F1 – Turkish GP – Race
Merhaba, MiniFans! After yesterday’s entertaining qualifying, more than one driver was hit with grid penalties, mostly due to infractions during the session and one particular case, Gasly, where the team tried to backtrack an engine change when they saw that the McLarens were knocked down a handful of places each. A wet start was predicted and both Russell and Giovinazzi had problems keeping themselves in the track on their way to the grid due to the wet surface, giving mechanics a bit of extra work before the fun started.
Rain appeared on the horizon around an hour before the race was due to start, giving hope of a wet race. Once it was clear it would be a wet race, fingers were crossed worldwide for a normal start, bypassing the safety car, a wish granted by race direction. Only two cars dared used intermediate tyres for kickoff, while everyone else took the safe path. The start was completely full of mist and it wasn’t easy to see what was going off, apart from it being clear that drivers were trying to keep their cars in check rather than overtake as many places as possible. Verstappen looked like he couldn’t get any grip and his start demoted him a couple of places, while Vettel surprised everyone by eventually getting to third and fencing off the Dutch driver. An incident in the first lap, which granted no investigation from stewards, had Ocon and Bottas turned around after the Renault touched his teammate. Both Racing Point, back to being called “the pink Mercedes” this weekend, were soaring off into the distance.
Vettel wasn’t being intimidated by a Verstappen who, as much as he tried and as close as he got, wasn’t able to overtake him. Leclerc soon joined the Williams in their intermediate tyre gamble and, when Bottas asked for a different strategy, buried into the back of the pack after the first lap incident, he was given intermediates as well when Leclerc started setting fastest sectors, but not quite combining them into a lap yet. A lot of drivers started following suit, including Hamilton and Vettel, while the gap to the Racing Point cars shrunk and prompted them to stop as well. Only a couple cars remained on track with the full wet tyres, a request made by Verstappen while putting out fastest laps, soon yielding to the drying track as well.
A virtual safety car made an appearance for marshals to be able to retire Giovinazzi’s Alfa Romeo, slowing cars down slightly for a couple laps. In a short view back to the past, Hamilton and Vettel were fighting for position, but with the modern twist of Albon overtaking them both. In yet another unexpected turn of events, Verstappen spun and gave his tyres such flat spots trying to keep his car in check that he dove straight into the pits and an investigation for crossing the pit lane exit line with his front tyre. His teammate, however, was almost the only car on track making clean overtakes on a regular basis climbing his way up to podium positions. Vettel was comfortably settled in fourth and, ignoring the Racing Points at the front, the “best of the rest” title was between Ricciardo and Sainz, with the former managing to open up a gap after their difference having remained under a second for a good chunk of the race.
The point in which nursing the intermediates until slicks could be used and it seemed as if the race would settle until the next round of pit stops came around, but race direction enabled DRS, opening a world of possibilities to those who weren’t previously successful in their overtaking attempts. Hamilton’s complaints on the radio about how slippery the track was, as well as a new pit stop by Leclerc to get yet another set of green rimmed tyres, who had a big enough gap to Norris to keep his place, made it difficult to think it would ever be dry enough to forget the rain tyres. Stroll tried to fight his team’s decision for a new set of tyres and the hesitancy from the pit wall made him stop slightly too late, losing the position to Verstappen. Pérez, left to his own devices and not being called into the pits yet, was soon overtaken by Hamilton, who hadn’t changed tyres either.
New tyres didn’t give Stroll an advantage, losing positions left and right and a myriad of seconds to Verstappen, having left the pits right behind him, finally settling into eight. Both Ferrari cars were doing an incredible job and were finally up to the podium with Leclerc, followed by Vettel. Some teams were predicting rain for the last laps, but Verstappen was pretty sure the track would dully dry out, advising his team to have the slick tyres ready to go. The battle for fourth place in the constructor’s championship started to tilt away from Renault, with just one driver barely in the points, unlike its rivals.
The last couple of laps didn’t bring the excitement the opening ones did. The rain predicted wouldn’t arrive until the race was over, just as usual, despite the very dark clouds. No car was close enough to another in order to provide at least the expectation of an overtake. Hamilton, with a big enough gap to Pérez for a free stop, considered it due to his very old tyres and the looming threat of rain but finally decided against it, setting the results in stone, with one very notable exception. The last lap had Leclerc overtaking Pérez, but ultimately losing both the second place to him and the third to his own teammate in the last couple of corners.
The race proved entertaining despite the rain not coming during its course, but rather before it, wetting the track enough not to allow cars to use slicks. Hamilton managed to grasp his seventh world title, tying with Michael Schumacher, through a race that didn’t seem as if it would end up like it did, but both his work and Mercedes’ was almost flawless. Racing Point’s work ethic didn’t match the silver arrows and Stroll eventually fell through after fighting his team on their decision to stop and not managing to keep up the work he had been doing, unlike his teammate, who did keep his second step of the podium, albeit with a different car in front. In the most surprising turn of events, the third place was occupied by a red car that got the position in the last possible moment, stealing it from a teammate who had been occupying it for a long stint. All in all, the water did bring unexpected results but couldn’t avoid the clearest one: Hamilton leaving Turkey having been crowned world champion for the seventh time.