NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturday: Lewis Hamilton Earns Pole, to Start 11th After Penalty

A wild P3, Q1, and Q2 on a somewhat wet racetrack ended with a more ho-hum Q3 at the Turkish Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton qualified on the pole but will start the race in 11th after a 10 place grid penalty due to the Mercedes team installing a new internal combustion engine to their power unit.

The change came as Mercedes became concerned that the ICE would lead to a reliability failure, the last thing a driver in a close championship fight needs. Mercedes opted not to give Hamilton an entirely brand new power unit as that would have meant starting at the rear entirely, such will be the case of Carlos Sainz.

Sainz has had speed all weekend, but what could have been contending for a podium will probably morph into just rallying to finish in the points.

With Hamilton’s penalty, Valterri Bottas will begin the race on the pole. With Hamilton potentially out of win contention this weekend, Bottas will be looking to win outright and try to keep Max Verstappen behind him. Verstappen could do no better than third in qualifying.

Charles Leclerc qualified fourth and is in decent position to possibly get his second podium of the season. Ferrari has been strong this weekend, with Leclerc having finished third, second, and fifth respectively in P1, P2, and P3.

AlphaTauri had a great Saturday, with Pierre Gasly qualifying fifth after being fastest in P3 earlier in the day in the wet.

Yuki Tsunoda made it to Q3 for the first time since the second race at Austria and qualified 10th. Meanwhile, it was a bit up-and-down for mid-pack rival Alpine, as Fernando Alonso was able to qualify sixth but Esteban Ocon failed to get to Q3 and will start the race in 12th.

Sergio Perez qualified seventh and will almost surely serve as a gatekeeper for Hamilton during the race. It has been a bad weekend for McLaren, as they’ve struggled Friday and Saturday to find speed. Lando Norris was at least able to secure eighth in qualifying, but Daniel Ricciardo couldn’t even get out of Q1 and will start deep in the field. Meanwhile, Lance Stroll qualified ninth.

Turn one was a very sketchy spot in qualifying, as there were multiple spin-outs or brake lock-ups into the marbles. No cars were damaged in the run-off in all three qualifying sessions, however. As the track dried up from a somewhat rainy Q1 and a wet P3, the final turn became more of a trouble spot, with a few teams running off. There were no incidents in Q3.

Teams mainly chose to use mediums in Q2, with the track mostly dry outside of some wet patches. Perez was a victim of turn one in Q2, but the run-off allowed the special all-white Red Bull machine to continue on. Leclarc spun out on the exit of the final turn on his first hot lap, while George Russell qualified 13th after running off on his final hot lap. Sainz qualified 15th after never coming out, while Mick Schumacher (14th), Ocon (12th), and Sebastian Vettel (11th) were knocked out along with Russell in Q2. Stroll hung on to a top 10 position in spite of sliding into turn one on his final lap of the session.

Q1 started as an absolute mad dash, as teams forecasted that it could rain at any minute and thus had to go out early and get as dry a lap as possible. With that being said, the rain began to dissipate near the end of the session, and track conditions never fell below slick conditions tire wise.

Yuki Tsunoda spun out heading into turn one on his hot lap. Tsunoda was able to continue on without damage. Nikita Mazepin also spun out in turn one but was also undamaged. Mazepin (20th), Kimi Raikkonen (19th), Antonio Giovinazzi (18th), Nicholas Latifi (17th), and Ricciardo (16th) were knocked out in Q1.

In non-qualifying news, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali told Sports Business Daily this week that F1 was beginning to look at a possible third race in the United States, with the publication reporting it would be a street race on the Las Vegas strip.

While Vegas would make for a fun backdrop for a grand prix, perhaps having the Mexican Grand Prix and the United States Grand Prix fairly close together like that might lead to market saturation? Then if you factor in the Canadian Grand Prix and Miami, that could really burn this now suddenly big market for F1 in the coming years.

Andretti Autosport is reportedly buying 80 percent of Sauber Motorsport for $400 million. Sauber, the parent company of the Alfa Romeo F1 team, has scored one F1 win over the past 28 years of competition. Beginning in 2019, Alfa Romeo took over title sponsorship of the F1 team, which was very close to Ferrari driver and equipment wise until next year, when Valtari Bottas joins the race team. Andretti has denied the story to the press.

Michael Andretti, the team’s principal, would be looking for revenge in F1 after being largely embarrassed in 1993 in his lone season in the series as a driver.

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