Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, which means that he…
Valtteri Bottas claimed his first Grand Prix victory in more than a year with a commanding performance at the Turkish Grand Prix from Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. Lewis Hamilton had looked set to run from flag to flag on a single set of intermediate tyres before bowing to team orders which dropped him from a potential podium position and left him less than happy with the order.
Persistent rain had fallen throughout the night before and into the morning, which left the track well and truly saturated as the drivers climbed into their cars under the cover of temporary marquees on the grid. Though the rain had eased, a heavy cloud cover, with 94% humidity and cold conditions meant that tyres might not be up to temperature during the opening corners of the race.
As the race began it was Bottas who enjoyed a comfortable gap to Verstappen at the first turn, while Perez ran three wide with Gasly and Alonso at the entry to the corner. A touch from the Alpha Tauri saw Alonso’s Alpine pirouette across the run off before returning to the track in 17th.
Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo edged themselves cautiously past the back markers mindful of the need to avoid any possible damage to the new power units that led to starting positions at the rear of the field. The pair sat 16th and 17th respectively behind Alonso on lap 2. The trio had all gained a place after contact between Alonso and Schumacher led to spin the Haas driver.
Lewis Hamilton had moved into 9th place at the completion of the opening lap after passing Vettel, but then took more of a considered approach to his challenge on Yuki Tsunoda for 8th after the Japanese driver shut off an early attempted pass by the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 driver.
Hamilton’s chances of staying within range of the leaders had been compromise by his fight with Tsunoda as the Alpha Tauri driver fell away at the rate of 3 seconds a lap by the start of the 4th tour. Bottas led Verstappen by 1.6 seconds, with Leclerc a further 1.5 second in arrears. Gasly, Norris, Stroll, Tsunoda, Hamiilton and Vettel maintained stations in the top 10. Hamilton finally moved ahead with an outside pass at Turn 3 on lap 8. He then made light work of Stroll and Norris with a string of fastest laps.
Sainz continued to move towards the points as he passed Russell, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi and then Ocon in successive laps. Ricciardo, on the other hand, found it more difficult and remained stuck behind the Russell Williams. The Australian wasn’t helped by an issue with the brake balance that saw the rear tyres repeatedly lock on a circuit which simply didn’t seem to suit the McLaren.
Ricciardo became the first to stop for a new set of intermediate tyres on lap 24 and dropped to 18th. The change did little initially to aid the progess of the Australian, who completed his opening lap at a slower pace than Leclerc in 3rd.
The race entered a watch and wait stage, with the track not drying to the point of slicks and a drizzle of rain not enough to glaze the surface. As a result the rest of the field remained out on intermediates that looked more like slicks as the tread gradually wore away without losing performance.
By lap 36 the rain has increased slightly as Bottas edged out to a 6 second lead over Verstappen, with Leclerc moving to within 2 seconds of the Red Bull Honda. Ricciardo began to make inroads on the cars ahead, which had triggered a run of stops. Alonso had stopped shortly after the Australian and served a 5 second penalty for his contact with Schumacher. Norris, Verstappen, Sainz and then Bottas stopped for more intermediate. Vettel gambled on medium compound slicks in a move that really did not work. The Aston Martin ran wide at Turn 1 and then became a mobile chicane as he fell to 18th before making another stop for intermediates at the end of lap 39.
Leclerc stayed out to take the race lead from Bottas, Verstappen and Hamilton. Gasly remained in 5th from Perez, Stroll, Norris, Ocon and Sainz. As the race moved towards the final 20 laps there became the distinct possibility that Leclerc and Hamilton could complete the race distance on a single set of tyres, a move that was permissible with the race run on wet tyres.
Hamilton was told to box on lap 44 but argued the point, suggesting that a move to slicks was perhaps the better option later in the race.
Leclerc’s lead came to an end on lap 47 when Bottas reclaimed the number 1 position. The Ferrari showed signs of a blistered right front tyre after a couple of significant lock ups and simply didn’t have the pace to match the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 on newer tyres. Leclerc stopped on lap 49 and dropped to 4th behind Hamilton. Daniel Ricciardo had finally found pace on his second set of tyres and sat just behind Stroll in 10th, but told his team that the rear tyres were only just holding on, by a thread.
Hamilton was told to box for a second time on lap 51 and duly obliged. The stop dropped the #44 to 5th, behind Leclerc and Perez.
“What position are we in,” Hamilton demanded from his team. When told he occupied 5th place, the British driver was even less impressed. “We shouldn’t have come in man. We’ve got massive graining man, I told you.”
Valtteri Bottas went on to claim the win, his first Grand Prix victory in over a year. Max Verstappen led a 2-3 result for Red Bull Honda ahead of Sergio Perez. Charles Leclerc finished 4th ahead of Lewis Hamilton, Pierre Gasly, Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz, Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon. Daniel Ricciardo dropped to 13th at the chequered flag as his rear tyres finally lost their grip and was passed by both Alfa Romeo drivers.
“It’s been a while, it feels good,” Valtteri Bottas said to Sky Sports when asked about the win. “From my side it was probably one of the best races I’ve had ever. Apart from that one little slide everything was under control. The car has been good in every condition and I had confidence to control it. It’s not easy to choose the strategy here, when to stop and to which tyre, but I’m glad that everything went smooth for me for once and that’s nice.”
“It was not easy today,” Max Verstappen told Sky Sport. “The track was very greasy and you just had to manage the tyres for the whole race, so we couldn’t really push. It just seemed like Valtteri had a bit more pace and could maybe look after the tyres a little bit more as well. I’m just happy to finish 2nd, because in these conditions it is so easy to get it wrong and you drop back. So overall, very pleased.”
The result sees Max Verstappen regain the World Championship lead with a 6 point gap to Lewis Hamilton as teams prepare for the US Grand Prix at Austin from October 22-24.
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