By Shwetha Surendran
BU News Service
A championship-deciding day at Istanbul Intercity Park delivered a tale of contrasting fates – the only person who stood between Lewis Hamilton and a seventh Drivers’ Championship title was teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton’s win aside, in no way was the Turkish Grand Prix the usual Mercedes-dominated weekend. Saturday’s rainy qualifying session shockingly saw Racing Point’s Lance Stroll claim his career-first pole position. Despite a good start and on race day, Stroll dropped into ninth after his pit-stop.
Cruelly robbed of a podium at Imola after a botched team call, Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez claimed his first podium of the season. He finished second, fending off a late charge from Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel.
The Ferrari duo finished third and fourth, with Leclerc’s tires locking up in the final lap, causing him to lose a potential podium place to his teammate. Vettel had his best drive of the season, making up an astonishing seven places on lap one.
This massive haul of points for the Maranello-based outfit puts them back in contention for third place in the Constructors Championship, just six points behind Renault.
Slipping and sliding during the opening lap, the Mercedes and Renault pairs almost canceled each other out. Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo hit his teammate, Esteban Ocon, while taking evasive action to avoid contact with Hamilton’s Mercedes. Ocon’s spin was the beginning of the end for Bottas, who spun as he tried not to tangle with Ocon.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen – who qualified second for the race – had a terrible start, losing positions right off the line. A lack of grip in the wet conditions and growing frustration caused the Dutchman to spin around and flat-spot his tires as he tried to reclaim the spot he lost to Pérez. His teammate Alexander Albon, then in contention for the race win, has similar issues with the tires and – yes, spun around.
Of the few who didn’t end up facing the wrong way, the McLaren drivers Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris showed late pace in the race, with Sainz Jr. almost in the reaches of a podium.
On a day where experience and extraordinary skill in varying track conditions proved to be invaluable, Hamilton’s win from sixth on the grid showed that it isn’t just his car that is dominant – he lapped Bottas, who has the same machinery, in the final stages.
The chaotic race ended on a heartwarming note. Long-time friend and rival Vettel was the first to congratulate Hamilton in parc ferme after his win.
“You have made history, man,” he said, crouching down beside Hamilton’s cockpit.
As Hamilton’s visor literally lit up, a tribute to his journey from a boy from Stevenage to a seven-time world champion, he dedicated his win to all the kids who dream big.
While the fight for first in the championships might be over, the intense battles for the remaining spots are not to be missed as the season continues in Bahrain on Nov. 27.