Dubai: Lance Stroll grabbed a sensational first-ever pole position for lowly Racing Point, as world champion Lewis Hamilton was left under a cloud in a chaotic and very wet qualifying session in Istanbul for the Turkish Grand Prix.
Red flags and safety cars caused mayhem during both practice and qualifying as Hamilton stood on the brink of his seventh Drivers Championship title.
Hamilton was further down the starting grid than he has been all year on Saturday but closer than ever to winning a record-equalling seventh Formula One world championship and becoming the sport’s most successful driver of all time.
The Mercedes driver, the sport’s record pole-sitter and race winner, qualified sixth for the Turkish Grand Prix — a race returning for the first time since 2011 and Hamilton’s first chance to clinch the title.
Until Saturday the Briton’s lowest start position of 2020 was fifth.
However — in a silver lining for the Silver Arrows driver — the only other driver who can mathematically still take the title, teammate Valtteri Bottas, was even further behind.
The Finn, who is 85 points adrift and must score at least eight points more than Hamilton to stay in contention with three races remaining after Turkey, will start ninth.
Should Bottas stay behind on Sunday, then Hamilton will join Ferrari great Michael Schumacher as the sport’s only seven times champions.
Bottas has to finish in the top six to have any chance, even if Hamilton fails to score. If the Finn crashes out, it is game over.
Adding to Bottas’s problems is a track so slippery, due to cold temperatures and freshly-laid asphalt, that drivers have compared the surface to an ice rink — an effect made worse by rain.
Even Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who starts on the front row alongside Racing Point’s Lance Stroll on pole position, saw little scope for overtaking.
“I think it’s just very hard to pass around here because there is only one line, so you can’t really go offline because you lose a lot of grip,” said the Dutch driver.
Bottas has beaten Hamilton on track only three times in 13 races this season.
“It’s going to be an interesting race. You never know what’s going to happen,” said the Finn.