Did Red Bull pack pole position for Lance Stroll?


Lance Stroll took the first pole position of his career in qualifying for the Turkish Grand Prix, but for the majority of the wet session it looked like Max Verstappen had finished first. Here’s what went wrong for the Dutchman …

The Red Bull blunder

Max Verstappen finished the second qualifying session 1.9s behind the rest of the peloton. Mercedes was nowhere, teammate Alex Albon was his closest competitor but showed no sign of challenging him and Lance Stroll was three seconds off pace in fourth. As Q3 started it looked like pole position was Verstappen’s.

So what is wrong?

Verstappen had found his advantage in Q1 and Q2 using the extreme rain tires, but in Q3 the intermediates came into play. Parts of the track were starting to show signs of a drying line and that meant the larger Intermediate contact zone was able to find grip on the track without aquaplaning.

But at the very start of Q3, it was still the crossroads between extreme wet conditions and intermediates. The choice of intermediaries was still a big gamble and the only two drivers who tried it from the start were Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Renault’s Esteban Ocon. To emphasize how this was a marginal call, Perez signed the fastest time with the help of intermediaries while Ocon initially set the slowest time and opted to return to the safety of the wet.

Seeing his teammate 1.8 seconds away using the middleman, Stroll radioed his pits to request the same tires. Red Bull saw the potential in intermediates as well, but Verstappen was on a new fastest lap as he approached the pits – a lap capable of beating Perez’s existing fastest time at intersections – making the decision more difficult.

Red Bull pulled him into the pits anyway, and while that might seem like a mistake as his sector times were the fastest at the time, they wouldn’t have been competitive enough to compete with the top four. time. Bringing in Verstappen in for intermediaries was the right move as things unfolded, although the exact time and place of his return didn’t help his situation.

As he returned to the track in the intermediates, Verstappen joined Kimi Raikkonen’s slower Alfa Romeo, which meant he struggled to squeeze heat into the tires which were so crucial to lap time. . Nonetheless, the fastest first sector of his lap at the end of the session was a match for Stroll’s and it was only after an oversteer at Turn 7 that he started to fall back.

“We had a hard time activating the intersection versus the extreme and you can see these tires are quite delicate,” said team principal Christian Horner after the session. “Max had seemed supreme in Q1 and Q2, then got caught behind Kimi on a few laps that didn’t allow him to light those tires and this last lap he had a snap. [of oversteer] and lost about 0.6s on turn 7.

“But when you didn’t have the preparation and the momentum in the faster corners, especially with Kimi’s dirty air, it was difficult for him to generate that temperature, and unfortunately the snap at Turn 7 – it was 0.6s faster at this point – reset it, so I had to do it again. ”

The key was to be on the right tires and to have them at the right temperature while the track conditions were at their best at the end of the session. Stroll, Verstappen and Perez were all on the right tires in the dying moments of Q3, but Stroll was the only one of those three to put in a clean lap when it mattered. Even with the subsequent shift to intermediates and traffic, Verstappen had the potential to take pole but ultimately missed his mistake at Turn 7.

Credit where it’s due

Stroll’s turn was impressive whether or not Verstappen had the potential to beat him. Racing Point hasn’t been a game for Red Bull all year, but in some of the toughest conditions of the year it was the Canadian who put in a quick and clean lap worthy of pole. position.

He did so by raising the yellow flags at Turn 7 where his more experienced teammate, who had done a faster lap up to this point, had spun. The flight attendants investigated whether Stroll ignored the yellows, but telemetry and onboard footage clearly showed him lifting the throttle and crossing the turn – enough for the flight attendants to agree that he demonstrated caution while his teammate was seated in the relief zone.

Stroll always set personal best mini-sectors on this part of the track, which is typically used as a barometer for whether a pilot has ignored yellow flags, but as conditions improved so much by the end of the session , his faster sector times were seen as the result of improving track conditions rather than pushing him independently of the yellows. Even with the lift he still had a 0.290s advantage over Verstappen on the same tires under the same conditions.

Whichever way you did it, it was a great qualifying round.

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