Stroll on pole for Turkish GP, Perez third for BWT Racing Point

Lance Stroll grabbed a first career pole position for the Turkish Grand Prix as his BWT Racing Point team, partnered by Acronis, made a bold late call to switch to the intermediate tyre.

With the majority of the front running teams staying on the full wet tyre after torrential rain had seen everyone struggle for grip in practice and qualifying, Racing Point gambled on the intermediate tyre late in Q3, Sergio Perez displacing Max Verstappen at the top of the lap times.

Red Bull reacted, pitting the Dutchman to swap from full wet tyres to intermediates, but he struggled for grip and it was Stroll who displaced his teammate at the top as Verstappen beat Perez to the front row on his final lap.

“I can’t put it into words right now, I’m shocked,” said Stroll, talking to Sky Sports’ Mark Webber after his stunning effort. “I didn’t expect us to be up here after Q3. There’s a lot of things we weren’t sure of coming into qualifying. We didn’t look too competitive in Q3 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 there because we started on the wet tyre then boxed and I had one lap because I had Valtteri who spun in front of me and then I had one lap at the end to do it, and I had the confidence in the car and I just nailed pretty much every corner and pieced it together nicely. Such a nice way to bounce back after a few rough weeks, since Mugello really its been a rough ride for me, so feels good. Feels really good.”

It was so nearly an incredible front row lockout for the Racing Point team, but Perez was unfortunate to be stuck behind the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi for his final effort.

“A great result for the team, something we really weren’t expecting. In the end we were unlucky,” said Perez. “My final lap when the track was at its best, I had Giovinazzi in front and he simply didn’t move out of the way. I think it was a great call, from the beginning we were pretty strong, obviously track position was pretty key today in order to maintain your temperature in the tyres. But I think we’re in a great position, I definitely prefer P3 to P2. I think tomorrow at the start there will be a good difference.”

Alexander Albon starts alongside Perez on the second row of the grid in the second Red Bull, with Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo fifth. But it was a strangely subdued effort from the all-conquering Mercedes team, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas only managing the sixth and ninth fastest times respectively.

It all makes for an intriguing race day, with more inclement weather forecast to throw that vital variable into the mix.

“I knew we were up there at the front,” added Stroll, after becoming the first Canadian to take pole since Jacques Villeneuve at the 1997 European GP. “Listening to my engineer, he was giving me feedback on every lap where we were but 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 the next corner in front of you.

“Then once I got on the inter I knew we were in good shape and the car felt like it was pretty hooked up for these conditions around here and to put it on pole was a special moment for me. One of the biggest highlights of my career, for sure.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.