At the end of the qualifying session for the Turkish Grand Prix, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton won pole position with a time of 1m22.868s - a new track record around the Istanbul Park circuit. However, due to the 10-place grid penalty slapped on the Briton for an engine change, he will start from 11th place on the grid.
Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas was second-fastest and will start from pole instead. Lining up alongside him on the front row will be Max Verstappen, who was best of the rest behind the Mercedes duo.
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Alpha Tauri's Pierre Gasly will fill out the second row of the grid. The Frenchman was followed by Alpine driver Fernando Alonso, who clocked the sixth-fastest time and will start fifth on the grid as a result of Hamilton's penalty. The Spaniard was one of the few drivers who managed to get his tires up to the optimal temperature window around the tricky circuit.
Red Bull Racing's Sergio Perez clocked the seventh-fastest time in the qualifying session and will start the race from sixth. The Mexican was followed by McLaren's Lando Norris and Aston Martin's Lance Stroll, who make up Row 4 on the grid.
Alpha Tauri rookie Yuki Tsunoda held his nerve after a spin early in the qualifying session to clock in the tenth-fastest time, which will place him ninth on the grid while Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel will round out the top-10 starters.
Tricky track conditions kept drivers on the edge during Turkish GP qualifying session
Varying grip levels and track evolution on the newly-resurfaced circuit led to many drivers struggling to get heat into their tires. The tricky circuit made it a challenging and busy qualifying session, with many losing control of their cars under acceleration and spinning out in the unfavorable track conditions.
In the first qualifying session, the drivers to be eliminated were Daniel Ricciardo, Nicholas Latifi, Antonio Giovinazzi, Kimi Raikkonen and Nikita Mazepin. They will will occupy grid places P15- P19 in the order of their qualifying session classification as a result of Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz penalties.
Ricciardo's elimination was by far the biggest shock of the first qualifying session. He went out too early to clock his fastest lap but was unable to improve it in time. During the penultimate moments of the session, he had to let his McLaren teammate Norris pass, leaving his own final attempt too late. That ended up draining the battery charge of his car and botching the Australian's qualifying run.
Sainz has been penalized with a 20-place grid drop for changing his power unit, ICE (internal combustion engine) and other components on his car. Although he clocked the 15th fastest time and was eliminated in the second qualifying session, his penalties promoted the rest a place higher on the grid.
In the second qualifying session, apart from Sainz and Vettel, the drivers to be eliminated were Esteban Ocon, George Russell, and Mick Schumacher. Ocon will start the race in 12th place behind Hamilton, followed by Russell and Schumacher in 13th and 14th on the grid.
With the title battle separated by a scant two points, the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix will be a must-watch race. While Mercedes have so far looked strong on this circuit, Hamilton will have to leapfrog eight cars to get at Verstappen. The Brit will no doubt be hoping Bottas makes good use of his inherited pole position and hold up the Dutchman long enough. That aside, the tricky track conditions leave open ground for uncertainty in terms of drama for the race.