F1 – Turkish GP – Race
Merhaba, MiniFans! Istambul woke up to Ricciardo taking advantage of his bad qualifying to get a few grid penalties for new engine parts out of the way and a rainy morning that declared that, while it didn’t look like it would fully rain, it wanted to shake things up a bit and make the drivers start with intermediate tyres.
With Lewis Hamilton out of the way due to his engine related grid penalty, the duty of holding Verstappen back at the start in tricky conditions fell onto Bottas. He managed to do so, pulling off an incredible start to defend himself, while Alonso, who had started in fifth, spun outside of turn 1 after a small touch with Gasly, losing more than ten places in the action. Both Alfa Romeo pulled a show of gaining places, going up four positions each. Despite the spray lifted up by the powerful machines that F1 cars are, the grip was incredibly high for a wet track, only a couple of spins seen in the first races and mainly due to small collisions between cars, which prompted a few investigations by the stewards. Sainz and Ricciardo were slowly making their way up, but Hamilton was taking his sweet time trying to get past Tsunoda, finally pulling a beautiful overtake on the Alpha Tauri. A couple 5-second penalties were awarded to both Gasly and Alonso, for causing collisions in the first lap of the race, while Bottas relayed to his team, already planning the stops, that there were no dry patches on track anywhere, a few others confirming this over radio too.
Once past a handful of cars and in pursuit of Gasly, Hamilton started pulling fastest laps and lapping the track almost one second faster than Verstappen, also managing to go past the Alpha Tauri as soon as he set his sight on it. The other two cars trying to go back to their usual places were having very different results: Sainz was mostly following in Hamilton’s steps, slowly crawling back up, but Ricciardo was not, as he had gotten stuck behind Russell. However, the Mercedes driver was starting to panic, as his tyres weren’t going great but the only stop they’d like to make would be to slicks and the track was still very wet. They couldn’t stop but another team could. McLaren decided to pit Ricciardo for fresh intermediates, as he’d only lose two places and it might help in resetting his mind after having been stuck behind Russell.
A bit more rain was reported over several radios, but nothing too bad, while Vettel told his team he thought it would dry out before the end of the race, so drivers were still kept out to try and go for just one stop and go straight so slicks, while Alonso copied Ricciardo’s strategy, going for a new set of intermediates, as well as Norris, because they were not as convinced as Vettel was about the track drying up. Back at the front, Hamilton and Pérez’s battle caught all eyes. When it seemed as if the Mercedes driver had it very easy, the Mexican fought back tooth and nail, even getting pushed into the pit lane entry and not allowing him to pass. Red Bull called Max into the pit for new intermediates as well, leaving the lane right in front of his teammate. This unleashed a string of stops too, while Vettel decided to take a risk and give the slicks a try, but it clearly wasn’t working and was soon back in the pits for wet weather tyres.
There was one driver who was thinking out of the box: Leclerc asked his team whether he could make it to the end with the tyres he had on. The answer was clear: he could, as a race declared as wet does not require a stop to change tyres. However, this wasn’t realistic, as his tyres were very old, but he stayed on the track despite the difficulties, still requiring answers from his team. Hamilton was being very stubborn about it too, telling his team he would not go in, and he still stayed out while Leclerc finally came to an agreement with Ferrari as soon as Bottas overtook him and pitted. Mercedes did eventually get through to him and he complied with the team’s orders, due to his times being very slow compared to Sainz and Norris, pulling the fastest laps of the race, and he left the boxes behind Pérez. The last laps of the race were mostly uneventful, save for a few outbursts from Hamilton over the radio about the team’s choice and Bottas regaining the fastest lap. Pérez overtook Leclerc, who was struggling with rear grip, settling his place on the podium alongside his teammate.
The race wasn’t quite the expected one. A track that wouldn’t fully dry no matter what despite the occasional reported rain being just a few drops, provided a different scenario than usual. Stubbornness from a handful of drivers almost made them make it to the end in the same tyres they started the race in (Ocon was the only one to manage it) and, at one point, Leclerc wasn’t such a crazy choice for race winner. In the end, Verstappen took back the championship lead with only more six races to go.