Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton claimed top spot during a thrill-and-spill qualifying for the Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul Park Circuit on Saturday.
However, Hamilton has taken a 10-place grid penalty for going over his allocation of three engines for the season, meaning his teammate Valtteri Bottas will start on pole ahead of Hamilton’s title rival Max Verstappen of Red Bull.
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Mercedes fitted a fourth combustion engine on Friday. It means that regardless of Hamilton’s pole No. 102, he will start 11th. Crucially for Mercedes, though, is the fact that Bottas begins at the front of the grid and he will be tasked with holding up Verstappen as Hamilton battles through traffic.
Given the penalty, it could not have been a better day in the rain in Turkey for seven-time champion Hamilton as the damage is minimal going into Sunday’s race.
A rainy Istanbul meant there were plenty of spins on track as drivers battled for the perfect lap and pushed their cars to the limit.
AlphaTauri man Pierre Gasly and Williams’ George Russell both suffered last-second heartache as the Frenchman spun on the last corner of a flying lap and then the Briton ran wide just ahead of the finish line.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc will start third as his improved engine continues to find more power. Gasly managed to clock fifth fastest to start on the second row on Sunday, while Fernando Alonso impressed in his Alpine to line up on the third row alongside Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
Mayhem ensued throughout the qualifying sessions, with a number of drivers going off track but thankfully avoiding and major crashes.
Earlier, French driver Gasly found himself at the top of the timesheets after final practice.
A deluge of rain as practice started led to an eventful stint with a number of the drivers spinning on the wet track and others using caution to save their tyres and avoid any accidents.
Red Bull’s Verstappen was among those to take a spill as he executed a perfect 360-degree spin on Turn 9 and — as cool as ever — carried on as though nothing had happened.
AlphaTauri’s Gasly was 0.24 seconds quicker than Red Bull’s Perez and 0.6s clear of Verstappen on the 5.3km track.
Hamilton was way down in 18th spot but hardly took part. He was saving tyres for qualifying. The Mercedes star leads Verstappen by two points in a thrilling title race but could well be overtaken by the Dutchman on Sunday.
The final practice session was halted for a few minutes approaching the halfway point when Williams driver Russell went off the track and into gravel. Four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin and Ferrari’s Leclerc also suffered 360-degree spins before regaining control.