Image: Wikimedia Commons / Ilham Aliyev
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Ilham Aliyev

Bottas wins Turkish GP as championship lead changes hands again

Valtteri Bottas won the Turkish GP in a dominant fashion, his first win of the season in his Mercedes swansong in a wet race that saw the championship lead flip again. Max Verstappen came second in what was an unexciting drive for an unexciting race, while the story of the day was Lewis Hamilton’s fall from the podium to finish in fifth.

Hamilton was fastest in qualifying, but his teammate took pole after taking a 10-place penalty for fitting a new engine. With Verstappen second, it was an exercise in minimising the points loss for the seven-time world champion, and he did well. He rose through the ranks, clearly relishing the wet conditions, sitting in fifth place by lap 15 after a battle with Yuki Tsunoda.

He’d stayed out on his tyres to make it up to third with nine laps remaining, and then Mercedes strategy went wrong. They called Hamilton in for a late pit stop, fearing that his tyres would go, but their driver was uneasy. With eight laps to go, Hamilton pushed his tyres too hard too soon, and then was stuck in fifth, any hope of a higher place gone as he had to race a defensive race. At one point, Hamilton was within 20 seconds of his teammate, but he eventually finished 41 seconds behind, an indication of how wrong things went. Ahead of Hamilton, Sergio Perez finished in third and Charles Leclerc in fourth, who lost the lead but benefitted from a positive pitting strategy.

Pierre Gasly should have come fifth, but a time penalty saw him come sixth, while Carlos Sainz drived an impressive race, rising from the back of the grid after an engine penalty to finish eighth. The tyre strategy went wrong for Sebastian Vettel, who tried dry tyres for a single lap, and eventually finished 18th. There was little else of interest down the field, with the promised thrilling race in the wet never really materialising, but there were some curios – Esteban Ocon finished the race without a pit stop, the first driver to do so since Mika Salo at the 1997 Monaco Grand Prix. And it was the first race not to record a single DNF since, I believe, the 2015 Japanese GP.

It’s been a while but feels good. From my side, it was one of the best races I’ve had – ever

– Valterri Bottas

After the race, Bottas said: “It’s been a while but feels good. From my side, it was one of the best races I’ve had – ever. Apart from that one little slide I’ve had everything under control. The car was good in every condition, really good confidence in it.

“I’m glad everything went smooth for once for me. It was nice. When only one drying line, it doesn’t need much to go off. I definitely needed to focus all through the race. A difficult one, but feels like a well-earned victory.”

Verstappen said: “It was not easy today, I mean the track was very greasy and we had to manage the tyres all race so we couldn’t really push. It seemed like Valtteri had more pace and could look after the tyres better as well, so I’m happy to finish in second place. It was all about managing the tyres, so you were never really pushing. I’m happy to be on the podium.

“I think it’s been close the whole year and I’m sure in Austin it will be another close battle with Mercedes. We just have to keep pushing, keep trying to improve and we’ll see where we are at the end – but it’s been a great season so far.”

Perez said: “It was an intense race in the first stint – fighting with Lewis and fighting with Charles.  It was just one of those races of having to be patient, push at right times and manage the tyres well. You didn’t really know what was going on with the tyres. It was hard to manage them out there today.”

On 24 October, we head over to Austin, Texas, for the United States Grand Prix. Hamilton has won six times there, and he’ll be looking to make that time number seven, taking back the championship lead in the process.

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