Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale glides seamlessly from full wets to inters and then burns down the tread on those to explain how the Turkish Grand Prix unfolded...
Ambient 12.3° Track 14.7° Humidity 86.7% Wind 0.7 m/s
Roiling angry clouds hung low over the paddock, having dumped massive amounts of rain on the track less than an hour before the start of the race and despite the occasional patches of blue, more rain was promised during the race. How much chaos did it create? Both Russell and Giovinazzi had crashes on their reconnaissance laps for starters, with Williams choosing to start from the pitlane so exciting were the conditions.
Sainz and Norris both got docked for various infractions and entertainingly, after deciding on a strategic PU change for Gasly, Alpha Tauri reversed course but not till after they disassembled most of the rear of the car. This move drew a referral to the stewards for breaking parc ferme, and Gasly found himself relegated to the back of the grid without a new PU as a result, moving up to P19 due to the pitlane start decided on by Williams.
Racing Point on pole, starting in 3rd gear because of the wet, tyre-a-palooza and rain bearing down on the circuit should spice things up a bit and as the grid awaited the tyre reveal word over the radio came that it was to be a standing start, leaving the crashes and Safety Cars to be the joker in the race deck. Oh, yeah, and Hamilton potentially on track to equal Schumacher's championship if he can finish ahead of Bottas, if all the rest of that isn't enough for you. Late word that it's the full Wets for the field except Williams, who will be tiptoeing out of the pits on Inters and hoping that the drier line develops quickly...
Lights Out!!!! Great Start by anyone who didn't crash, but it was both Renault's and Hamilton rocketing past Verstappen who got hung up with his anti-stall and dropped down to 5th. Into T1 they went and Hamilton and Ricciardo had a coming together that sent Ocon off the track in the wrong direction, as Verstappen dropped to 5th after picking up massive wheelspin. Bottas right behind them spun as well, avoiding Ocon and it was all looking just as crazy as we hoped.
Into Turn 9 Hamilton locked up and had an off and it was Vettel and then Albon taking advantage with Vettel rocking up to P3. Puncture for Ocon after Bottas, having a go up the inside into T9 locked up and punted the Renault driver for the 2nd time in a single lap, and into the pits and out with a new set and hopes of a Safety Car to help him out.
Lap 3 and Stroll was 5 seconds up on Perez, who was 6 seconds up on Vettel, as Racing Point had clearly figured out how to switch those wets fully on. Vettel, Verstappen and Albon rounded out the top 5 with Hamilton back on track in P6 and well ahead of Bottas, which was his main race today as finishing ahead of his teammate meant he would win his 7th World Driver's Championship.
2 laps on and Verstappen was all over the back of Vettel, and it was clear that the Red Bull had the ultimate pace over Ferrari. Sainz had vaulted through the chaos and was up to P8 and it was Kmag, up to P10 as some of the biggest winners on the start. Leclerc was in lap 7 for some Inters and the whole grid was keenly eyeing his times as the decision was taken that he had no chance in P14 so might as well roll those dice.
After half a lap Bottas was in, with Mercedes having been convinced by Leclerc's times and the following lap, Vettel and Hamilton both followed suit. And then Magnussen, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Kvyat and Grosjean all joined in and it was delightful chaos in the pits.
Vettel and Hamilton were back out P7 and P8 respectively and lap 10 saw Stroll in for a set of Inters as well, leaving Perez in the lead. Behind, Verstappen, now in P2, set the fastest lap of the race until Hamilton, on the Inters, left him in the dust the following lap, nearly 5 seconds faster. Verstappen responded, and narrowed the gap as he preferred track position over tyres for the moment...
