Lance Stroll took the first pole position of his career during qualifying for the Turkish Grand Prix, but for the majority of the wet session it looked like Max Verstappen had the top spot wrapped up. Here’s what went wrong for the Dutchman…
Red Bull’s blunder
Max Verstappen finished the second session of qualifying 1.9s clear of the rest of the field. Mercedes was nowhere, his teammate Alex Albon was his closest competitor but showed no signs of challenging him and Lance Stroll was a massive three seconds off the pace in fourth position. As Q3 got underway, it seemed pole position was Verstappen’s for the taking.
So what went wrong?
Verstappen had found his advantage in Q1 and Q2 using the extreme wet tyres, but in Q3 the intermediates came into play. Parts of the track were starting to show signs of a drying line and that meant the larger contact patch of the intermediates was able to find grip on the track without aquaplaning.
But at the very start of Q3, it was still the crossover point between the extreme wets and the intermediates. Choosing the intermediates was still a big gamble and the only two drivers who tried it from the start were Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Renault’s Esteban Ocon. To underline what a marginal call it was, Perez set the fastest time with the help of the intermediates while Ocon initially set the slowest time and opted to switch back to the safety of the wets.
Seeing his teammate 1.8s clear of him using the intermediates, Stroll radioed his pits to ask for the same tyres. Red Bull also saw the potential of the intermediates, but Verstappen was on a new fastest lap as he was approaching the pits — a lap capable of beating Perez’s existing fastest time on the inters — making the decision harder.
Red Bull pulled him into the pits regardless, and while that may have looked like a mistake as his sector times were the fastest at that moment, they would not have been competitive enough to compete with the eventual top four times. Bringing Verstappen in for intermediates was the right choice as things transpired, although the exact timing of when and where he rejoined did not help his situation.
As he returned to the track on intermediates, Verstappen rejoined behind Kimi Raikkonen’s slower Alfa Romeo, which meant he struggled to get the heat into the tyres that was so crucial to lap time. Nevertheless, the first sector of his fastest lap at the end of the session was a match for Stroll’s and it was only when had a snap of oversteer at Turn 7 that he started to fall back.
“We struggled to turn the inters on compared to the extreme and you can see that these tyres are pretty tricky,” team principal Christian Horner said