Lewis Hamilton sealed the 2020 World Championship with a win at the Turkish Grand Prix, matching Michael Schumacher’s record tally and becoming the most successful F1 driver of all time.
It was a difficult win for Hamilton, who qualified in a season-worst sixth position and made a series of mistakes as drivers struggled for grip in the wet conditions. He benefitted as the leaders pitted for tyres, and then made the right call on staying out as the track began to dry. He finished 31 seconds ahead of the second-placed Sergio Perez, with Sebastian Vettel in third. The top five was rounded out by Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
Lance Stroll started on pole, his first time ever, in what proved a gripping qualifying session – ironically, due to the lack of grip. He was in a strong position for a large portion of the race, but after Racing Point decided to pit him on lap 36, he couldn’t get on with his new tyres and the lead fell tragically out of reach. He eventually finished in ninth, although he did pick up the point for fastest lap.
Max Verstappen was early to pressure the leaders, but he fell out of contention when he lost control and spun behind Perez on lap 18. The move destroyed his tyres, forcing him to stop again, and he eventually finished in sixth.
It was a bad race for Valterri Bottas, who entered the race as the only obstacle blocking Hamilton’s path to the title. But he spun on the opening lap and was clearly struggling to keep his car on track throughout the race. He eventually finished in 14th, his worst race finish all season. Still, he had a marginally happier day than the four DNFs – Antonio Giovinazzi retired due to gearbox damage (lap 11), Romain Grosjean and Nicholas Latifi sustained damage after a crash with each other (on laps 49 and 39 respectively), and a wheel issue ended Kevin Magnussen’s race in the pits.
To get one or two or even three is so hard, seven is unimaginable
– Lewis Hamilton
Speaking about the race, Hamilton said: “There was a point Seb was pulling away from me and at the time I couldn’t work out what it was. The grip started to come back and the track was drying in areas. I started to pick up the pace. Seb pitted and for me, I knew that wasn’t the right choice. The intermediate tyre holds temperature. If I went out on new slicks I wouldn’t have made it round. It was the best decision.”
On his record-breaking achievement, he said: “Definitely a bit lost for words. I think I have to always start with saying a huge thank you to all the guys here and back at the factory for giving us this opportunity. I wouldn’t be able to do this if I didn’t join this team. The journey we have been on has been monumental. I know I often say it is beyond wildest dreams but my whole life secretly I have dreamt as high as this.
“It felt so far fetched. I remember watching Michael win those world championships. To get one or two or even three is so hard. Seven is unimaginable. There is no end to what we can do together, me and this team.”
Perez said: “I told my team on the radio ‘one more lap on those tyres, I think they will have exploded!’ The vibrations were really bad towards the end. But I think it also made our race. Looking after them towards the beginning and towards the end, with dry conditions, I think the team did a fantastic job with the strategy in the race. Lewis today was extremely strong but we managed to get a result.
“I couldn’t see anything on my mirrors as they were full of fog, then I saw Max run wide and he disappeared. Also with Charles, I wasn’t aware he was so close to me. So in the final lap, it was a pretty good battle. He overtook me into Turn Nine, then I took him back into 11. A strong result for us.”
Vettel, with his best result all season, said: “It was quite intense but good fun. I had a really good opening lap, I found myself already in P4. It is a bit of a surprise to snatch the podium but I am certainly very happy.”
In two weeks’ time, the championship heads to Bahrain for the first of a two-parter. With the two championships now wrapped up, two major battles remain – Verstappen and Bottas are vying for second, and Racing Point, McLaren and Renault are all in contention for third in the constructors’ championship. It may lack the glamour of the first-place finish, but there’s still a lot to play for down the field.