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Bottas Blows Away Competitors

Turkish Grand Prix Race Report 10/10/2021

A tense and damp race saw Bottas dominate, with Red Bulls rounding out the podium.

Despite being fastest in qualifying Hamilton started eleventh after taking replacement parts for his engine and therefore incurring a ten-place grid penalty. Sainz and Ricciardo took new power units and therefore started from the back of the grid.

Off the line Bottas got a good start and converted pole into the lead, followed by Verstappen and Leclerc. Gasly—sandwich between Alsonso and Perez—oversteered into Alonso, sending him into a spin and down the order out of contention for a decent result. Things move from bad to worse for Alonso as—trying to make his way through the pack—he clips Schumacher and send the Haas driver into a spin. Gasly and Alonso are both given five-second penalties for these incidents. Sainz was the biggest winner from the start making up six places in the opening laps.

The opening part of the race is dominated by Hamilton and Sainz making overtakes and moving up the order. Hamilton—initially held behind Tsunoda for seven laps—dispenses with the Alpha Tauri. The Mercedes driver then swiftly passes Stroll, Norris, and Gasly and is the fastest driver on the track at the time. Sainz’s overtaking count impressively ticks up as the Ferrari driver dispenses with Russell, Ocon, Tsunoda, Vettel and both Alfa Romeo’s. At one point it seems like he’s passing a new car every lap! From nineteenth on the grid, he’s up to ninth with just over twenty laps down.

Vettel and Ocon have a good battle for tenth position, but apart from them—and the resurgent Hamilton and Sainz—there’s little other action. Spaces seem pretty stable between the drivers as they all assess the conditions—occasional drizzle on a slippery track that is not drying due to the cold conditions. The track isn’t getting quicker and it seems when the pit stops come it will be another set of intermediate tyres to see them to the end. The issue with the inters is they go through a graining phase which makes them slower than the worn inters and therefore a driver may initially lose some time on them before gaining.

Hamilton’s charge is put to stop when he comes against Perez who’s stern defence is commendable. The two run side by side around the final three corners, down the start-finish straight and into turn one–where Checo takes the inside line and keeps Hamilton at bay. As Checo later joked, Max owes him a tequila or two for keeping Hamilton at bay!

Most drivers pit between laps 35-42, a straight swap onto a new set of inters. Vettel takes a gamble don’t slicks, but instantly regrets it as he slides off track and returns to the pits for a set of inters. Fair play to the Aston driver for taking the gamble though. Ocon, Hamilton and Leclerc are the three not to have stopped with everyone else—Leclerc consequentially taking the lead of the race. In a dry race, competitors must run two different tyre compounds during the race—therefore they have to make a pitstop. This is not so with a wet race where drivers don’t have to run different compounds throughout the race—therefore, technically, don’t have to pit. Will anyone risk this? The tyres aren’t really designed to last the whole race distance. We’ve seen multiple tyre failures over the last few years when drivers have pushed them to the limits—and sometimes when they have just been driving within the expected life span!

It seems Ferrari and Leclerc are flirting with this idea, but after losing the lead to Bottas—on new tyres—it becomes apparent the Ferrari’s old tyres won’t have a decent enough pace by the end of the race and he pits for a fresh set. Despite coming out in fourth—ahead of Perez—Leclerc loses pace when the tyres enter their difficult graining phase and Checo soon passes the Ferrari.

By this time Hamilton is in third position—and keen to stay out on ancient tyres, he describes as ‘sliding, but ok’. The team disagree and bring Hamilton in—he exits the pits in fifth position. The Brit seems pretty unhappy with the team for giving up the third position, but the team are convinced the tyres would have become increasingly slow, and sixth place man Gasly would have passed him.

Some large gaps between drivers come down over the closing part of the race and last-minute battles occur. Sainz catches and passes Ocon, Russell puts in a great defence against Alonso and—Ricciardo, on very old tyres— loses out to the two Alfas on the final lap.

For the top two, the closing part of the race is pretty similar to the rest—Bottas out in front with a comfortable lead over Verstappen who has no competition from anyone for his safe second. Perez and Leclerc take a comfortable third and fourth. Behind them, Hamilton—who had been in third—now defends his fifth position as he struggles for grip on the tyres in their tricky graining phase. Galsy and Norris are right with him, but ultimately neither are able to make any progress past him.

The Teams

Mercedes: Bottas 1st, Hamilton 5th- Great showing by Bottas all weekend, solid performance and good strategy from the team. A difficult result for Hamilton. After gaining so many positions, showing great pace and fighting hard he will be disappointed with a fifth position. Ultimately the team played it safe after realising that they had taken the wrong strategy choice. They chose not to come in when the others did, but they lost faith in a no-stop race and the track didn’t dry enough to move onto slick tyres. Hamilton felt the tyre still had pace, but Mercedes were convinced the tyre pace would not be strong enough for him to keep third, believing he would drop down to at least sixth. Their choices—pit and get a fifth at best or stay out for a potential third, but much more probably sixth or seventh, or even worse a non-finish with a tyre failure. To pit was the sensible option, however, I don’t think it was communicated to Hamilton at all well during the race and can understand why he was so unhappy with that decision. Ultimately the correct choice would have been to pit when everyone else did, but I commend the team for trying a different strategy, sometimes you have to take these chances to get ahead.

