Initially, Lewis Hamilton made his way across the field, grabbing one opposing driver after another. Everything seemed to go according to plan for him. In the end, the 36-year-old really wanted to be on the podium to maintain the overall lead, but at some point the situation changed. It was the special circumstances of the wet race at the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul that later made him swear: stay on track or pit? His tension was palpable: “Why are we giving up the place?” He asked his engineers over the radio, furious. His teammate Valtteri Bottas did everything right and took his first win of the season. At Hamilton, it was only enough for fifth place at the end.
A successful start in Istanbul Park
After a strong qualifying, Hamilton was sure to have a front row start. However, Mercedes decided in advance to change a component of the world champion’s engine, which is punishable by a penalty of ten places. So Hamilton had to start from eleventh position.
The choice of tires was clear given the light rain. The entire field of drivers made the same decision: green intermediates with a flat profile, ideal for water displacement and sufficient grip on wet roads. Rather, the question that arose was the one about the pit stop: although drivers don’t have to use two different tire compounds during a wet race, like all tires, intermediates also have their limits when it comes to wear.
But that’s what the defending champion shouldn’t do until later. The revamped Hamilton engine made itself felt shortly after the start of the race. He left his competition to the left. After a few laps and tough battles with AlphaTauri drivers Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly, the Briton quickly found himself in fifth place. Only then did it get really difficult for him, because before Hamilton were Red Bull Racing’s archrivals Sergio Pérez and Max Verstappen, as well as Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Strong attack, even stronger defense
Lap after lap, Pérez and Hamilton fought a bitter duel in the rain, but Pérez managed to outrun the big rivals. Verstappen was later able to thank Pérez for this. Because the stubborn Mexican blocking caused Hamilton’s tires to wear out and he couldn’t get on the podium.
After about 45 laps, it became critical: the tires were slowly reaching the end of their performance, forcing most of the drivers into the pits. Pérez and Verstappen also decided to do it. For Hamilton, this meant that he could unlock valuable seconds, but the disadvantage of the old tires would soon become apparent.
The crucial mistake?
A few laps later, the Mercedes crew decided to make a pit stop alongside Hamilton. He did not like this movement at all, the Briton spoke out against: “We should have stayed out,” he grumbled on the radio. Thus, Hamilton fell back to fifth, even almost sixth, when Pierre Gasly got dangerously close on the AlphaTauri. But Hamilton won this duel.
His teammate Valtteri Bottas had more luck: after starting from pole and a flawless race, the Finn landed on the winners’ podium with a lead of several seconds. Behind him, Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez crossed the finish line.
Leadership change in the F1 World Championship
The lead in the general classification goes back to Max Verstappen. “I’m happy with second place. Under these conditions, it was very easy to make a mistake,” said the 24-year-old.
The title fight between Hamilton and Verstappen will move to the next round on October 24, 2021 at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. At the “Circuit of the Americas”, Mercedes should have an advantage due to the nature of the track.
“Professional food trailblazer. Devoted communicator. Friendly writer. Avid problem solver. Tv aficionado. Lifelong social media fanatic.”