Pole for Stroll, while Hamilton will start record-equalling title bid from sixth

Lewis Hamilton will start his bid to win a record-equalling world championship from sixth after Lance Stroll provided a major upset by putting his Racing Point on pole for Sunday's Turkish Grand Prix.

Hamilton and his all-conquering Mercedes team have had it virtually all their own way this year. But they were thrown an extraordinary curveball at the rain-lashed Istanbul Park circuit on Saturday with Hamilton trailing Stroll by almost five seconds.

Valtteri Bottas, the only man who can prevent Hamilton drawing level with Michael Schumacher's record haul of championships, will start further back in ninth. If Hamilton finishes ahead of his Mercedes team-mate on Sunday, he will claim an historic seventh title.

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ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP, second placed Sergio Perez of Mexico and Racing Point and third placed Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari celebrate on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Murad Sezer - Pool/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates winning a 7th F1 World Drivers Championship in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Ferrari's German driver Sebastian Vettel (R) congratulates Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton (L) after winning the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at the Intercity Istanbul Park circuit in Istanbul on November 15, 2020. (Photo by Kenan Asyali / POOL / AFP) (Photo by KENAN ASYALI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton reacts as he gets out of his car after winning the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at the Intercity Istanbul Park circuit in Istanbul on November 15, 2020. (Photo by Clive Mason / POOL / AFP) (Photo by CLIVE MASON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the race and the 7th world championship after the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at the Intercity Istanbul Park circuit in Istanbul on November 15, 2020. (Photo by TOLGA BOZOGLU / POOL / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA BOZOGLU/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Nicholas Latifi of Canada driving the (6) Williams Racing FW43 Mercedes on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Ozan Kose - Pool/Getty Images)
Spectators watch the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at the Intercity Istanbul Park circuit in Istanbul on November 15, 2020. (Photo by MURAD SEZER / POOL / AFP) (Photo by MURAD SEZER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 runs wide under pressure from George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Williams Racing FW43 Mercedes during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Turkish Air Forces aerobatic demonstration team, 'SOLOTURK' performs ahead of the Formula 1 DHL Turkish Grand Prix 2020 at Intercity Istanbul Park in Istanbul, Turkey on November 15, 2020. (Photo by Serhat Cagdas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Racing Point RP20 Mercedes stops in the Pitlane during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: People follow the Formula 1 DHL Turkish Grand Prix 2020 at Intercity Istanbul Park in Istanbul, Turkey on November 15, 2020. (Photo by Serhat Cagdas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Racing Point RP20 Mercedes leads Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Racing Point RP20 Mercedes and the rest of the field at the start during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Murad Sezer - Pool/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP looks on from the grid before the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Lewis Hamilton (44) of Mercedes competes during the Formula 1 DHL Turkish Grand Prix 2020 at Intercity Istanbul Park in Istanbul, Turkey on November 15, 2020. (Photo by Serhat Cagdas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton drives during the first practice session at the Intecity Istanbul Park circuit in Istanbul on November 13, 2020 ahead of the Turksish Formula One Grand Prix. (Photo by Kenan Asyali / POOL / AFP) (Photo by KENAN ASYALI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Antonio Giovinazzi of Italy driving the (99) Alfa Romeo Racing C39 Ferrari on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Kenan Asyali-Pool/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 12: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP talks in the Drivers Press Conference during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 12, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Antonin Vincent - Pool/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Nicholas Latifi of Canada driving the (6) Williams Racing FW43 Mercedes leads Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF1000 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Kenan Asyali-Pool/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB16 in the Pitlane during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) McLaren F1 Team MCL35 Renault during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 12: Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Great Britain during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 12, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Adrian Newey, the Chief Technical Officer of Red Bull Racing talks with a Red Bull Racing team member in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 12: Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes Team speaks to press at the paddock of the Intercity Istanbul Park ahead of Formula 1 DHL Turkish Grand Prix 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey on November 12, 2020. Teams made track walk at Intercity Istanbul Park as part of qualification lap on November 14 and the race on November 15. The Turkish Grand Prix will be held on Sunday at the Intercity Istanbul Park in Tuzla on the citys Asian side. (Photo by Serhat Cagdas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Renault Sport Formula One Team RS20 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Scuderia AlphaTauri prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Scuderia AlphaTauri prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Ferrari walks in the Paddock before practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 13: Alexander Albon of Thailand and Red Bull Racing prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 13, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 12: Antonio Giovinazzi (99) of Alfa Romeo drives at Turkish Grand Prix 2020 training tour, at Intercity Istanbul Park in Istanbul, Turkey on November 12, 2020. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 12: Lewis Hamilton (44) of Mercedes team drives at Turkish Grand Prix 2020 training tour, at Intercity Istanbul Park in Istanbul, Turkey on November 12, 2020. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Ozan Kose - Pool/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF1000 makes a pitstop during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 spins during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Tolga Bozoglu - Pool/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - NOVEMBER 15: Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates winning a 7th F1 World Drivers Championship in parc ferme during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey at Intercity Istanbul Park on November 15, 2020 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Tolga Bozoglu - Pool/Getty Images)
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This has been a predictable Formula One campaign – with Hamilton a victor at nine of the 13 rounds – but the outcome of Sunday's race is far from certain. The recently-resurfaced 3.3 miles of asphalt on the sport's first visit to Istanbul in nine years has not suited Hamilton's Mercedes machine. And with rain on the radar, Hamilton's date with destiny will be far from straightforward.

