Lance Stroll claims shock Istanbul GP pole position as Hamilton and Verstappen falter dramatically in soaking qualifying

LEWIS HAMILTON went cold turkey on his blistering assault on a record-equalling seventh world title here in Istanbul.

The Brit only needs to finish ahead of his Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas in Sunday’s Turkish GP.

Hamilton usually excels in the rain, but a deluge proved to be a total washout, as he qualified down in sixth place while Bottas will start a lowly ninth.

But the Mercedes' duo's fate was only part of this story in another embarrassing display that raises yet more questions for F1 and the FIA's Race Director, Michael Masi.

In a catalog of cock ups, there was a 44-minute delay as the track was deemed too dangerous due to the heavy rain.

Drivers had already criticised the lack of grip at this Istanbul track that has not been used for F1 since 2011.

On top of that, it had recently been resurfaced, making it more difficult for grip, even in the dry.

Further complications were caused by tyre supplier Pirelli openly admitting it was working data that was ten years old to pick the tyre selection.

Not that it mattered anyway because on Saturday the poor drainage made this race too dangerous for even the best drivers in the world.

At one point, a stray dog and a road-sweeper were the two fastest things on track for almost an hour.

Embarrassing pictures beamed around the world for F1, considered the pinnacle of motorsport.

Quite why F1 is in this position – using a road sweeper similar to your local council – to push water about,  rather than a jet-dryer as they do in the US for IndyCar, is another question for Masi.

But an even bigger cause for concern should be why the Aussie agreed to starting the second period of qualifying while a crane was still on track removing a Williams that was stuck in gravel.

Poor visibility, a wet track and a moving crane; it had scarry echoes to that tragic day in Suzuka in 2014 when Jules Bianchi struck the crane and never recovered from his injuries.

Former F1 driver, Marcus Ericsson, who was driving at the Japanese GP that day tweeted: "Please F1 how on earth can you start the session with the safety truck on track still!?!? Have we not learned from the past? I can't believe it."

There were spins galore with pretty much every driver having their own nervy moment.

The only driver who looked confident was Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who topped the sessions until his team pitted him with six minutes to go for intermediate tyres.

The Dutchman was flying on the wet tyres and he aborted his quick lap to enter the pits for a change of rubber.

But the decision backfired, as he was not able to go any quicker and lost grip, allowing Lance Stroll to take his maiden podium.

The Canadian was then called in to the stewards, who wanted to check to see if he slowed significantly under waved yellow flags.

And finally, two and a half hours after he had crossed the line, he was able to keep his front row spot ahead of Max Verstappen.

For Hamilton, he only needs to beat Bottas to clinch the title. And while he was scathing about the 'terrible' track, he is in a relaxed mood.

He said: "We tried our hardest and did the best we could and that was the fastest we could go.

"The track feels terrible. Just like driving on ice. For whatever reason some can get tyres working better than us.

"Ultimately we were all struggling, but some better than others. I did the best I could.

"I didn't spin or I didn't make mistakes, I'm generally happy, did everything I could with what I had.

"But this track ruined it with resurfacing of the circuit and it made it tricky for everyone.

"This whole weekend has been a nightmare to be honest. The grip is so poor. It is the worst I've experienced in years of racing."

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