Words by Tony Robertson.Embed from Getty Images
Lewis Hamilton claimed a record-equalling seventh World Drivers Championship, as he navigated treacherous conditions in Istanbul to provide one of his best ever drives.
Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, the last challenger in this season’s championship race, both performed disappointingly in Saturday’s qualifying session, qualifying sixth and ninth respectively.
However, the Briton was able to carve his way through the field and ended the race with a gap of over 30 seconds, despite surprise pole-sitter Lance Stroll, the first Canadian to claim pole since Jacques Villeneuve in 1997, leading for most of the race. He also put himself as the fifth-youngest pole sitter ever in Formula 1.
The holder of that particular record is Sebastian Vettel, who rolled back the years to achieve his first podium of the 2020 season, finishing third just behind Sergio Perez, after a frantic final lap saw Charles Leclerc lock-up and go too deep three turns from the end to condemn him to a fourth-place finish.
Before the race had even begun, two cars had gone off track. Antonio Giovinazzi, who qualified in the top 10 for the first time this season, spun out while on his way to the grid.
George Russell didn’t even manage to leave the pitlane. The 22-year-old hit the pit wall while he was leaving his garage.
http://gty.im/1229626552 Now Russell hits the wall in the pit lane!
RUS 📻: “I crashed… I was going walking speed!”
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 15, 2020
As the lights went out on a wet and slippery Turkish Grand Prix, there was carnage from the very beginning. Max Verstappen, who had looked very impressive in qualifying, failed to find any power in getting away and slipped down the order.
The Renault’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon profited from this, with the Frenchman especially quick off the line to find himself in P2 at turn one, only to find his teammate there when he turned in. The resulting spin sent Ocon to the outside where Bottas was trying to gain track position. As the Finn swerved to avoid contact, he ultimately ended up facing the wrong way. This would be the start of a very bad race for Bottas.
The best starters at the front of the order were the two Racing Points who bolted away thanks to having extra pressure in the tyres to help warm them up. Hamilton also started well, moving up to P3, but found himself falling victim to the conditions when he dropped down to fifth later in the lap.
Vettel, who had qualified 12th, was like a duck to water in the wet as he elegantly moved through the field up to third by the end of the lap.
The first action of consequence, excluding those who pitted due to flat-spotted tyres, was on lap seven as Ferrari moved Leclerc onto intermediate tyres. Vettel and Hamilton followed suit two laps later, with Leclerc proving inters are the quicker tyre.
Red Bull were the last to pit their drivers, with Verstappen coming in on lap 12 and Alex Albon becoming the first-ever Thai driver to lead an F1 Grand Prix before pitting a lap later. Verstappen was hoping to overcut Perez, but a fault from the normally faultless Red Bull pit crew proved fatal as he came out behind the Racing Point, but just ahead of Vettel and Hamilton who had caught the front-runners.
Lap 16 saw Hamilton lock-up again, as he tried to move past Vettel for P4. But this opened the door for Albon to take P5 for himself and then to overtake Vettel in the same squabble.
Verstappen, cutting a frustrated figure in his RB16, tried to finally complete his move on Perez on lap 18, but did so in a way which still showed his rashness as he spun out and consequently dropped to P6 and then P8 after pitting to replace his flat-spotted tyres.Embed from Getty Images
Carlos Sainz moved himself up to P7 in the opening laps and had been slowly but surely getting quicker and quicker, putting pressure on Ricciardo in P6, finally getting the Aussie on lap 33.
Race leader Stroll took his second pit stop of the race on lap 36, going onto new inters despite his protests at the decision. A lap later Hamilton took the race lead from Perez, with both drivers potentially still needing to pit due to being on older, more worn tyres. However, what went in both these drivers’ favours is how good their tyre management skills are, with Perez and Hamilton possibly the best two drivers on the grid in that regard.
Meanwhile, Stroll became a sitting duck as Leclerc overtook him following the Canadians lock-up. Things would only get worse from here, with Stroll eventually finishing in P9. The decision to pit him proving fatal to his chances of winning the race.
UPDATE: During the team’s routine post-race car set down, we discovered damage to the underside of @lance_stroll‘s front wing that was a significant contributor to the graining issues he experienced during his 2nd and 3rd stints on the intermediate tyres at the #TurkishGP. [1/5]— BWT Racing Point F1 Team (@RacingPointF1) November 16, 2020
Hamilton, a master of both wet conditions and tyre management, bolted away from the rest of the pack to strengthen his grip on the championship, even lapping Bottas for good measure, who spun a total of six times throughout the race.
Lap 51 saw two spinners at turn four. Kimi Raikkonen and Verstappen both spin out while Albon looked sketchy through the turn. Though not two laps later did Verstappen manage to complete the overtake on Albon.
Lando Norris set the fastest lap of the race on lap 55, earning himself a bonus point. To take McLarens haul for the day to 15, with Sainz eventually finishing in P5, just behind the final lap skirmish which saw Leclerc trade his podium with Vettel.
Four retirements, numerous spins, pit strategies, last lap drama, an entertaining wet race. What’s not to love.
While today’s race means the WDC is decided with three races to go, there is still plenty to play for in the constructors.
Ferrari have moved themselves back into contention for a third-place finish if they can have more race finishes like today, now sitting just 24 points behind Racing Point in third. McLaren stay within touching distance of third, their strong Saturday really paying dividends. Renault on the other hand scored just one point and now find themselves six points ahead of Ferrari in sixth and 18 points off third.
The battle for third is now a four-way race to the finish.
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