Renault then pulled it's drivers for new tyres, with Ricciardo back out in P7 and Ocon back to P19, the toll of his first lap adventures now fully extracted. Lap 11 and Verstappen was in, leaving Albon in the lead and it was a longer than usual stop for Max, as Red Bull took advantage to fiddle with his brake ducts. As a result he was out just ahead of Perez and the Racing Point driver easily took advantage of the cold tyres of his rival and was back into P2 as a yellow got chucked for someone and then the Virtual Safety Car. Giovinazzi was the perpetrator, having pulled over between Turns 8 and 9 with a gearbox issue, his race done and during the chaos Albon had been in as well and back out on a new set of Inters and out in P6 behind Hamilton.
As they trundled round on lap 14, waiting for the car to be cleared, it was Stroll, 8 seconds up on Perez, followed by Verstappen, then a 5 second gap to Vettel, Hamilton and Albon. Ricciardo was well back of that group, 10 seconds or so and the drivers were all working hard trying to keep their tyres and brakes up to temperature.
Lap 16 and the VSC was off and the first battle was Hamilton versus Vettel and the resulting combat allowed Albon by Hamilton as Lewis went wide and the Red Bull driver was able to carry his momentum forward and get round Vettel as well, chucking it up the inside and leaving the Ferrari driver rapidly receding in his mirrors.
Free and clear of Vettel, Albon set fast lap, 2 seconds faster than his teammate, stuck behind Perez for the moment. Lap 19 and Verstappen was into the pits, out in P8 with a fresh set of Inters after having a massive spin trying to overtake Perez. Flat spots brought him in and suddenly, for the moment at least, Albon was carrying the hopes of the team on his shoulders.
Lap 20 and Albon was just 3 seconds back of Perez and once again set fast lap, nearly 1.5 seconds faster than the Racing Point hanging tantalizingly ahead. Remarkably, Magnussen was still in 10th and leading a massive train of cars, the tail end of which was Bottas. At least until Bottas again had an off, letting Ocon take over that position. Hamilton on the radio said he was struggling with overtakes and Verstappen was under investigation for crossing the pit exit line.
Lap 23 and Albon was under a second off the Racing Point of Perez and the battle was joined and it was Russell, in P11, 1.5 seconds off the back of Magnussen, his first championship point again hanging just out of reach for the moment. The following lap and drivers were beginning to look for water off line to keep their Inters cool, as a dry line was just beginning to emerge.
Albon's chase of Perez was having the desired effect and the gap between Stroll and Perez had narrowed to 3.5 seconds. Norris was up the inside on Russell, and George was less than pleased, complaining of having been run off the road, but his 26 lap old Inters were doing him no favours. Norris was all over the back of Magnussen and it was a done deal lap 28, the Macca driver the first to get past the famously wide HAAS of Kmag.
Lap 30 and Albon's front tyres were gone, according to his radio, the laps under the rear wing of Perez having taken their toll as those more experienced in the care and feeding of Inters were now coming into their own, as no one wanted to be the first to give the slicks a go. Complicating matters was the lack of rain, as whatever tyre was chosen would need to go to the end.
And then DRS was enabled and hoo boy, here it comes. Leclerc was in lap 31 and out on a new set of Inters, so not yet as Hamilton said he wasn't sure there would be a transition to slicks... Leclerc was out P9 but with a fresh set he was off in search of Verstappen, 14 seconds ahead.
Ricciardo was in at the end of lap 32 also onto a new set of Inters as the teams seemed to be taking Hamilton's call to heart, betting that slicks would not come into their own before the race ran out of laps. Vettel and Sainz were next to fall and at the front, Sergio was just 1.5 seconds off the back of his soon to be former teammate.
A spin for Albon into Turn 4 2 laps later dropped him a spot and moved Hamilton up into the last podium position. On replay it was clear that there was no tread remaining on his left rear of the Red Bull as Hamilton told the team to leave him out despite the degrading tyres. Albon was in, and now, in P6 had his work cut out for him.
