Istanbul:Lewis Hamilton went fastest in qualifying for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix but will take a 10-place grid penalty for his Mercedes engine change, meaning P2 qualifier Valtteri Bottas will start on pole position on Sunday ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen.
With rain predicted ahead of the session manifested in the form of light drizzle in qualifier one but the clouds soon dissipated and the track matured to see Lewis Hamilton take top spot in that session, just 0.007s ahead of Max Verstappen. Qualifier two saw Hamilton repeat the feat, and he delivered again in the final session with an ultimate effort of 1m22.868s – a new lap record at Istanbul Park.
Bottas was 0.130s off in P2, which will be pole when Hamilton's engine penalty demotes him to P11 – while Verstappen was 0.328s off top spot in third.
That left Charles Leclerc fourth on the grid for Ferrari ahead of Pierre Gasly, the AlphaTauri driver within half a second of pole.
Fernando Alonso outqualified Red Bull's Sergio Perez, and the Alpine driver will have a tough task to keep not only the P7 qualifier behind him but also Lando Norris of McLaren (P8) away too.
Lance Stroll of Aston Martin and AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda rounded out the top 10.
Mick Schumacher made it to Q2 for Haas for only the second time. He qualified a career-best 14th behind Williams’ George Russell, whose Q3 hopes were dashed with a late off at the final corner in Q2. McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo was a shock elimination from Q1 in P16 having set his fastest lap before the track rubbered in sufficiently.
Qualifying 15th was Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, but penalties for his new engine mean the Spaniard will start last alongside Nikita Mazepin of Haas.
“It was a tricky session, there were still some damp patches (on track),” Hamilton said. “I imagine tomorrow is going to be difficult to move up.
We've got the long straight down the back, so we'll see what we can do.” Hamilton will go for a record-extending 101st F1 win while Verstappen chases an 18th.
Verstappen felt the car improved after some complications in Friday's two practice sessions.
“The laps were quite good. We lost a bit down the straight, we'll have to look into that. Overall, quite a decent recovery from yesterday," Verstappen said.
“Let's wait and see what the weather will do overnight. Let's see how competitive we will be in the race. Obviously tire wear is quite high around this track. But the track is very fun to drive.”
Bottas is still seeking his first win of the season and could get it this time with Hamilton perhaps too far back to challenge.
"I'm on pole so should be good," the Finnish driver said. “I'll focus on my own race tomorrow and try to keep up the good pace.”
As the afternoon rain started to fall, drivers tried to do quick early laps in Q1 before the track got too wet.
Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr. spun off track and got back on, as did AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda, while Hamilton went wide on Turn 5.
Hamilton topped Q1 ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, while McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo, winner of eight F1 races, was the biggest name among the five knocked out of it.
“I struggled to get more out of the soft tires," Ricciardo said. “No excuses.”
Although Hamilton again topped Q2 ahead of Bottas and Verstappen, he also complained of not getting enough heat into his tires.
Leclerc had an issue with downforce and lost the rear of his Ferrari as he slid off track midway through Q2. That damaged his tires a little and put him at risk of not qualifying for Q3. But the driver from Monaco got through on his last lap, while four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel missed out for Aston Martin.
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:22.868
2 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 1:22.998
3 Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) 1:23.196
4 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:23.265
5 Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) 1:23.326