"This whole weekend has been a nightmare on the track," said Hamilton, who heads into Sunday's race 85 points clear of Bottas with only 104 points available.

"The track feels terrible, it is like driving on ice, but for whatever reason some people can get the tyres switched on better than us.

"I am not really sure what to say. We tried our hardest and I did the best I could. That was the fastest I could go."

Hamilton, so often the master of the wet conditions, was never in contention to take pole. That honour looked set to fall to Red Bull's Max Verstappen who completed a practice treble and finished top of the time charts in Q1 and Q2. But Racing Point pulled off a masterstroke to put both Stroll and his team-mate Sergio Perez on the faster intermediate tyre at the beginning of Q3.

Verstappen would switch from the extreme wet rubber but he fell two tenths short of usurping Stroll. Perez finished third in the other Racing Point.

"I can't really put it into words right now," said Stroll, 22, who missed the Eifel Grand Prix in Germany last month through illness and subsequently tested positive for coronavirus.

"I'm shocked, I didn't expect us to be up here. I was under a lot of pressure, but I had the confidence in the car and I just nailed pretty much every corner. It's such a great way to bounce back after a few rough weeks.

"It's a special moment for me. It's one of the biggest highlights of my career. We dream about these moments, growing up."

Qualifying took the best part of two hours to complete after Q1, the opening 18-minute running, was suspended on two occasions. With just 10 minutes on the clock, race director Michael Masi deemed the conditions were too dangerous as rain continued to batter the circuit, 30 miles east of Istanbul.

A 45-minute delay ensued as Bernd Maylander pounded round the track in his safety car, while a truck was also sent out in a bid to remove some of the standing water.

Masi gave the green light for qualifying to resume at just before 4pm local time, but the session was suspended only three-and-a-half minutes later when Romain Grosjean beached his Haas at the opening bend. With Grosjean's Haas removed from the sand trap, Q1 finished, one hour and 10 minutes after it started.

Both Ferraris were dumped out of Q2, with Sebastian Vettel 12th and Charles Leclerc 14th before Stroll ended Mercedes' exclusive run of poles at every round of this Covid-disturbed campaign.

On Sunday, Stroll will become the first Canadian to start a grand prix from the front of the pack since former world champion Jacques Villeneuve 23 years ago.

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