Valtteri Bottas will start the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix from pole position despite finishing qualifying in second place behind his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton will take a ten place grid penalty for tomorrow's race, boosting Red Bull's Max Verstappen on to the front row with a chance of taking the lead down into the first corner.
Earlier there were cheers in the Haas garage for Mick Schumacher getting through to Q2, but disappointment for McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo who missed the cut at the end of a rain-hit first round.
After an entertaining wet play in final practice on Saturday morning, teams and drivers had expected to return to a much drier state of affairs in time for qualifying. Instead they found that the forecast chance of rain had crept up significantly as the start of the session grew closer, adding an extra frisson of excitement as cars queued on pit lane.
Q1: Hamilton top as rain falls, Ricciardo caught out as Schumacher goes through
With no one wanting to get caught out if the rain did start to fall, there was a rush to get out on track when the lights at the end of pit lane went green. First out was Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen, while Lewis Hamilton was not far behind lining up on the soft compound to get a banker lap in on slicks before the weather turned, but finding himself having to navigate traffic before starting his flying lap and promptly slithering off at turns 1 and 6.
Ferrari's Carlos Sainz was also finding the conditions tricky on still-cold tyres, looping around at turn 1 with Max Verstappen having a similar scare moments later. Multiple drivers had their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits as the rain arrived in the form of drizzle, but Lando Norris completed a tour to go top before being promptly pipped by Williams' George Russell. A tidier lap from Hamilton then saw normality resumed as the Mercedes went quickest on a time of 1:27.085s, with Valtteri Bottas less than a tenth behind.
Verstappen was also on a better lap and went top on 1:26.692s, before Hamilton retook the spot a few seconds later. Pierre Gasly then confirmed his morning pace by putting the AlphaTauri into second, followed by better times from Bottas, Norris, Verstappen and Fernando Alonso as the rain started to properly pick up, catching out Yuki Tsunoda who half-spun at turn 1 with oversteer but who was able to resume and head back to pit lane.
Charles Leclerc was then the latest driver to make an appearance at the top of the timing screens but he was soon bumped off by a new run from Gasly. By now Hamilton had been pushed down to eighth behind Russell and his next run was compromised by yellow flags in the first sector after Nikita Mazepin ran off. Further improvements from Alpine's Esteban Ocon and McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo dropped Hamilton further back to tenth, leaving him telling the Mercedes pit wall that a new banker lap was urgently retired.
The band of showers was now passing and the rain soon starting to ease, meaning that conditions were quickly recovering. This was demonstrated by Hamilton punching in a new top time of 1:25.050s to go 0.088s quicker than Bottas' latest, comfortably ahead of Gasly, Alonso, Leclerc, Norris and Verstappen. At risk of elimination at this point were the Aston Martins of Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll, Alfa duo Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi, plus Haas pair Mazepin and Mick Schumacher. Sergio Perez had also been on the bubble but soon found the extra pace needed to climb into the safety of the top ten.
Hamilton improved further and finished the first round on a time of 1:24.585s which was seven thousandths quicker than Verstappen who was followed by Gasly, Leclerc, Perez and Bottas, with the rest of the top ten consisting of Norris, Alonso, Sainz and Tsunoda. Russell was also through in 11th ahead of Ocon and Stroll, while Schumacher's impressive last effort proved good enough to see him through to Q2 for the only the second time this season in 14th ahead of Vettel, meaning that Italy GP race winner Ricciardo had missed the cut along with Nicholas Latifi, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen and Mazepin.
Q2: Hamilton stays top, Leclerc leaves it late and Norris squeezes through
Mercedes headed the queue to get back out on track for the start of the second round, both cars on the medium compound now as the preferred race selection. Bottas took the early honours with a time of 1:24.142s but there was a big tank-slapper for Perez that sent him spinning off at turn 1 and wrecked his initial set of tyres.
Hamilton was soon back on top, his 1:23.595s proving to be four tenths quicker than Verstappen's first run in second. Bottas held on to third ahead of Gasly, Alonso and Norris while Tsunoda was able to jump up to sixth on a set of soft tyres, and Perez in eighth despite his early spin and compromised tyres. Also provisionally through at this point were Ocon and Leclerc, with the two Astons on the wrong side of the cut along with Schumacher and Russell, while Sainz had seemingly called it a day in light of his grid penalty for new engine components meaning a back row start was unavoidable regardless of anything he might be able to achieve today.
His team mate Leclerc was himself in trouble with a spin at the final corner as he tried to consolidate his position. He was given a temporary reprieve when Russell fell 0.018s short of bumping him out of the top ten with his next run, only to fall to Stroll's latest run which jumped the Aston up to eighth a few moments later. Perez made sure he wasn't caught out by improving to third ahead of Verstappen, although he was promptly pipped by Alonso. Stroll attempted to go faster still but brought out the yellow flags when he locked up and ran wide into turn 1 on his next run. Russell similarly oversteered on his final push lap leaving him mired in the drop zone, but a last gasp effort with the help of a tow from Sainz managed to finally propel Leclerc to safety.
The final moments saw Hamilton finish the round on a time of 1:23.082s which was half a second clear of Bottas, Verstappen, Gasly and Alonso, with Perez sixth ahead of Leclerc, Tsunoda and Stroll. Norris also just squeaked through in tenth. Missing the cut were Vettel, Ocon, Russell and Schumacher, with Sainz not setting a time despite his late appearance to help out Leclerc.
Q3: Hamilton and Bottas finish qualifying on top ahead of Verstappen and Leclerc
A quick start to the top ten pole shoot-out round saw Bottas get the edge over Hamilton with an initial lap of 1:23.071s. Verstappen was also on the pace just 0.227s behind, followed by Gasly and Perez meaning that Hamilton now potentially faced a 'wall' of Honda-powered cars starting ahead of him on the grid on Sunday once he serves his own ten place grid drop for taking a new ICE this weekend. The first runs concluded with Alonso in sixth ahead of Norris, Leclerc, Tsunoda and Stroll.
All the drivers had the chance to pit and regroup before making their final runs of the day. Hamilton came back out and immediately took the top spot with a new time of 1:22.868s, two tenths ahead of Bottas and Verstappen now 0.430s in arrears as a result of Hamilton's improvement. Gasly looked on course to challenge only to lose too much time in the final sector; Bottas and Verstappen both shaved a tenth off their times but neither were able to improve their positions and remained second and third respectively. Meanwhile the Honda grid 'wall' had finally been breached by late runs from Leclerc (going to fourth ahead of Gasly) and Alonso (up to sixth ahead of Perez) with the final slots taken by Norris, Stroll and Tsunoda.
Despite sealing pole and another Mercedes 1-2 front row lock out, Hamilton will have them all to pass when he drops to 11th on the grid for the start of Sunday's race. It will leave Bottas and Verstappen at the front, with Leclerc and Gasly immediately behind them when the lights go out and the action commences.