The Saturday in F1 Turkish GP was wet certainly which added to the flavour, but it didn’t change the results upside down.
It has happened before in the season and once again the fastest driver in F1 qualifying will not get pole awarded against his name as Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton is to start from 11th in Turkish GP after finishing first on Saturday of the weekend.
His teammate Valtteri Bottas will start from pole, having finished second, while F1 title rival Max Verstappen will start alongside from the front-row. So far, Mercedes has looked pretty strong this weekend and it showed up on Saturday as well.
Red Bull couldn’t come that close, even though Verstappen thought he could have bettered his time to get by Bottas at least. His teammate Sergio Perez is only seventh, but gets to start from sixth and should make up places if not for larger trouble.
For Hamilton, not just the Brit but also Toto Wolff sounded 50-50 about supreme progress despite having the pace advantage. They alluded to the Friday simulation which showed difficulties as a Mercedes F1 car generally faces when they are in a traffic.
Hamilton: “In general the team have performed incredibly well this weekend. Just very, very precise with timings, and the guys in garage, as always, continuing to be precise and everyone back at the factory continuing to push and making sure that we are maximizing everything from the car. But the car has felt good since we arrived this weekend. We have made small adjustments to the set-up but as the track was driving up it was getting better and better. I think these guys were getting closer towards the end but really happy with the end result.
“We had quite good balance last year, I think. The track is very aggressive on the tyres, so it’ll be interesting to see how it works for everyone, tyre-wise – but getting past people is not going to be easy. I mean, you saw in the last race how difficult it was in the DRS train and no-doubt that will be something similar tomorrow – but it’s a long race. For the F1 race on Sunday, I have a standard set-up, well, I mean it’s not standard, it’s a special set-up. But yeah, just the same, we pretty much had the same car.
Bottas: “I am very motivated. I haven’t won this season yet, so it’s a big, big motivation for me but need to focus on certain things in the race, step-by-step and keep the focus and hope for the best. For my final lap, no, I wasn’t asked to slow down [for Hamilton] and I was definitely going for it. I started to struggle a bit with the front end in the last sector, so just had some understeer in Turn 12 and 14, so I could feel I was losing a bit of time. Probably used the tyres a bit more, earlier in the lap. So yeah, I was fully going for it, for sure.”
Verstappen: I think we made some decent improvements compared to yesterday where it seemed like we were struggling a bit more to understand how to be quick around here. Just trying to work on that and I think in qualifying again it was a little bit better but still not perfect – but I was still quite happy with the result at the end and the lap itself, so yeah, can’t really be too disappointed about that. I don’t’ think second is a great place to start on the inside because there’s no grip on the inside line, so we’ll see how that goes. I think we did make some steps – but of course not enough. I think in general it was still a good improvement.”
While the fight at the front continues, it was advantage Ferrari behind, with Charles Leclerc ending up fourth and Carlos Sainz indirectly knocking out McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo in Q1. Even Lando Norris was just eighth, but it didn’t surprise him as much to see them behind.
For the Australian, he noted of his struggles on the soft tyres, while the Brit acknowledged the lack of pace shown by McLaren all weekend long due to characteristics of the F1 circuit. Their lack of pace helped the likes of AlphaTauri and Alpine to gain from it.
While Pierre Gasly always finds a way inside the Top 10, Yuki Tsunoda got through by using the soft tyre. Even Alpine had Fernando Alonso in a good position, where the Spaniard termed it as his best qualifying till date in the 2021 F1 season, but doesn’t think he can hang on very long on Sunday.
Leclerc: “It was a little bit scary. Obviously, we opted for low-downforce set-up, which ultimately is going to pay off, I hope, if it’s sunny. But in those conditions, in Q1 and Q2, I was struggling and I was sliding a lot, so it was great to see that Carlos was here to help me in Q2. Having the traffic in the last sector was not easy and him getting me the slipstream definitely helped me. So yes, great teamwork to get into Q3 and then a great lap in Q3 to put it in P4. I don’t want to get carried away too much. Obviously, it’s a great result for the team; we are just behind Mercedes and Red Bull, which are difficult to beat for us. But we maximised the potential of the car today. I feel like we’ve got the right set-up for tomorrow’s race if it’s dry, and if it’s the case, I’m confident.”
Norris: “I think it’s just the nature of the track, the type of corners you have, more in line with as it was in Zandvoort, with longer apex corners, which we struggle in. I think it was kind of expected and not a surprise for us to struggle a little bit more. But of course when you struggle, you never want to believe it until you see it, in a way. So yeah, it’s not a surprise.”
Ricciardo: “The track definitely has a more front-limited nature. There’s a lot of long corners, very stressful on the front tyres, through turn eight. So that’s potentially not where we’re the strongest, either. I think there was still some damp spots, and I think it’s obviously getting better and better. But in saying that, in a perfect world, you want to be the last car. But that’s not always possible. All that being said, I simply wasn’t really quick enough on the soft tyre.
