Max Verstappen was lost for words and left slumped in disappointment after missing out on a first pole position of the Formula One season to Racing Point’s Lance Stroll at the Turkish Grand Prix. Verstappen seemed set to clinch first spot on the grid for Sunday’s race after going fastest in all three practice sessions and in Q1 and Q2 of qualifying.
But the Dutchman – without a pole since the Brazilian Grand Prix last season – lost his momentum when he swapped tyres from the full wets to the intermediates.
And that allowed Stroll to become the first Canadian since Jacques Villeneuve in 1997 to seal pole, his first ever in the sport.
The Racing Points were in full flow towards the end of Q3 and Sergio Perez had topped the time-sheet before Stroll edged him and Verstappen, going two-tenths quicker than the latter.
Verstappen said post-race: “Already in Q1 when we tried to go out on the inters we had no grip. The track was a lot better in Q3 but for us the inters were horrible.
“Whereas the extreme tyres were good and it was very comfortable. Yeah, not good.
“At the moment I’m a bit disappointed, of course. In the race tomorrow we can do well but when you’re first all the time and then you come second it’s not what you want.
“I hope tomorrow we’ll have a good race.”
TV cameras then showed a clearly gutted Verstappen slumped down after missing out on a long-awaited pole.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas had secured all 13 poles with Mercedes dominating the front row all season before Istanbul.
And 22-year-old pole-sitter Stroll could barely believe the events of qualifying after a stunning final lap put him at the front of the grid for the race.
Stroll has not even earned any points in any of the last five races, last adding to his tally by finishing third at the Italian Grand Prix in September.
He missed the Eifel Grand Prix through illness and went on to test positive for coronavirus, though returned for the Portuguese Grand Prix, where he suffered a DNF, before coming home 13th at Imola.
Stroll declared: “I can’t really put it into words right now. I’m shocked. I didn’t expect to be up here after P3. There were a lot of things that we weren’t sure of coming into qualifying.
“We didn’t look too competitive in final practice but I’m so happy right now, I really put that lap together at the end, I was under a lot of pressure, I only had one lap to do it at the end on the inters.
“We started on the wet tyre then on the inters I had one lap where I was behind Valtteri who spun and then I had one lap at the end to do it.
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“I had the confidence in the car and I just nailed pretty much every corner, pieced it together nicely and it’s such a great way to bounce back after a few rough weeks.
“Since Mugella really it’s been a rough ride for me. It feels really good right now.
“In these conditions you don’t really have time to think about where you are and what’s going on around you, it’s really just about the next corner in front of you.
“Once I got on inters I knew we were in good shape and the car felt like it was pretty hooked up for these conditions around here.
“To put it on pole is a special moment for me, one of the biggest highlights of my career for sure. We dream about these moments growing up and it’s pretty special.”
Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix begins at 10.10am and Express Sport will cover the race live.