OOOOOH!!! Lap 36 and Racing point was on the radio with Stroll as not only had Perez caught him up from behind but Hamilton was flying. Stroll did not want to come in but the team persisted....Problem for Magnussen on the way out of the pits and as the mechanics ran down the pitlane to retrieve him Stroll was in for a set of Mediums, the team having won that particular argument. Out just in front of Verstappen, who had been freed from the pace of Sainz when the Macca driver covered off Ricciardo's pit stop. It was no contest, with Verstappen on well warmed tyres rocking by the former net leader of the race. At the actual front, it was Hamilton, finally showing his hand and sweeping past the Racing Point of Perez as their early advantage warming the tyres was becoming ever more a liability as the track dried.
Lap 40 and it was Leclerc, knocking on the door and walking right past Albon, P6 as the Red Bull driver struggled to get his fresh tyres working in the changing conditions. At the same time, Vettel and Stroll were having a massive battle, with Vettel the ultimate winner and both Ferraris by the Racing Point. Straight into the clutches of Albon then for Stroll and it was no contest, Albon easily by as Leclerc rocked by Vettel with the aid of DRS.
And the woes continued as Sainz was next up and also overtook the Racing Point, leaving Stroll down in P8 as the skies darkened and a threat of rain in 10 minutes wafted across the airwaves. Latifi hit Grosjean and Bottas had another spin as he had made friends with a particularly magnetic puddle on track for the second time.
This brought about every driver's worst nightmare as the loss of time from his spin put Bottas squarely in the sights of Hamilton, just about to lap him. Lap 44 and Verstappen was in for yet another set of Inters as Leclerc used DRS to rock by him and track position was suddenly worth much less, at least in the eyes of Red Bull and Verstappen. 9 seconds to Sainz and 13 to Vettel, with Albon 2 seconds up and unlikely to slow his teammate on fresh tyres. 17 seconds to the podium and Leclerc, but with 13 laps and the top 2 on tyres in the mid 30's on age it was all looking kinda interesting.
Another moment for Bottas and Mercedes decided to bring him in for a new set to get to the end as the woes for the Finn continued. Lap 49 and Norris was by Ricciardo, dropping the Renault driver into the last points position as Danny Ric locked up as Norris was trying to overtake, and wound up spinning himself right out of P9.
Next lap and curiously, and somewhat frustratingly, Verstappen was still locked behind Albon as Red Bull had apparently not asked Albon to move aside for his teammate on the alternate strategy. Wowzers, coming up to lap Raikkonen and Kimi had a spin, nearly taking Albon off and sending Verstappen round for a full pirouette as the 2 Red Bulls were just about to lap him. Madness.
Hahaha and now it is the rains, expected some time around the last lap of the race, at least according to Vettel's radio. 4 laps left and Hamilton was nearly an entire pit stop clear so not a worry for the Merc driver as the first drops being reported trackside. Verstappen finally bounced Albon out of P6 and was off in search of Sainz, 4 seconds up the road.
More of interest, Leclerc was now 3.5 seconds back of Perez and almost 2 seconds faster at the end of lap 55. Verstappen had yet another moment, and was on the radio saying he was unable to catch his oversteer and there it was, Mercedes calling Hamilton in for a safety stop as they expected rain to hit Turn 8 first. Stroll had a massive off and Norris took that spot away from him easily as Hamilton hemmed and hawed over coming in, opting to go another lap rather than risk a disaster in the pitlane.
Into the final lap then and Leclerc somehow just a second back of Perez and a rare mistake from the Racing Point driver into Turn 9 allowed the Ferrari to take the second step on the podium away as Vettel charged onto the scene. Perez defended ably and the trio rocketed down what passed for a back straight, Perez chasing and then, into Turn 12, Leclerc locked up, gifting Perez the spot right back. Even worse, that mistake let Vettel through as well, snatching the last podium position from Leclerc's fingertips as Hamilton crossed the line, taking his 7th world championship and matching Schumacher's record...
So it was a tale of two races for Mercedes, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, to borrow a phrase, with the team overjoyed for Lewis as the sound of corks popping in the background for his 7th WDC drove home the bitterness for Bottas as his chance to prolong the inevitable evaporated in the first lap of the race, victim of his own mistake on lap 1 which just pinballed thoughout the race, brutally lapped by his own teammate the ultimate indignity to cap off a thoroughly miserable day.
