Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Istanbul Park, 2021

Hamilton fastest but Bottas takes pole for Turkish Grand Prix

2021 Turkish Grand Prix qualifying

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Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in qualifying for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix.

But because of a 10-place grid penalty for an internal combustion engine change, Hamilton will start Sunday’s race from 11th on the grid – and his Mercedes team mate, Valtteri Bottas, inherits pole position in Istanbul.


Just before the start of the first phase of qualifying, the risk of rain increased to 100 percent. A long queue of drivers made their way to the end of pit lane, hoping to get a lap on the board with dry tyres before the rain arrived. The expectation was that there would be a window of just under five minutes to get out, then set a flying lap on the soft compound tyres. As the session progressed, however, the rain did not fall as hard, or as frequently as expected.

Quite a few drivers spun off on their first flying laps – Carlos Sainz Jnr, already resigned to a back of the grid start, caused a brief yellow flag for a spin at turn one. Many of those who didn’t have a spin, just had their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits at turn one instead. Eventually, the drivers were able to get enough temperature in their tyres to string together clean laps. Even so, Yuki Tsunoda caused another yellow flag when he ran wide at turn one, missing the barriers on the right before rejoining the track.

Halfway into the session, drivers reported more rain, just in time for Nikita Mazepin to cause a short yellow flag for spinning off at turn one – the first of two clumsy excursions for Mazepin. Lap times began to dip down into the low 1’25 range at the top of the board. It was a fascinating development to see some drivers struggle to get temperature into their tyres, while others were complaining their tyres had too much temperature.

With less than five minutes to go, Lewis Hamilton’s suggestion of getting in another ‘banker lap’ brought him to the top of the table. The final seconds of qualifying set up a mad scramble to get above the 15th place cut line.

Mazepin and Kimi Raikkonen failed to advance on their final flying laps. Sebastien Vettel and Mick Schumacher bumped Nicholas Latifi and Antonio Giovinazzi below the cut line. For Schumacher, this was just his second time advancing into Q2, his first since the French Grand Prix. The other big surprise was Sainz, who found a way to bump Italian Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo out at the conclusion of Q1.

Hamilton finished with the best lap time of 1’24.585, just 0.007 seconds ahead of Max Verstappen in second, followed by Pierre Gasly in third.

Drivers eliminated in Q1

16Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’25.881
17Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’26.086
18Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’26.430
19Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’27.525
20Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’28.449

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Q2 began with drivers getting out on track right as the clock began to count down from 15 minutes, including several drivers that broke out the medium compound tyres for the first time this session. There had been no significant rain fall since the end of Q1, but the cold conditions and lack of rubber on track caught out Sergio Perez, who had a case of snap oversteer into turn one. Perez nearly clattered the barriers to his right, but rejoined the circuit with no damage after a yellow flag.

Valtteri Bottas set the early benchmark with a time of 1’24.142, before Hamilton jumped to the top of the board with a 1’23.595 just before half time, and Verstappen moved up into second ahead of Fernando Alonso – with all of these drivers running on the medium tyres.

On the medium tyres, it seemed as if the best laps would come on the drivers’ second flying laps. With around six minutes to go, Charles Leclerc had a lap in progress that was good enough to put him in the provisional top five. But struggling for grip on his set of medium tyres, he spun at the last corner to undo the progress he’d made to that point – this left him perilously close to the cut line.

Lance Stroll’s last flying lap was undone when he ran wide through turn one, and a bobble from George Russell at the last corner ruined his last lap when he had a chance to bump his way back into the top ten. Vettel briefly pushed his way into the top ten, before being bumped by Leclerc – but he is set to start in the top ten anyway, because of Hamilton’s grid penalty. Esteban Ocon was bumped at the end of Q2, along with Russell, Mick Schumacher, and Sainz – who did not set a time.

At the end of the session, Hamilton improved to a 1’23.082 to set the fastest time for the second phase in a row, with Bottas second, and Verstappen third.

Drivers eliminated in Q2

11Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’24.795
12Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’24.842
13George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’25.007
14Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’25.200
15Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariNo time

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Hamilton led the queue of 10 cars out for the first runs in Q3. But whatever happened, his pre-event engine change ensured that he wouldn’t be able to start on pole position.

After the first set of flying laps, Bottas was on provisional pole with a 1’23.071, ahead of Hamilton, then Verstappen who was provisionally set to go to second on the grid, and Pierre Gasly – the fastest driver in FP3 – up to provisional third on the grid.

The sun had now burst through the clouds. Hamilton had a chance to get some time on track to himself, as the nine other drivers who were eligible to take pole position made their final checks before rushing out with around three minutes left, for their final flying laps. With a clear track, Hamilton moved the benchmark time up to 1’22.868.

Verstappen set a 1’23.196 on his last lap, not enough to displace Bottas from the provisional pole. Bottas, meanwhile, could not prevent his Mercedes team mate from setting the fastest time in Q3. Hamilton’s best lap of a 1’22.868 was just over a tenth clear of Bottas, whose time of 1’22.998 was good enough to give the Finnish driver his first pole position since the Portuguese Grand Prix. Leclerc moved up to fourth, putting him third on the grid, ahead of Gasly.

Alonso, Perez, Norris, last year’s pole-winner Stroll, and Tsunoda completed the top 10.

Top ten in Q3

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’22.868
2Valtteri BottasMercedes1’22.998
3Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’23.196
4Charles LeclercFerrari1’23.265
5Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’23.326
6Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’23.477
7Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’23.706
8Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’23.954
9Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’24.305
10Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’24.368

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2021 Turkish Grand Prix

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Author information

RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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26 comments on “Hamilton fastest but Bottas takes pole for Turkish Grand Prix”

  1. Bottas can’t afford a bottled start or getaway this time around.

  2. Dear Valteri,

    Please don’t screw up the start!

