ISTANBUL: Canadian Lance Stroll celebrated an astonishing first Formula One pole position for Racing Point in a crazy weather-hit Turkish Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday.
The 22-year-old Racing Point driver’s shock result on the slippery surface ended a run of 14 successive poles for dominant champions Mercedes dating back to last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Mercedes never looked in contention while Stroll, whose father Lawrence owns the team, stepped up when it mattered as Racing Point made the right call to switch from wet to intermediate tyres.
Stroll, who has come back from missing a race and testing positive for Covid-19, will be the first Canadian to start on pole since 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve.
“I can’t put it into words right now. I’m shocked. I didn’t expect to be here,” said Stroll, who greeted his pole with shouts of ‘let’s go, let’s go’ over the team radio.
“I had the confidence in the car and I just nailed pretty much every corner. It’s such a nice way to bounce back after a few rough weeks, so it feels really good.
“It’s a special moment for me, one of the biggest highlights of my career.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen joined Stroll on the front row, a disappointment for the Dutchman after topping the timesheets in every practice session even if the Friday lap times were largely irrelevant.
“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,” he said.
Racing Point’s Mexican Sergio Perez qualified third, dropping back after taking provisional pole on the intermediate tyres before Stroll’s flying lap.
Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton qualified sixth for a race that looks set to seal his seventh title, with team mate and sole title rival Valtteri Bottas ninth.
Bottas must score at least eight points more than Hamilton to remain in mathematical contention with three races remaining after Sunday.
If his chances of doing that appeared to have receded, the slippery conditions caused by the rain and newly-laid asphalt left plenty of uncertainty hanging over Sunday with neither Mercedes driver looking comfortable on track.