Championship points leader Lewis Hamilton ended up quickest in qualifying but due to a power unit change, teammate Valtteri Bottas will instead start on pole position with Max Verstappen joining the Mercedes driver on the front tow.
In a session that was overcast throughout, with spots of rain falling in Q1, the drivers were able to run slick tyres for the duration, with all the top ten runners except for Yuki Tsunoda getting through Q2 on the more durable medium compound, which they will all start Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix.
Hamilton had come into the session knowing he would drop ten positions from wherever he qualified, with Bottas leading the way for Mercedes after the first Q3 runs had been completed on a one minute, 23.071 seconds, with Hamilton second 0.022 seconds adrift.
Hamilton then took an unorthodox approach to the rest of the final part of qualifying, leaving his garage on a new set of softs with over five minutes of Q3 remaining.
He found time on his second flying lap to move ahead of Bottas on a one minute, 22.868 seconds, with the session’s best times in the second and third sectors.
Hamilton then back off ahead of completing a third Q3 flier, before which Bottas and Verstappen had their second goes and sole attempts to depose the world champion at the head of the times.
Bottas was 0.005 seconds ahead of Hamilton by the end of the second sector, but he lost time in the final third and wound up 0.13 seconds adrift.
Verstappen went through the second sector 0.134 seconds down on Hamilton and he too lost time in the final corners and finished 0.328 seconds down on the best time.
That remained Hamilton’s second Q3 flier, as although his third attempt started with the fastest time in the final sector he lost time through the rest of the lap, at the end of which he was already confirmed at the top of the times.
Charles Leclerc’s final Q3 lap bumped him up to fourth, knocking Pierre Gasly down one spot as the AlphaTauri driver was left to rue time lost in the final sector on his final Q3 lap.
Fernando Alonso took sixth ahead of Sergio Perez and Lando Norris, with Lance Stroll, who made it through to the shootout despite a late off at Turn 1 in Q2, and Tsunoda completing the top ten.
Leclerc’s late jump at the end of Q2 meant Sebastian Vettel was shuffled out in P11 after his personal best at the end of the middle segment was only good enough for briefly slotting into P10.
Behind Vettel came Esteban Ocon and George Russell, who rued a wild slide off the track at the final corner on his final lap.
The Williams driver had just set two personal bests in the opening two sectors and was on to challenge for another Q3 berth, but his successful attempts to catch the slides still put him too wide and he back off after returning to the track for the final run to the line.
Mick Schumacher scored a first on-merit Q2 appearance of his Formula 1 career, with the Haas driver ending up P14 – his best qualifying result so far – ahead of Carlos Sainz, who did not post a time as he will start Sunday’s race from last following his engine-change grid penalty.
Sainz did appear right at the end of Q2 to complete sectors on an out lap, where he was able to tow Leclerc down the hill out of Turn 8 on the lap that elevated the Ferrari driver into the top ten.
Q1 began with the cars queuing at the end of the pitlane well before the session began, the teams concerned the rain that fell throughout the morning at Istanbul and at the start of FP3 would return.
Spots of rain did fall during the opening segment, but not any intensity that would require intermediates and so the drivers stayed on the softs throughout Q1, which was topped by Hamilton.
He was one of many drivers to have off track moments and times deleted for running too wide out of the first corner, with Verstappen, Sainz, Tsunoda and Nikita Mazepin all spinning through the demanding, downhill left-hander.
Once the rain threat had receded, Sainz’s late improvement at the death in Q1 knocked out Daniel Ricciardo, who had completed his final flier well before the chequered flag came out and so was shuffled down the order and into danger as others improved behind him,
The same thing happened to Nicholas Latifi, who had been running near the top of the order during the early stages, and Antonio Giovinazzi – the pair knocked out in P17 and P18.
Kimi Raikkonen could not hit a personal best on his final Q1 lap as he was eliminated in P19, only ahead of Mazepin, who did produce his best time on his last effort, which was nevertheless the slowest lap in the opening segment.
So an excellent team effort from Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton looks very quick and even though he was the fastest in qualifying, the grid penalty will drop him in the mid pack but the pace looks good for the championship leader to recovery. As for Valtteri Bottas, he has a job in going for his first win this season and preventing Max Verstappen in scoring a top result for Red Bull. Bring on the race.
Qualifying positions, Turkish Grand Prix:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:22.998
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:23.196
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:23.265
4 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:23.326
5 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:23.477
6 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:23.706
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:23.954
8 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:24.305
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:24.368
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:24.795
11 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’22.868*
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:24.842
13 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:25.007
14 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:25.200
15 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.881
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:26.086
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari 1:26.430
18 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari 1:27.525
19 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:28.449
20 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari No time
*Ten-place grid penalty following power unit change