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Istanbul Qualifying: Stroll snatches it from Verstappen

Lance Stroll tore up the form book to claim his first pole position and will start the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix from top spot on the grid, stealing it with his last mega-effort to deny Max Verstappen who had starred until the final stages.

Stroll kept the magic for last, in conditions that level the playing field, like little else, the Canadian delivered when it mattered literally snatching top spot from nowhere to claim his first F1 pole start. A thriller it was too.

Steaming in the aftermath of the popular achievement, Lance said in parc ferme immediately after, “I’m shocked. We didn’t look too competitive in final practice but I’m so happy right now, I really put that lap together at the end, I only had one lap to do it on the inters.

“I had the confidence in the car and I just nailed pretty much every corner, pieced it together nicely and such a nice way to bounce back after a few tough weeks. To put it on pole is a special moment for me, one of the biggest of my career,” beamed the 22-year-old.

After the qualifying But after the FIA summoned Stroll for “allegedly non-respecting yellow flags” on his htlap through Turn 7 during Q3. The yellow flags caused by Perez cutting a corner.

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Sergio Perez in the other Pink car showed first signs of an upset when he topped the timing screens in the final stages of Q3, only to be dislodged first by his teammate and then by Max Verstappen in the Red Bull who split the Racing Point duo.

Verstappen was in stellar form often 2-3 seconds faster than his rivals in the first two stanzas of qualy, but my have erred on the ideal tyre choices for those crucial final moments where the battle was lost. Nevertheless another great effort by the Dutchman in trying conditions he excels in and has to start as the hot favourite for the race on Sunday.

The Red Bull driver explained, “Already in Q1 when we tried to go out on the inters we had no grip. The track was a lot better in Q3 but for us the inters were horrible.  The extreme tyres were good and were very comfortable. Not good.

“I’m a bit disappointed, of course. In the race tomorrow we can do well but when you’re first all the time and then you come second it’s not what you want,” he added.

Alex Albon was fourth fastest, albeit 1.6 seconds shy of Max in the other Red Bull, followed by Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo in fifth, 1.1 seconds faster than teammate Ocon who will start seventh.

While last year’s Mercs (now pink) were super in the conditions that prevailed, this year’s Black versions were cumbersome, clearly not built for discomfort such as what nature offered on Saturday in Istanbul.

Lewis Hamilton, moaner in chief about the lack of grip, probably did the least laps of any driver in practice and his best effort on the day was only good for sixth 4.7!!! seconds down on the best placed Mercedes powered car at the top of the timing screens, and it wasn’t Valtteri Bottas.

The Finn also struggled, his best was seven-tenths shy of Lewis and good for ninth on the grid, beaten by veteran Kimi Raikkonen who claimed eighth place with a strong showing in the wet. Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the top ten.

Notably, the Alfas were both quicker than the Ferrari duo whose struggles with a woeful package were exacerbated by the adverse conditions.

Proving that not only is the PU a lemon but also the SF1000 chassis/aero is simply rubbish despite all the ‘development bits and updates’ they have thrown at it this season.

It was rare to see Sebastian Vettel ahead of Charles Leclerc on the timing screens, but indeed this was the case on the day with the German 12th fastest, 1.5 seconds better than his teammate who ended the day 14th on the timesheets.

Now that the spray has settled, it is worth recording that today Formula 1 was treated to a tense and thrilling battle for pole position. Nothing certain until the very last few seconds.

The energy from the collective gasp of Lance’s feat becoming reality could probably light up a small city in Canada for a week!

While several moaned about the state of the track, it was clearly not going to change in the 72 hours that F1 decided to play on it; a case of adapt-or-die kind-of thing and he who adapted best during the gloomy Saturday afternoon enjoyed his brightest day in F1.

Congratulations Lance Stroll!

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