Red Bull: Verstappen 2nd, Perez 3rd- Verstappen joked that the hardest part of his race was staying awake! He didn’t have the performance to catch Bottas so just raced a lonely second place. Perez had a far more exciting race, his battle with Hamilton was one of the highlights of the race with Perez putting in an exciting and skilful defence. The late move on Leclerc for third gave Checo a much-deserved podium. The team nailed the strategy with both drivers—convinced from the outset that the tyres would not last for the whole race. From the outside, it seemed odd at the time to pit Perez and let Hamilton go, but it turned out to be the correct decision.

Mclaren: Norris 7th, Ricciardo 13th- Ricciardo struggled today, especially in the opening section. The Australian started from the back and was able to move up to eleventh—even chasing down Stroll for tenth—before the two Alfa’s passed him on the last lap. He was used as a pit stop guinea pig—with an early tyre change for them to see how the new set ran. Consequentially he lost those few places on the closing lap as his tyres were very old. Norris showed more pace but not enough to make a massive impact in the race. He closed down Gasly and Hamilton towards the end but wasn’t close enough to make a move. It seemed the track and/or conditions just didn’t suit the Mclaren.

Ferrari: Leclerc 4th, Sainz 8th- A great day for Ferrari. Leclerc ran convincing pace in third place for a lot of the race and the team rolled the dice on that potential no-stop, which was worth the gamble. Unfortunately, that graining phase of the tyres robbed us of a more exciting battle between him and Perez, but, nonetheless, still a good result here for Leclerc. Sainz put in an absolutely amazing performance today. During that opening section, he seemed unstoppable with brave outbreaking overtakes left right and centre. He was rewarded with an eighth-place finish and without a slow eight-second pit stop would likely have finished higher.

Alpha Tauri: Gasly 6th, Tsunoda 14th- Gasly was a bit unlucky I think to get a 5-second penalty for the incident on the opening lap—it seemed that he got a bit sandwiched and in trying not to hit Perez on his inside oversteered into Alonso on his outside. But the stewards deemed him wholly at fault for the collision, and the five-second penalty probably cost him a fifth-place finish. Despite that, he didn’t have a bad race and stayed out of trouble after lap one. Tsunoda had his best qualifying in a while and a strong opening section of the race—absorbing high pressure from Hamilton for several laps. However, a spin dropped him down the running and he never recovered from there.

Alpine: Ocon 10th, Alonso 16th- Ocon was the only driver to stick with the no-stop strategy—the first driver not to enter the pit lane in a race since Mika Salo’s fifth-place Monaco finish in 1997. The gamble was rewarded with a single point. His performance however may have legitimised Mercedes decision to pit Hamilton—on the final lap Ocon was four seconds slower than Giovinazzi behind him. The tyres were also in an absolute state, and couldn’t have been far away from failing completely. Fair play to them for taking the gamble and sticking with it! A disappointing race for Alonso who started fifth and looked set for a great result in tricky conditions. However, that first lap incident with Gasly set him backwards, followed by a clip with Schumacher—for which he received a 5-second penalty. From this terrible start, there was virtually no way to get a decent result, and Russell’s stout defence at the end of the race denied him fifteenth.

Aston Martin: Stroll 9th, Vettel 18th- A good outing for Stroll, kept out of trouble and we didn’t see a lot of him, but he brought home some points for the team. Vettel—fair play for that massive gamble! Moving don’t slicks didn’t work, but, he wasn’t in the points and had nothing to lose by giving it a shot.

Williams: Russell 15th, Latifi 17th- The Williams car didn’t seem to show the pace it had in the previous few races. Russell never approached the top ten—he did have a great battle with Alonso and kept the Alpine driver at bay. Latifi had a spin on the opening lap and made his way passed the Haas drivers but couldn’t get any further

Alfa Romeo: Giovinazzi 11th, Raikkonen12th- Both got a good get-away. It seemed Raikkonen had more pace than Giovinazzi in the opening stages but the Italian wasn’t given the call to let him pass. Perhaps Raikkonen could have brought home a few points if they had swapped the cars. Though this result does seem pretty representative of their pace.

Haas: Schumacher 19th, Mazepin 20th- Schumacher had a very strong weekend, and a great qualifying session—lining up fourteenth on the grid. Unfortunately, the spin after Alonso’s clip moved him to the back of the pack, but after a great battle, he got the better of teammate Mazepin who came in last.

Final Thoughts

Bottas put in a great performance all weekend and took home a much-deserved victory, and Red Bull will be very happy with this points hall on a track on which the Mercedes had better pace. Mercedes may rue that gamble to keep Hamilton out as it seems the championship will come down to a few points!

Driver of the Day: Sainz
Honourable mentions: Perez, Leclerc, Hamilton

Turkish Grand Prix Race Results

  1. Bottas (Fastest Lap)
  2. Verstappen
  3. Perez
  4. Leclerc
  5. Hamilton
  6. Gasly
  7. Norris
  8. Sainz
  9. Stroll
  10. Ocon

Next Time

USA! We’re back to the Circuit of America! Always good for some action and overtaking!

Where to Watch

USA: Sunday 24th October Live on ESPN race start at 3:00 pm EST
UK: Sunday 24th October Live on Sky Sports F1 race start at 8:00 pm GMT
Highlights on Channel Four, Sunday 24th October, time TBC

Written by Jenny Alderton

Jenny is a freelance writer based in Wales with keen interest in Motorsports. An avid follower of Formula one for over twenty years she has recently branched out into watching other vehicles driving around in wiggly circles. Namely, Motogp, World Superbike championship, and British Superbike championship.

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