Bottas wins in Turkey as Verstappen reclaims title lead


Though we positively refuse to go down the hyperbolic route of certain broadcasters, we really do feel that we are being spoiled this season.

Maybe it's because Mercedes has been so dominant for so long, or simply because we've all been moaning for so long, but the fact is this is really shaping up to be a classic season.

While it is too much to hope for an Interlagos 2008 scenario whereby the title is decided on the final lap in (groan) Abu Dhabi, Max and Lewis do appear determined to take this all the way.

As if this wasn't enough, Lady Luck and the Weather Gods have been playing their part, throwing the odd spanner in the works to spice things up a little further at a time Ross and his pals are working overtime to try and do a similar job with gimmicks.

Heading into today's Turkish Grand Prix the title fight is finely balanced with just 2 points separating the combatants, and just to add a little more spice Lewis has an engine penalty.

Having failed so miserably to put up a fight in Russia, will Valtteri make more of an effort today to hold off Max, or has the Finn already thrown in the towel as far as Mercedes is concerned.

Of course, a win, other than helping his teammate and his team would also give the Finn his first victory of the season, but he's up against a very, very determined Dutchman.

Though he has been off the pace all weekend, Max will know that today is the perfect opportunity to retake the advantage in the championship, and while he might be hoping his rival is delayed by the midfield mob he cannot rely on it, furthermore he knows that an emphatic win will get under his rival's skin.

There's damp in the air and an hour before the race start there is every chance that it will be declared wet, which will be bad news for the likes of Leclerc.

Alonso will be good to watch whatever the weather, while Perez, who had another dismal qualifying, has a golden opportunity to shine.

While it is going to be interesting to watch Hamilton's progress through the field, keep an eye on Sainz and Ricciardo who are both starting from the very back due to engine change penalties.

Schumacher believes that today is his best opportunity to open his points account and surely nobody would begrudge the youngster, however it is a mighty big ask.

The driver parade is a somewhat miserable affair, the drivers all sporting warm clothing in the cold drizzle.

The fastest way to approach the race is a two-stopper, with one stint on the medium and two hard. This is because two stops minimise graining and wear, allowing drivers to push harder during shorter stints. Of the leading ten, all but Tsunoda are on the medium.

Next-quickest is a one-stopper, going from the medium to the hard (and the next-fastest strategy after that involves doing two stints on the medium and one on the hard). So the nine drivers who got through Q2 on the medium tyre, and will therefore start the race on this compound, have a few options available to them (depending on which tyres they have available).

However, a more aggressive two-stop 'sprint' strategy using the soft tyre to start the race might also pay off under the right circumstances - so the strategy is finely balanced.

Those starting on the soft tyre will need to stop relatively soon into the race due to the high wear rates on this compound (also because of the pressure-washed track surface) but after that they also have options.

The pit stop time loss penalty in Turkey is one of the lowest of the year at 20 seconds, which works in favour of a two-stopper: especially if it turns into an eventful race.

On the other hand, as mist envelops the circuit just thirty minutes before the start all this is likely to go out the window.

Indeed the pitlane opens and as the cars head out they are sporting Inters.

"Perfect for intermediates," confirms Verstappen, while Bottas says that it seems to be raining at every race these days. Ironically, Vettel is sporting a "Water = Life" T-shirt.

As the drivers gather for the national anthem, Adrian Newey is studying the Red Bull, scribbling away in his notebook.

As Bottas climbs into his Mercedes, his crew is working on his front-right brake drum.

Ahead of the formation lap, Russell predicts that it will be Inters for much of the race.

Air temperature is 15.9 degrees C, while the track temperature is 18.5 degrees. Humidity is 93.3%.

"I don't know whether to go on the inside or outside at Turn 1," says Hamilton, his message obviously meant for someone else.

All are starting on the Inters. "The weather will be like this for quite a while," Alonso is advised.

They head off on the formation lap. All get away cleanly.

The grid forms.

They're away. Bottas has the better start and leads into Turn 1 as Leclerc is almost alongside Verstappen.

Behind Leclerc, Alonso, Gasly and Perez are side-by-side into the opening corner, and courtesy of a nudge from the Frenchman Alonso spins.

"What a stupid guy, Gasly," says the Spaniard. "I'm in a sandwich," says the Frenchman.

At the other end of the field, Ricciardo and Sainz are battling, making short work of Mazepin.

At the end of Lap 1, it's: Bottas, Verstappen, Leclerc, Perez, Gasly, Norris, Stroll, Tsunoda, Hamilton and Vettel.

