Scuderia Ferrari endured an exceptionally difficult qualifying session at Istanbul Park for tomorrow's eighth Turkish Grand Prix. For the third time this season, after the races in Belgium and Italy, neither SF1000 made it through to Q3 in an afternoon when rain was the major factor. As happened in Austria, the only other time there has been a wet qualifying this year, it proved impossible to get the tyres up to the right operating temperature. As a result, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc will start from 12th and 14th on the grid respectively, when the race gets underway at 13.10 local (11.10 CET).
It rained heavily before the start of the session, but when the light went green at the end of pit lane at 3pm, it had stopped. As is usually the case in a wet qualifying, all the drivers went out on track immediately, with Seb and Charles opting for the Intermediates, posting times of 2:09.970 and 2:10.890 respectively. At that time it was good enough for Seb to make the cut and Charles to be 16th. Eight minutes later it began raining again and both Ferraris pitted to change tyres after which conditions became impossible and the session was red flagged. After a long wait, it restarted and Seb and Charles both got through with times of 2:03.356 and 2:04.464 respectively.
In the second part, again all the cars were immediately out on track on extreme wets, the only exception being the two McLarens. Seb and Charles continued to put in the laps but struggled more than others to get the tyres up to temperature and thus failed to get into Q3. Vettel's best of 1:55.169 put him 12th and Charles' time of 1:56.696 meant he was 14th. Both drivers therefore start from the dirty side of the track, which given the problems already seen with the surface could be a further handicap.
Sebastian Vettel: "We were struggling just to generate heat in the tyres, and in a situation like this I think couple of degrees makes all the difference. Unfortunately we were not able to maximize our potential and I felt the Extreme Wet was our weakest compound. I'm quite sure the car was better than P12, but not in these conditions.
"Tomorrow it will be interesting even starting from the midfield, because the situation with this track surface is something we haven't seen before, apart from maybe in Austin in 2012, when the asphalt was new. Yesterday, in the dry it was very tricky but was also fun. Of course the race won't be easy but I think there's definitely room to improve from our starting position."
Charles Leclerc: "The conditions were very difficult for us out there today and unfortunately, our performance was worse than expected, after a reasonably good weekend so far. This morning it was raining quite hard but I could feel the grip and I was confident with the car, but this afternoon it was a completely different picture.
"We just could not make the tyres work in quali, we were struggling in the rain and being so far off the pace is really not good. I'm hoping for a dry race tomorrow."
Laurent Mekies, Sporting Director: "This was clearly a very disappointing qualifying. We never managed to get the tyres into the right operating window, apart from our last run in Q1. We had already seen from the very first round this year in Austria that we struggle in the wet, but this morning on the intermediates, we were competitive and hoped that would also be the case in qualifying. However, especially on the extreme wets, the drivers were just unable to push.
"Throughout the sessions we saw big swings in performance, which shows just how difficult it was for everyone to get the tyres working properly. It's a shame, because up until this session, it seemed our package could have been competitive in the midfield, but it will be hard to move up from here. From what we saw yesterday, that will be a big disadvantage. But we will do our best, as always, to bring home as many points as possible. It's going to be a long and uncertain race, partly down to the weather forecast and we will try and make the most of any opportunity."
Check out our Saturday gallery from Istanbul, here.