Feature image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas secured his first race win of the season while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen regained the lead of the drivers championship, seven points ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
In damp conditions, similar to last year’s Turkish Grand Prix, the pack opted for the intermediate tyres.
After taking a fourth internal combustion engine, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton started P11 after he served his 10-place grid penalty – despite being fastest in yesterday’s qualifying. This gave his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, pole position.
VBottas had a great start and Verstappen wasn’t able to captialise on the start and filtered in behind the leading Mercedes. However, the first casualty of the first corner carnage was Alpine’s Fernando Aonso who fell from _ to P17, as the Spaniard spun around when he made contact with Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly. On the other hand, Hamilton played it safe to fall in 10th.
By the end of the first lap Bottas remained in the lead ahead of Verstappen while Hamilton started to make up ground.
On the fifth lap, Verstappen reported gear shift issues as he raced around the Turkish track in second, 1.8 seconds behind the Mercedes Finnish driver. A lap later, Hamilton still remained in 9th, behind Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda. But the Japanese driver was able to keep up a worthy fight to keep the championship contender behind him.
However, with the higher rear wing, Hamilton was able to remain within touching distance of the Japanese driver’s gearbox within the corners. But on lap eight, the seven-time world champion was able to get past Tsunoda on the outside line of turn three, after a decent exit of the first corner.
For causing a collision, Gasly was slapped with a five-second timed penalty after his contact with Alonso on the opening lap. In addition, Alonso was also slapped with a five-second penalty for the same action, but in regards to Haas’ Mick Schumacher.
A lap later, Hamilton pulled a similar move on Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll as the British Mercedes was able to overtake the Canadian on the outside of turn three. After another lap, on lap 10, the Briton managed to steal P6 away from McLaren’s Lando Norris as the British Mercedes utilised the McLaren’s slipstream and overtook at turn 12.
Although 13 laps had passed, the track was still damp but Hamilton reported that his tyres were starting to wear down as he closed in on Gasly’s Alpha Tauri. On lap 15, Hamilton made easy work of the Frenchman’s AT02 down the back straight and was well clear of his opponent into the turn 12 braking zone.
In a similar fashion, after starting in P19 after taking an engine penalty, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz charged through the field and overtook Tsunoda (in P9) at the exit of turn 12, on lap 17 to place himself comfortably in the top 10.
On lap 22, McLaren were the first driver to pit from P17 to swap with fresh intermediate tyres. The Australian driver had a great stop as he was only stationary for 2.8 seconds.
Despite new inters, Ricciardo was only 0.069 seconds slower than Hamilton, who remained in P5 behind Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.
Despite being shown the blue flags, on lap 29, Haas’ Nikita Mazepin impeeded Hamilton as the two drivers ventured around the back straight’s turn 11. The Russian moved over onto the racing line, as the track kinked around to the right and the Mercedes 44 had to back out of the overtake, to avoid a collision.
On lap 32, Alonso served his five-second penalty as the Spanish driver ventured into the pit lane for fresh intermediate tyres. Whereas Hamilton had closed the gap between himself and Perez down to one second. Three laps later, Hamilton was able to use the slipstream of Perez’s Red Bull down the back straight and went wheel-to-wheel around the final corners, as Hamilton nearly pushed the Mexican into the pitlane.
Verstappen sacraficed his second place track position, on lap 37, to pit for fresh intermediate tyres with a blistering 2.1 stop. While Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel opted for the Medium compound slick tyres, on a fairly damp track. As a result, the gamble didn’t come off as the four-time world champion struggled to get his car up to racing speed which meant the German had to return to the pits for another set of intermediates.
Perez pitted on lap 39, Hamilton netted P4 as a result. Despite the fresher intermediate tyres, Verstappen was only putting in laps half a second quicker than his championship rival, Hamilton – who was yet to pit.
After his gearbox issues, early on in the race, Verstappen started to report that he was suffering with steering wheel issues, he said:
“I don’t know what is wrong with my steering wheel, it’s going more and more left-side down.”Max Verstappen, Red Bull, to his pit wall
On lap 48, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc gave up the race lead to swap his extermely worn intermediate tyres for a fresh set. While Hamilton climbed up to P3, and into the final podium position, despite the fact the Briton hadn’t pitted yet – and didn’t look to either.
With eight laps to go, Hamilton reported that the car was okay despite it sliding around. However, Leclerc (in P4) put in fast laps and started to claw back the gap between himself and Hamilton.
As a result of Leclerc’s pace, Hamilton finally pitted on lap 51 and lost two positions to Leclerc and Perez, with seven laps left to go. Driving with fury, Hamilton had chased down Leclerc as he put in a lap three-seconds faster than the Ferrari Monegasque but couldn’t overtake the number 16 red Scuderia.
- Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
- Max Verstappen, Red Bull
- Sergio Perez, Red Bull