    1. Does it matter if Bottas screws the start or not? In the first 5 laps or so he let Verstappen go by without a fight. Like a backmarker.

  3. I predict a podium for Lewis tomorrow.

    1. @72defender He might be on for the win. Could go long, overcut the head of the midfield (Ferrari will struggle with graining anyway) and then make a push for the win in the closing stages with fresher tyres.

      1. @wsrgo I would think so too. With the pace advantage he’ll soon clear the field, and the race pace advantage is around 0.5s over Verstappen which means 20 s in 40 laps. If Verstappen gets behind Bottas losing time and tyres, and Hamilton being able to start on hards, it will be even easier.

        1. @balue Agree mostly, but I don’t think Hamilton is allowed to start on hards. He made Q3, so irrespective of his starting position he needs to use the tyres he used to set his best Q2 lap, which was mediums I think.

          1. @wsrgo Ah Ok, I thought it was starting position

  4. This Mercedes looks more like last year’s in terms of stability and behavior now.

    1. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
      9th October 2021, 14:32

      I think cooler temperatures suit the Merc better, and RB seem to be struggling a bit at this track. Exciting race tomorrow!

  5. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    9th October 2021, 14:18

    Mercedes has clearly overtook Red Bull when it comes to havign the best car. Going to be interesting come Mexico and Brazil!

    1. @barryfromdownunder as others have pointed out, the gap between Red Bull and the midfield runners is unusually small compared to where they have been qualifying in dry conditions at other circuits.

      Verstappen, for example, has tended to qualify 0.5-0.6s ahead of Gasly in the Alpha Tauri, but was only 0.13s ahead this time: similarly, Leclerc has also tended to qualify around 0.5-0.6s back from Verstappen in other races, but this time around the gap is 0.07s.

      When you go back to the running on Friday, Verstappen was constantly complaining throughout the practice sessions about set up problems and was not at all happy with the handling balance of the car. At the same time, we also had Horner openly saying that Red Bull were having handling problems caused by them bringing the wrong set up due to the track conditions being much better than they had originally assumed they were going to be, and they were going to be throwing everything they had at the problem overnight to try and fix their problems.

      What seems more likely in that situation – that Red Bull is having set up problems and thus is unable to get the most out of their car, or that the rest of the field has simultaneously suddenly all improved by approximately the same amount relative to Red Bull?

      Are we to assume that Red Bull is undertaking a distraction campaign and are lying about set up issues, and that they are getting Verstappen to fake having problems with major understeer and front tyre temperature problems? Or is it more likely that those problems are real and the team just can’t get the car to perform in the way that they would like to this weekend?

      1. I would say it’s the extreme grip level helping the poorly working cars more

      2. “Red Bull is undertaking a distraction campaign and are lying about set up issues, and that they are getting Verstappen to fake having problems”

        Why on earth would they do that? Makes zero sense.

        RB/VER very much needed to win pole to maximize position, leverage and control race with hopes Ham doesn’t move up too much. Playing games of masking performance to quali 3rd & 7th for both cars is not a sensible play, Leclerc was only .07″ behind Max in quali, too close for comfort. It could’ve easily been a Merc-Ferrari front row.

        It was just Merc showing better speed. I think you saw VER fastest possible quali lap time.

        1. @redpill that’s the entire point – that comment was meant to point out to the original poster that his post is based around an illogical premise in the first place.

        2. @redpill also, yes, that might have been what Verstappen achieved with the set up that he had, but Red Bull are also making it clear that set up, and thus the performance that Verstappen is currently achieving, is worse than what they are capable of achieving.

          The original post is flawed because it automatically assumes that Red Bull could not have gone any faster – what I am pointing out is that Red Bull themselves believe that their car is capable of a better performance at this circuit, but that they are failing to achieve that because of those set up issues and thus are underperforming compared to where they expected to be.

  6. McLaren and their strategy again…. Ricciardo crosses the line with 12 seconds to spare, but not for a push lap – despite the track clearly improving.
    No other surprises except perhaps Schumacher progressing and Tsunoda going all the way.

    Pity it dried out, really. Was far more interesting in tricky conditions.

  7. Red Bull’s didn’t look like they had the pace of either Mercedes at any point.

  8. Just 1 and half tenth between Redbull and Alpha. Clearly Redbull is faster than that. Max and Redbull under performed.

    1. I must admit that Mercedes car is now the outright fastest. No denying that now

      1. Not always, it depends on the track. But recently Mercedes have had the upper hand. I would say that overall, it has been:
        Red Bull clearly:

        Mercedes clearly:

        The others are too close to know for sure, but if I had to pick:
        Imola – Red Bull
        Spain – Mercedes
        France – Red Bull
        Britain – Mercedes
        Zandvoort – Red Bull
        Sochi – Mercedes

        No point in including Belgium, it really is impossible to tell. So overall I would say Red Bull have been marginally better than Mercedes, but Mercedes have been better in recent races.

        1. I think that’s about right. But people always want to say their driver is basically pushing a Jetta by comparison and competing on pure skill.

        2. Absolutely, agree with these evaluations.

  9. Mercedes has really picked up the pace, I hope Redbull can claw it back but the pace deficit can be visible race after race.

  10. Closer between Hamilton and Bottas than I thought, and very impressive by Leclerc-Gasly-Alonso to be so close.

    Lovely circuit this.

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