It was only a matter of time before Hamilton took his seventh world championship to equal that of Michael Schumacher’s, and that time came today in a exciting and slippery Turkish grand prix.
A return to this rollercoaster track after a nine year hiatus did not disappoint and the slippery conditions made for an exciting race. The freshly re-surfaced Istanbul circuit seemed like an ice rink at the best of times— with drivers skittling off the track throughout practice sessions and qualifying. Not to mention pre-race, as both Russell and Giovinazzi came a cropper on their way to the grid, fortunately both did make it to the start of the race. The track was wet for the race— making it even more treacherous— leading to a lot of careful driving and a lot of spins.
Treacherously wet conditions on Saturday led to an unexpected grid, with Lance Stroll taking pole, Verstappen behind him and Perez in third. Hamilton lined up in sixth position.
With pressure on his shoulders Stroll nailed his first start from a pole position and took the lead with team mate Perez moving into second. Verstappen struggled off the line dropping down to eighth, but gaining positions as others spun or went wide, to be running fourth by the end of opening lap. Those aforementioned spinners included Ocon and Bottas at turn one— who consequentially dropped right down the order. Hamilton made a good start— moving up to third— however a mistake further around the opening lap saw him run wide and lose positions to Vettel, Verstappen and Albon. Yes, you read that right, Vettel! The German undoubtedly got the start of the race storming from twelfth to third in half a lap. Sainz too made a good start making up six places from the grid to be running in ninth position.
In the opening part of the race Stroll pulls out a lead over team mate Perez as the Racing Point cars look to be in good shape in these tricky conditions. Behind them Verstappen is unable to pass Vettel— who is having the best performance of his season by miles. There’s exciting action as drivers slip and slide around on track— showing some serious car handling skills.
In these conditions tyre strategy and pit stops become paramount. The track is wet, but drying as the cars drive around. At some point the track will become too dry for the full wet tyres and drivers will need to switch to the intermediate tyres. Timing is crucial here— if the track is too wet for the intermediate tyre you will have no grip and loose pace. However, if you stay out too long the wet tyre will overheat on a dry track, degrade and you will loose grip and pace. Leclerc is the man who takes the gamble— coming in on lap 7 for intermediates and after showing good pace on these tyres (and even better— not falling off) everyone dives in for a tyre change within the next few laps. A big call deserves big rewards and when everyone else has pitted Leclerc has a net gain of five places and is now running ninth. Stroll and Perez maintain their lead as Verstappen uses an over-cut to jump Vettel in the pitstops— moving him into third.
Once again we see drivers struggling with the conditions— Hamilton running wide, losing a place to Albon, who went onto spin later himself. Verstappen steadily caught Perez in second place but was unable to pass the Racing Point and ended up spinning. This ruined his tyres and the Dutchman came in for a fresh set which dropped him onto the tail end of an exciting and close battle for sixth between Ricciardo and Sainz.
With about twenty laps to go we see drivers begin to pit again— all taking on a fresh sets of inters. Some drivers seem to be able to maintain the performance of the intermediates better than others— Hamilton’s, for instance is having a good run and moves into second place, over taking Perez on lap thirty seven. Perez himself also brings out his famous tyre magic and is able to keep the performance level in his aged tyres. Team mate Stroll on the other hand begins to struggle on his tyres and with his lead decreasing he has no choice but to come in for new a new set. With this Hamilton takes the lead of the race. Unfortunately for Stroll the new set of tyres don’t switch on and the Canadian just doesn’t have the same performance he did in the first part of the race. On a changing track like this it only takes small alterations in conditions for a car to fall out of a good performance window and it seems to’ve happened here. A shame for Stroll as he was driving so well: in difficult conditions he got a perfect getaway and led impeccably. It’s a tough learning curve that sometimes you can drive your best and somethings just don’t work out, that’s the luck of F1 I’m afraid. However with a performance like that in a team on the up I feel it is only a matter of time before Stroll’s maiden victory comes.
From here Hamilton creates an insurmountable lead, finding performance in the car which seemed to of alluded him all weekend. Never write off Hamilton! With tension mounting over rumoured last minute rain he makes his— now completely bold— inters last to cross the line over thirty seconds ahead of the close action for second place. With this he takes not only the race win, but his seventh world title. Behind him on forty eight lap old tyres Perez fights for his second place— fending off resurgent Ferraris on fresher tyres behind him. On the last lap Leclerc makes a move on the Racing Point driver, but then runs wide and consequentially looses positions to both Perez and Vettel. A despondent Leclerc comes in fourth with Sainz right behind him on the line.
Certainly a good race for Ferrari, although Leclerc was annoyed at his last lap mistake— probably costing him a second place. Still the team came in third and fourth with their best weekend of the season, showing genuine pace in the race and executing brilliant strategy. Leclerc climbing up ten places from his starting position, and Vettel— with his epic start— having his best race of the year.
The McLaren’s looked slow all weekend— never managing to quite get decent pace on this damp and slippery track. However both drivers put in solid performances converting poor qualifying into good points, Sainz in fifth and Norris— who’s pace got better throughout the race— coming in in eighth.
Red bulls could feel this is one that slipped through their hands. A poor decision in qualifying quite possibly cost them the pole. Spins from both drivers showed how hard they were pushing, but ultimately lost them time and positions at a track that the car had shown good pace. The Red Bulls came in between the Mclarens’ in sixth and seventh.
Bottas needed to come 6th or higher to keep his vague hopes of a championship title alive— unfortunately the Finn did not manage this. The Mercedes struggled here all weekend and the pace Hamilton managed to find on Sunday alluded Bottas: who took several spins throughout the race and came in well out of the points in fourteenth place.
Renault too had a race to forget, Ocon spinning and later on in the race the two Renault cars having a small coming together. Ultimately they came in tenth and eleveneth— not doing their battle for third in the championship any good. Especially with the points haul Perez took home for Racing Point with his second place. The Racing Points had pace all weekend and are surely a little disappointed that the tyres just didn’t work for Stroll. However they can be very pleased with Perez’s performance; once again proving his talents as a racer, skills for keeping tyres alive over huge stints and ability to keep a cool head under pressure from other drivers.
A fun race with lots of offs and spins to keep us all on our toes, together with split tyre strategies leading to good battles and last minute action for second place. But, probably a race which will be remembered for Hamilton taking an emotional and record equalling seventh world championship. Once again he showed his brilliance, remaining settled during a difficult opening part of the race. Then taking a gamble not to pit for fresh tyres, but staying out and managing the old ones, then setting a consistently fast pace to eek out an impressive lead.
So a huge congratulations to Hamilton on this amazing achievement, equalling a record many never thought could be equalled. I’m looking forward to seeing him surpass it, as he inevitably will.
Driver of the day: Vettel
Honourable mentions: Perez, Leclerc, Hamilton
2020 Turkish Grand Prix Results
- Norris (Fastest Lap)
Next up: We’re off to Bahrain on a track which has become a regular on the F1 calender for the last sixteen years. A track where we often see great racing and good overtaking, can’t wait!
Where to watch:
USA: Sunday 29th November Live on ESPN race start at 9:10am EST
UK: Sunday 29th November Live on Sky Sports F1 race start at 2:10pm GMT
Highlights on Sky One time TBC and Channel Four 9:00pm Sunday 13th November.