Sainz is 17th, ahead of Ricciardo, Mazepin and Latifi.

Schumacher spins after being clouted by Alonso and drops down the order.

Hamilton makes a move on Tsunoda but the AlphaTauri driver slams the door firmly shut.

Out front, after 2 laps, Bottas has built a 1.3s lead while Verstappen is 1.8s clear of Leclerc.

Verstappen reports gearshift issues as the stewards are looking at the Alonso/Gasly clash and also the Alonso/Schumacher clash.

After just 5 laps drivers are being told to cool their Inters.

Sainz passes Russell for 14th as Tsunoda continues to hold off Hamilton.

Sainz passes Raikkonen, who appears to be enjoying himself, as Verstappen falls 1.8s behind the leader.

Tsunoda doing a sterling job of holding off Hamilton, but the Mercedes drivers goes around the outside in Turn 3 to take 8th.

As Sainz passes Gasly for 12th, Gasly gets a 5s time penalty for that first corner clash with Alonso.

Hamilton makes short work of Stroll, the world champion's next target being his Sochi sparring partner, Norris.

Alonso is handed a 5s time penalty for causing a collision with Schumacher.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Istanbul, here.

"There's no dry patches or lines yet," reports Bottas.

Hamilton sweeps past Norris to take sixth, his next target being Gasly.

"It's still very greasy," reports Verstappen who is now 2.4s down on his foe.

In clear air, Hamilton posts a new fastest lap (34.206). Next time around he improves to 33.450.

While Sainz is up to 11th, Ricciardo is still 16th.

Hamilton is a man on as mission, and as he posts another fastest lap (33.428), Bottas responds by going quickest in S1.

"Track is driers, but far from slicks," reports Russell, as Bottas reports light drizzle at Turn 8.

Sainz and Vettel touch as the Spaniard passes the Aston Martin for 10th, the Ferrari clearly struggling for grip.

On Lap 15, Hamilton passes Gasly heading into Turn 12 for 5th, next up is Perez, who is 6s up the road.

Verstappen ups his pace but remains 3.1s down on Bottas, while Leclerc is only 2.6s behind.

Sainz passes Tsunoda heading into Turn 12 for 9th.

"Life and coast," Perez is told as Hamilton closes to within 4.8s.

On Lap 18, Bottas posts a new fastest lap (33.146).

"Graining appears to have cleared up," Ricciardo is told, "let's see if there's anything left."

Verstappen is told to ease his pace and hold the gap to Bottas. "It's good to know it's there is we need it," he is told.

A new fastes lap for Hamilton (33.019) as he closes to within 3.6s of Perez.

Ricciardo pits at the end of lap 21, the McLaren driver fitting a new set of Inters.

A spin for Tsunoda at Turn 9, the youngster being passed by Giovinazzi in the process.

Lap 23 sees Leclerc post the fastest lap (32.981) as he is advised that Ricciardo is slower on his fresh Inters.

Bottas comes upon the battling Haas duo. While Schumacher smartly moves aside, Mazepin not so.

"There's a bit more rain now," reports Bottas. However, he is told that nothing "significant" is expected.

"These tyres are basically slicks now," says Bottas. "Temps are starting to drop a little bit," adds Hamilton, "still no dry line."

Another very, very questionable move by Mazepin when being passed, this time involving Hamilton.

Bottas warned of rain from Turns 6 to 12.

After 30 laps (of 58), Verstappen has fallen 4s behind Bottas.

Alonso pits at the end of Lap 31, the Spaniard serving his 5s time penalty in the process. He rejoins in 18th.

Hamilton is now on Perez' tail, the pair separated by 1.2s.

"If there was a safety car, would you consider a soft tyre," Vettel is asked. "Yes," he replies.

Ricciardo passes Latifi for 16th.

Perez and Hamilton are side by side, he makes his move in the final corners of lap 34, he is alongside the Mexican but the Red Bull driver stands his ground. They almost touch as the pass the pitlane entrance. Down the main straight they are side by side, but Perez has the inside line for Turn 1. Seeing discretion as the better part of valour, Hamilton eases off.

"He pushed me off," declares Perez.

Great stuff.

At the end of lap 36, Tsunoda and Russell pit, as does Verstappen.

Verstappen rejoins in 3rd, just ahead of his teammate... and Hamilton.

Sainz pits, rejoining in 9th, while Vettel also stops, the German switching to slicks (mediums).

Bottas pits at the end of lap 37, as does Perez.

"No, it's not working," admits Vettel after going off at Turns 1 and 7.