A similar story at Racing Point, with Perez winning a last lap duel for the second podium step a fantastic result, dimmed only by the fact that the call to bring Stroll in, though it prevented internecine rivalry and rather than giving him a chance to win, doomed him to drop all the way to P9 as his inability to get the fresh tyres up working cost him any chance of a decent finish. The points gain will be massive for 3rd in the Constructor's but the decision to ditch Perez will continue to be closely marked by Perezfosi as he takes 4th in the Driver's and no doubt a world class strop from Lance in the debrief to boot, at least based on the in race radio that was broadcast which indicated he fully blamed the team for watching the podium from a distance.
Ferrari will be gutted that Leclerc not only let 2nd, but 3rd as well slip through his fingers, but Vettel being there to rescue his team will be a happy news for the fans at least (not so sure about the team if ya know what I mean) as it's a massive points haul for the struggling Scuderia and confirmation that they may indeed have turned a bit of a corner. Still should be a huge party for them as a podium and 4th after the year they've had is a massive result.
McLaren will be kicking out the jams for sure, as Sainz gaining 10 spots and finishing 5th, combined with Norris' late move into P8 (plus the point for fast lap to boot) erases the damage done by the grid penalties they had suffered in qualifying. This race vaulted them well clear of Renault to take P4 in the Constructor's and leaving them well within shouting distance of Racing Point with 3 races left to close the gap...
After an eventful go, it was a bit of a meh result for Red Bull, P6 and P7 but clearly the bet on fresh Inters failed to pay off for Max and they will feel like they left some points on the road. Frustrating for Albon, as he drove exceedingly well but whether it was his engineer not giving him enough advice or just general lack of experience with the Inters, his inability to one stop them decidedly cost the team a podium and continues to keep his future a matter of murky speculation.
After looking incredibly promising into the first turn, with Ocon and Ricciardo looking like P3 and P4, the contact between Hamilton and Ricciardo wound up punting Ocon into the midfield, where the subsequent contact with Bottas gave him a first lap puncture and that extra stop wound up costing them a haul of points, as he subsequently went on to one stop his Inters all the way from a pitstop off the back to 11th, right behind his teammate. Renault, like Racing Point, might also be second guessing their decision to bring Ricciardo in for a fresh set of Inters as at the time he was directly behind Hamilton on tyres 2 laps younger. Now they are relegated to a serious game of catchup in the Constructor's, back to P5 and 13 points in the red to McLaren ahead. The good news on the horizon will be a return to races at more normal temperatures and conditions for the finishing trio of races.
Kvyat also managed to one stint his Inters but for Alpha Tauri the costly mistake was made when they changed their mind on the PU switch, losing all the places but gaining none of the benefits. Quite the change from the remarkable result in San Marino, but they were behind the eight ball from the start in this race and they will be hoping to recapture some of the magic at the next race.
HAAS had a bright spot in the performance of Kmag, running in the points for well more than half the race, but a cross-threaded wheel nut killed that pretty dead. Williams, similarly, had once again high hopes for Russell, but no dice at the end of the day and with the added bonus of Latifi retiring after colliding with Grosjean, his entire race a disaster as he never got his tyres going at the start.
Alfa Romeo quite possibly had the saddest day, with Giovinazzi out due to a gearbox issue and Raikkonen all the way down to 15th thanks to the utter uselessness of the car in the intermediate conditions which dominated most of the race. A total waste of their dual Q3 appearance which is not likely to happen again this season.
So it's off to the desert for some night racing, a return to more normal track conditions as usually it's just Spa that gives us the unexpected cold and damp. Still, there is much to be resolved in the midfield and with the Red Bull race seat as yet officially undecided, plenty of interesting things to talk about in two weeks time...
|S7ill he rises