Lance Stroll captures first F1 pole in chaotic qualifying session for Turkish Grand Prix

F1 Lance Stroll pole
Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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ISTANBUL, Turkey — Lance Stroll took the first pole position of his Formula One career at a rain-soaked and chaotic F1 qualifying session Saturday for the Turkish Grand Prix.

Racing Point teammate Sergio Perez will start a career-best third as the team got its cars hooked up in the wet while championship heavyweight Mercedes and Ferrari struggled.

“I can’t really put it into words right now,” said Stroll, whose previous best start was third earlier this season and had only two top-five starts in 74 previous starts. “I’m shocked. I didn’t expect us to be up here after P3. A lot of things we weren’t sure of coming into qualifying. We didn’t look too competitive

“It’s a special moment for me. One of the biggest highlights of my career. We dream about these moments growing up. It’s pretty special.”

The Canadian driver placed 0.3 seconds ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who looked certain to take pole after topping the first two sections of qualifying and had the leading time in Q3 when his team aborted the lap to switch him from wet tires to intermediate tires.

The move backfired and Verstappen was left feeling bitter and angry at the call, using an expletive over the team radio to describe the tires.

“I tried to go out on inters in Q1 and had no grip,” Verstappen said. “For us, the inters were horrible. Yeah. Not good.

“Just at the moment, I’m a bit disappointed. When you’re first all the time and come out second, it’s not what you want. Hopefully, we’ll just have a good race (Sunday).”

Perez was third, and Red Bull’s Alexander Albon finished fourth ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo.

It was a miserable day for Mercedes, with championship leader Lewis Hamilton qualifying sixth and teammate Valtteri Bottas only ninth.

Hamilton still needs to finish only ahead of Bottas to clinch his seventh F1 title and equal Michael Schumacher’s record.

“The track feels terrible; it’s just like driving on ice,” Hamilton said. “This whole weekend has been a nightmare. The grip’s so poor.”

Both Ferraris failed to make it into Q3, with Sebastian Vettel in 12th place and Charles Leclerc 14th. Embarrassingly for Ferrari, Alfa Romeo drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi both made it into Q3 — using Ferrari engines.

 Earlier, Verstappen was again fastest in a cold and rain-soaked final practice on a slippery track that Hamilton compared to an “ice rink” after Friday’s two practice runs.

Verstappen was quicker than Leclerc and Albon on a resurfaced Istanbul circuit last used in Formula One in 2011.

Hamilton did not set a lap time in the last practice. Bottas pushed hard in a bid to get some heat into the tires and was eighth quickest but a huge seven seconds off Verstappen’s time.

Verstappen, who was fastest in both sessions on Friday, did well in treacherous conditions that caused several drivers to spin. Leclerc lost control early on and bumped Esteban Ocon’s Renault off the track and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. went off the track into the grass.

Barely 20 minutes into the session, Leclerc slid off and narrowly avoided hitting the crash barriers.

The race is being held without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic. This is the 14th race of the season and only three have been held with spectators.

A small number of healthcare workers will be allowed to attend the next two races in Bahrain as a reward for their efforts in fighting the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Both Stroll and Perez have bounced back from missing races earlier this season with COVID-19. Stroll returned after missing the Nurburgring round Oct. 11, and Perez missed two races in Silverstone because of a positive test during the summer.

Nico Hulkenberg filled in at all three events for the Racing Point drivers.

“I’m so happy now,” Stroll said. “I really put that lap together. We had one lap at the end to do it. I had the confidence in the car. I just nailed pretty much every corner, pieced it together nicely. It’s been a few rough weeks. Since Mugello (where he crashed in the Sept. 13 race), it’s been a rough ride for me. Feels really good.”

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.