Lewis Hamilton limits damage from grid penalty by qualifying on F1 pole in Turkey

Lewis Hamilton pole Turkey
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
1 Comment

Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton took his record-extending 102nd F1 pole position Saturday as the perfect way to limit the damage from a grid penalty of 10 starting positions in Turkey.

Though Hamilton will start from 11th, he still is in a good position to score some big points in Sunday’s race, where title rival Max Verstappen starts from second behind Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton finished 0.13 seconds ahead of Bottas and 0.33 ahead of Verstappen – the same as Verstappen’s car number – but all the leading drivers move up one slot. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc goes from third with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in fourth.

It leaves Verstappen well poised to close the two-point gap and reclaim the championship lead from Hamilton in a thrilling battle that could go to the wire with seven races remaining.

Verstappen has made blistering starts this season and will be confident of an 18th career win, providing he gets by Bottas early on.

“I hope for a clean getaway but starting on the inside will be tricky. There is very low grip in both dry and wet conditions compared to the outside,” he said. “We’ll try everything we can to keep the Mercedes behind but it’s not going to be easy, they’ve had great pace all weekend.”

Hamilton’s grid penalty was for exceeding his allocation of three combustion engines for the season.

He will go for a record-extending 101st F1 win, although that will prove difficult with so much quality traffic in front of him. Hamilton also has to get past two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso – who showed in Hungary he’s still an absolute master at defensive driving – McLaren’s speedy Lando Norris and Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez.

“I imagine tomorrow is going to be difficult to move up,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got the long straight down the back, so we’ll see what we can do.”

Verstappen felt the car improved after some complications in Friday’s two practice sessions.

“The laps were quite good. We lost a bit down the straight, we’ll have to look into that. Overall, quite a decent recovery from yesterday,” Verstappen said. “Let’s wait and see what the weather will do overnight. Let’s see how competitive we will be in the race. Obviously tire wear is quite high around this track.”

Bottas is still seeking his first win of the season and could get it this time with Hamilton perhaps too far back to challenge.

“I’m on pole so should be good,” the Finnish driver said. “I’ll focus on my own race tomorrow and try to keep up the good pace.”

Leclerc, meanwhile, is aiming for a 14th career podium.

“If the conditions are dry, I am confident that we have good potential,” he said.

As the afternoon rain started to fall on an overcast Saturday afternoon, drivers tried to do quick early laps in Q1 before the track got too wet.

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. spun off track and got back on, as did AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, while Hamilton went wide on Turn 5.

Hamilton topped Q1 ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, while McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo – winner of eight F1 races – was the biggest name among the five knocked out of it.

“I struggled to get more out of the soft tires,” Ricciardo said. “No excuses.”

Although Hamilton again topped Q2 ahead of Bottas and Verstappen, he also complained of not getting enough heat into his tires.

Leclerc had an issue with downforce and lost the rear of his Ferrari as he slid off track midway through Q2. That damaged his tires a little and put him at risk of not qualifying for Q3. But the driver from Monaco got through on his last lap, while four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel missed out for Aston Martin.

The 5.3-kilometer (3.3-mile) Istanbul Park circuit was fairly dry by Q3 and Hamilton took control without too much trouble.

He leads Verstappen by two points in a thrilling title race but could well be overtaken by the Dutchman. Hamilton trails Verstappen 7-5 for wins and 7-4 for poles this season.

Earlier, Gasly posted the fastest time in a rainy third and final practice.

Sainz Jr. starts from last after a complete engine change earlier this week.

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing

Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.