After 37 laps, Leclerc leads Bottas, Verstappen, Hamilton, Gasly, Perez, Stroll, Norris, Ocon and Sainz.

Following the lap from hell, Vettel is back in the pits, following another nasty wobble at the pitlane entrance.

Gasly pits at the end of lap 39, as does Stroll. The Frenchman rejoins in 6th, having served his penalty also.

"You can stick with this set to the end if you wish," Leclerc is told. The Monegasque is currently 5.5s clear of Bottas who is 6s clear of Verstappen.

Giovinazzi and Schumacher both pit at the end of lap 41.

"Box, box, box, box," Hamilton is told. "Why?" he replies. "New Inters are the way to go," he is told. "I don't think so, man," insists the world champion.

Meanwhile, Sainz is hunting down Ocon for 8th. The Frenchman is one of three who hasn't stopped. The others who haven't stopped are Leclerc and Hamilton.

"I don't know what's wrong with my steering wheel but it's going more and more left," reports Verstappen.

Hamilton reports that it "isn't far off dries".

Echoes of Marathon Man as Leclerc asks: "Is it safe, is it safe?" Referring to the conditions as Bottas closes to within 0.332s.

Sainz passes Ocon for 8th in Turn 1.

"We think we should stop," Leclerc is told. Moments later, heading into Turn 1 the drivers is passed by Bottas' Mercedes.

Hamilton still debating tyres with his engineers.

Leclerc pits at the end of lap 48, rejoining in 4th.

After 48 laps, it's: Bottas, Verstappen (+ 6.4s), Hamilton (+ 5.3s), Leclerc (+ 11.8s), Perez (+ 1.3s), Gasly (+ 11.6s), Norris (+ 4.8s), Sainz (+ 14.7s), Ocon (+ 9s) and Stroll (+ 4.8s).

Asked about his tyres, Hamilton replies: "I'm sliding around, but it's okay!"

"Rears hanging on by a thread," reports Ricciardo.

Hamilton finally pits at the end of lap 50, the Briton fitting a new set of Inters. He rejoins in 5th, behind Perez.

The stop comes at a time there is a big, dark cloud heading towards the circuit.

Despite his fresher rubber, Leclerc can do nothing to hold off Perez and thereby the final podium place.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Istanbul, here.

"I have no rear grip at all," warns Leclerc.

"Oh my God, what is this Haas doing, mate," asks Verstappen. Take a guess.

"What position am I in," demands Hamilton who is going through the usual graining phase. Told he is fifth, he says: "We shouldn't have pitted, I told you!"

He is hunting down Leclerc, but under attack from Gasly who is almost 2s quicker. And right behind Gasly is Norris.

Told the gap to Gasly, Hamilton responds: "Leave it alone, man!"

No such issues for Bottas who is 8.3s clear of Verstappen and on his way to fastest lap. Indeed, the Finn posts a 31.023.

By the way, in 10th, Ocon is the only driver to go the distance on his starting tyres.

Bottas begins his final lap 11.7s clear of Verstappen.

He signs off the race with another fastest lap (30.432).

Verstappen is second, ahead of Perez, Leclerc, Hamilton, Gasly, Norris, Sainz, Stroll and Ocon.

Giovinazzi is eleventh, ahead of Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Tsunoda, Russell, Alonso, Latifi, Vettel, Schumacher and Mazepin.

Tonight's debrief at Mercedes should be fun, for while Bottas had a relatively easy afternoon, Hamilton is going to demand a full post-mortem.

Verstappen will be delighted with second, while Red Bull will be equally happy to both drivers on the podium and only 'given away' 3 points to their rivals where they were clearly down on pace.

Some brave performances this afternoon, considering the conditions, and as ever, while Lady Luck smiled down on some she appeared to ignore others.

All credit to Ocon for going the distance on his Inters, while commiserations to Alonso for that first lap clash with Gasly, and indeed Schumacher fir his subsequent encounter with the Spaniard.

"It was quite an intense race, fighting with Lewis and Charles," admits Perez, who really raised his game today. "The start was very good, I managed the tyres well.

"It was tricky to know where you were as the tyres went off and came back," he adds.

"It was not easy today," adds Verstappen, "the track was greasy and we had to manage the tyres the whole race.

"Valtteri had a bit more pace, but we are happy to finish second, it's easy to get it wrong and drop back."

"It's been a while," says Bottas, "but it feels good.

"From my side, one of the best races I've had, ever" he continues, "everything was under control. Everything went smooth for once for me."

Check out our Sunday gallery from Istanbul, here.

Article from Pitpass (

Published: 10/10/2021
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