Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s record and won his 7th Drivers’ Championship title at the Turkish Grand Prix where recent track resurfacing caused a lot of slip-and-slides.
The Red Bulls topped the free practice time sheets as many drivers struggled with the track surface. Having only been resurfaced 10 days prior to the teams arriving, oil extruded from the tarmac. This combined with the rainfall, making for an ice rink of a track.
Qualifying was exciting as the rain continued to fall. Two red flags were waved in Q1; the first due to the weather and the second for Grosjean’s beached Haas. Latifi spun out at the end of Q1 leading to double yellow flags being waved and Q2 started before the Williams’ was cleared. Q3 heated up when Perez put in an astounding time to put it on pole on intermediate tyres. Verstappen was on an all-purple flying lap but pulled into the pits to switch to the inters too, never finishing the lap, a costly mistake. Stroll warmed up his inters well and set a career best lap to get pole while Verstappen only managed 2nd, struggling on his tyres. Perez got 3rd and Albon got 4th. The Mercedes only managed 6th and 9th.
Giovinazzi and Russell both crashed on the way to the grid on Sunday morning and required front wing changes. Russell and Latifi came into the pits after the pit lane closed so started the race from the pit lane on intermediate tyres.
Verstappen got a poor start, close to stalling, allowing the Renaults, Vettel and Hamilton past.
The Renaults touched into turn 1 sending Ocon into a spin and Bottas had nowhere to go and spun too. Ocon had to pit due to a puncture and changed onto the wet tyres, leaving only the two Williams’ on intermediates.
On lap 3, Stroll pulled a 3 second lead over Perez whilst Vettel and Verstappen battled for 3rd. Stroll opened his gap as the race continued and the track dries. The first round of pit stops was triggered by Leclerc on lap 7 who switched from wet tyres to inters.
Vettel pit on lap 9 in the hope of getting ahead of Verstappen with the fresh tyres. Verstappen held out until lap 12 and even with a slow pit stop he jumped Vettel. After the first round of pit stops, Stroll led from Perez and Verstappen was 3rd. Russell was up in 11th having not needed to pit as he started on the inters.
Giovinazzi pulled over and retired on lap 13 triggering a virtual safety car.
On lap 16, Hamilton tried to overtake Vettel for 4th but locked up and allowed Albon through.
Verstappen, closing on Perez, pushed too hard on the wet track and spun. He dropped to 6th but then pits to change his flat-spotted tyres.
Bottas spun on lap 22, his fourth spin of the race. These little faults dropped him down the order, undoing his hard work each time.
Mid-race the tyre choice became tricky. The inters were getting too hot on the racing line so many drivers move onto the wet track to cool them. However, with the chance of rain increasing, strategists were unsure whether to change onto new inters or slicks.
On lap 30, the track was deemed dry enough for DRS to be enabled.
Leclerc was once again the first to pit and chooses fresh intermediates. He emerged in 9th. Ricciardo, Russell and Vettel also pit having seen Leclerc lapping 4 seconds per lap quicker on the new tyres.
Albon spun on lap 34 with degrading tyres and Hamilton gets past for 3rd place. Albon was driving excellently and on for a podium finish.
On lap 36, Stroll pit from the lead and emerged behind Verstappen who pitted much earlier. A lap later, Hamilton passed Perez for the lead of the race but neither had pitted.
Stroll struggled to warm his inters as the track was drying further and was passed by Vettel, Leclerc, Albon and Sainz in quick succession. Meanwhile, Grosjean and Latifi tangled and Bottas spun for a 5th time.
On lap 43, Latifi retired from the race after a tricky day. Leclerc passed Verstappen for 3rd and Verstappen subsequently pit onto inters.
Bottas’ day got worse when he was lapped by his Championship rival on lap 46. Going off line to let Hamilton past dropped his tyre temperatures and he ran wide. He pit on lap 48 and emerges 15th.
Grosjean’s Haas doubled up as a lawn mower as he ran wide across the grass on lap 49. Also, Ricciardo battled for 9th with Norris but spun of his own accord. On lap 51, Räikkönen was being lapped by the Red Bulls but spun. Verstappen was distracted and also spun allowing Albon to open the gap to his teammate. Verstappen eventually overtook Albon for 6th on lap 53.
Grosjean was the third retirement of the race on lap 52.
Hamilton and Perez were doing well on old tyres and Bottas’ lap times show that the new inters were actually 6 seconds a lap slower.
Norris kept surpassing his own fastest lap times and passes Stroll for 8th.
Hamilton crossed the line to earn his 7th drivers’ championship title but the race wasn’t over yet. Leclerc made a move on Perez for 2nd but locked up and lost 3rd place to teammate Vettel.
“That’s for all the kids out there who dream the impossible.”
It was a disappointing race for Stroll who performed so well on Saturday and held the lead for a good chunk of the race but the pit stop strategy didn’t quite pay off.
Bottas’ spins let him down this weekend but Hamilton’s 7th championship title was inevitable. Let’s hope he continues to fight hard next season.
Holly’s driver of the day…and loser
Obviously, Hamilton and Perez deserve the title for best of the weekend as they outperformed their starting place. Perez definitely deserves a seat next year. The Ferrari’s also drove well to finish 3rd and 4th, a great haul of points for the team.
Verstappen is my loser of the day. He was my choice for winner before the race but his slow start and spin behind Perez ruined that chance.