ferrari engines.
Hamilton only needs to finish ahead of Bottas on Sunday to clinch his seventh F1 title and equal Michael Schumacher’s record.
Earlier, Verstappen was again fastest in a cold and rain-soaked final practice on a slippery track that Hamilton compared to an “ice rink” after Friday’s two practice runs.
Verstappen was quicker than Leclerc and Albon on a resurfaced Istanbul circuit last used in Formula One in 2011.
Hamilton did not set a lap time in the last practice. Bottas pushed hard in a bid to get some heat into the tires and was eighth quickest but a huge seven seconds off Verstappen’s time.
Verstappen, who was fastest in both sessions on Friday, did well in treacherous conditions that caused several drivers to spin. Leclerc lost control early on and bumped Esteban Ocon’s Renault off the track and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. went off the track into the grass.
Barely 20 minutes into the session, Leclerc slid off and narrowly avoided hitting the crash barriers.
The race is being held without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic. This is the 14th race of the season and only three have been held with spectators.
A small number of healthcare workers will be allowed to attend the next two races in Bahrain as a reward for their efforts in fighting the spread of COVID-19.
The final race is at Abu Dhabi on Dec. 13.