This past weekends Turkish Formula 1 Grand Prix gave us everything we could’ve wanted in a race, and on top of that, another change in the lead for the Drivers’ Championship.
In what has become a trend in Formula 1 since the SPA Grand Prix was heavily impacted by the weather, Turkey was also a weekend where we saw a fair amount of rain over the weekend including on race day.
Despite qualifying on pole for the race on Sunday, Lewis Hamilton would start for 11th on the grid because of a new power unit he and Mercedes decided to take for the race. This penalty left his teammate Valtteri Bottas on pole with Hamilton’s championship rival Max Verstappen starting from 2nd. Horrible day for Danny Ric fans as he missed out on Q2 and started 16th.
The race had a fairly innocuous start aside from Alonso being turner around by Gasly basically ruining his race. But aside from that everyone got through the 1st lap ok. Lewis made some small moves to get into the top 10 but it was Carlos Sainz who did the overtaking early on in the race. The conditions were confusing for the drivers and teams. Despite no rain or very little rain intermediate tyres were the go and with that the stints went long.
Valtteri kept the lead from the start and built a decent gap that Max couldn’t contend with which would eventually be because Max was preserving his tyres for the potentially long stint, however even when the stint went very long Bottas kept the lead and looked good doing it. The real battle was between Lewis and everyone who stood in his way from working his way into the podium places. Sergio Perez did RedBull proud by fighting hard to fend off Hamilton’s attacks and keep him behind, but eventually Perez would pit and that would allow Lewis to pass him.
Charles Leclerc was another driver having a great race, quietly driving along and keeping his tyres alive as the conditions slowly, and I mean slowly began to dry. As the race went on, 3 drivers were toying with the idea of finishing the race with a no stop strategy, Ocon, Hamilton and Leclerc and for Leclerc and Hamilton it would mean podium finishes and for Leclerc a potential win, although Bottas was closing in and had the fresher tyres.
As the race wore on the Ferrari strategist brought Leclerc in giving Bottas the lead. Hamilton kept going and while a bit off the pace still setting good times that could keep him in the podium places but just as the race was coming to the final 10 laps, Mercedes made the decision to bring him in for fresher tyres which saw him out of the podium places. The decision was a move Hamilton was not impressed with and boy did he make it known. Ocon was the only driver who finished the race on his starting tyres, a herculean effort.
Unfortunately for myself and other McLaren fans Lando had an ok race finishing in 7th while Daniel Riccardo had a tough time but managed to find himself finishing in outside the points in 13th. Dan was the first driver to pit for Intermediate tyres but unfortunately the gamble didn’t pay off. The more disappointing part was that Ferrari had 2 drivers finish in the points closing their lead in 3rd place in the Teams Championship.
Amazingly despite the conditions during the race and the cautious way the drivers and teams had to approach their strategies, No drivers ended the race with a DNF. Carlos Sainz amazing drive from P20 at the start of the race to finish in P8 was a drive worthy of driver of the day. Unfortunately for fan favourite Seb Vettel, a ballsy decision to pit early and put the slicks on proved a bad one and saw him stumble down the order and finish out of the points.
Now all the focus turns to the US Grand Prix in 2 weeks’ time. Can Lewis return to the top step of the podium and take back his Championship lead, Will McLaren be able to turn back the clock to there Sochi/ Monza form and fight for the podium again. For my sake I hope both of those things happen, and also Seb Vettel can return to good form, he’s grown on me over the past few seasons.