Lewis Hamilton fastest in Turkish GP qualifying but Valtteri Bottas takes pole position

Mercedes' championship leader serving 10-place grid penalty for engine change

Mercedes driver and championship leader Lewis Hamilton was fastest during qualifying for the Turkish Grand Prix on Saturday. But a grid penalty means he will start 11th on race day, with Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas handed the pole position.

Hamilton's title rival Max Verstappen qualified third for Red Bull and will join Bottas on the front row at Istanbul Park on Sunday.

Hamilton is serving a 10-place grid drop for taking on his fourth engine of the season - one more than is permitted.

It was unfortunate, as Hamilton had delivered the quickest lap ever seen in Istanbul. After breaking the 16-year-old track record in practice on Friday, he broke it again in each of the three qualifying sessions.

Hamilton finished the session with a time of 1min 22.868sec, 0.130sec ahead of Bottas with Verstappen 0.328 back.

"The session was tricky, but it was a great job by the team," said Hamilton. "Tomorrow is going to be difficult but I will give it everything.

"It is not the easiest to overtake and I imagine tomorrow is going to be difficult to move up. We have got the long straight down the back and we will see what we can do."

After securing a front-row spot, Bottas said: "It was a good qualifying and not easy conditions. As a team result it was as we planned.

"I will focus on my own race tomorrow and that is the way to attack it when you start on pole." The pole was a first since Portugal in May for Bottas, and the 18th of his career.

Verstappen took a grid penalty at the previous race in Russia and finished second after starting at the back of the field, his progress helped after late rain caused problems for others.

The Dutch driver struggled with the setup in Friday practice, with the track far grippier than last year but said the team had made "a decent recovery".

"Tomorrow, lining up in second, let's wait and see what the weather will do, but overall I'm pretty happy," said Verstappen, 24.

"Let's see how competitive we will be in the race. The tyre wear seems quite high around the track, but it's quite fun to drive."

Hamilton leads Verstappen by two points in a thrilling title race. The Briton trails Verstappen 7-3 for wins 7-4 for poles this season and there are six races to go after Turkey.

Mercedes rate the circuit among the easier tracks on the calendar to overtake and Hamilton will hope to come through the field like Verstappen did in Russia.

A queue formed at the start of Q1 with the threat of rain imminent. A smattering of drops at the end of the circuit lasted only for a few minutes though.

Daniel Ricciardo was the biggest casualty. The Australian ended McLaren's nine-year wait for a victory at the Italian Grand Prix, but has largely been out-of-sorts in his debut campaign with McLaren and his early exit exemplified his struggles.

Mick Schumacher delivered the best lap of his F1 career to progress to Q2 for only the second time.

The young German finished Q1 ahead of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and the best part of three seconds faster than Haas team-mate Nikita Mazepin. He will start 14th on Sunday.

Mercedes principal Toto Wolff was not sure if the glass was half full or half empty after qualifying.

"You need to look at the positives that the car is very quick and we can start from pole," he said. "On the negative side we could have had a front-row lockout."

He said it would be "very difficult" for Hamilton to move up but added: "the Red Bulls haven't been so competitive this weekend."

Updated: October 9th 2021, 2:21 PM
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