“I struggled a bit on it yesterday. It’s not crazy, but there was still some work to do on it. Obviously we had two sets in Q1, but still didn’t really feel like I was able to get my teeth stuck into it. So I’d put that more over a bit of timing or whatever. There was yellow flags in turn one and you kind of get out of sync and you miss a lap and this and that but a lot of that was out of our control as well.”
Alonso: “Yes it was good, it was enjoyable – I think the car felt fast today with all compounds of tyres. We qualified with the medium in Q2, which is normally not a luxury we have; normally we have to put the softs on to go through, but yesterday the car felt fast, and obviously the points are given tomorrow. Today it means just nothing, but it’s a good starting position. I was surprised as well a little bit to be that competitive on the qualifying. I think the race is a different thing. They [McLaren] are very consistent and they are very strong on Sundays, so let’s see if we can keep this position. But I think the biggest unknowns are the degradation on the tyres, because yesterday we didn’t have enough info, and then the weather. We saw today how long it takes to dry the circuit, and if it rains tomorrow morning, maybe the start is in damp conditions.”
Gasly: “I must say I’m really pleased because yesterday was hard. We had so much understeer in the car, I didn’t like the balance, so I asked for quite a lot of changes and in the end the team gave me a very competitive car for today. I enjoyed it so much this morning and this afternoon, a much better balance; it felt like the car was alive, and to qualify fifth is still one of our best Saturdays. It was very close with Charles and also Max [Verstappen] being ahead but not very far, so a lot of positives to take and exciting for the race tomorrow. We talked a a lot about it and I think we’ve all learned together as a team. I think the team did a very good job. Yesterday we weren’t in a our best shape but all the changes overnight clearly made the car a lot faster to be able to fight with Ferrari in qualifying. So I’m happy with them and I’m confident we are in a good position for tomorrow.”
Staying with the above group, since Ricciardo will be starting from the back of the grid, McLaren may think to add a fourth power unit in the pool for the Australian. At the start of the F1 weekend, they did not think of that at all, but with the qualifying result, it gives them an opportunity to fit a new engine and minimise their damage.
“That is something we will have to review now overnight together with our colleagues from Mercedes and see if we want to change our plans for tomorrow,” said Andreas Seidl to media including FormulaRapida.net. So far this weekend we didn’t plan to do any changes. And so far, really from the first outing onwards actually, we have had a good run so let’s keep it like that.”
Outside the Top 10, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel stated that he struggled with damp patches to end up only 11th, as Esteban Ocon had traffic on his quick lap. It was not a good end for Williams’ George Russell too, who rued the mistake he made, while Nicholas Latifi reckoned that he didn’t make the most on his last two laps.
His and Ricciardo’s loss allowed Haas’ Mick Schumacher to be in Q2 and actually drive in the session after Paul Ricard’s crash. The German and even the team had no answers how they managed to find the extra pace to be in the Top 15, but were nevertheless happy with the result and even joked of the new seat being a luck charm for him, as Nikita Mazepin couldn’t pin a lap together after a scrappy run.
Russell: “It’s very frustrating because that lap would have probably been good enough for P5, a good six or seven tenths inside the Q3 cutoff. I was really pushing my limits and went over it twice today, which is two too many mistakes on my behalf. I’m a bit disappointed in myself, you know, we need these conditions to offer these opportunities. Today was an opportunity and I missed out.”
Schumacher: “We got to drive this one, fortunately. So, I am happy to do that and happy to get the chance to even think about Q3. I know it is farfetched but it would have been great to have that opportunity and again, the car felt great. We, as a team, did a good job and I’m just really, really happy right now. We had one lap that we had left to try and make it. We know we had the opportunity because the lap before, I think, was not too bad.
“And I knew that there were still some time in it, because I wasn’t one hundred percent happy with my lap before. But then that one lap that I had, I think we really managed to get the most out of it. And obviously, once we crossed the line and I heard Gary open the radio, and I heard the cheering in the background, I think that things were good, and looked good. So I think, overall, we’re happy.
“Taking into consideration that George [Russell] had a mistake in the last corner and he was on a very good lap, I don’t know how much further I would have gone [in Q2]. But I think that if I probably would have had my last lap, I probably improved by two or three tenths – not knowing how much the track evolution was, but just by pure driving improvements. I think definitely there was some in it, so I don’t know if it was possible.
“I think Yuki just slid in with with the C4 if I’m not wrong. I think we were quite levelled with Yuki FP2 in Q2. Maybe it wasn’t that far, after all, but still, I think that we just didn’t didn’t have the tyre at that time to probably do the biggest jump as we were hoping for. And yes, I had the new seat, maybe that is the lucky charm. We will keep it and hopefully it will be good.”
Here’s how F1 Turkish GP qualifying panned out