Turkish Grand Prix: Bottas dominates to take first win of 2021 as Verstappen retakes championship lead


October 10, 2021

by Will Knight 

After Qualifying gave us an exciting grid for the Grand Prix ahead, it was up to the race itself to gift the fans a thrilling show and once again continue the best title fight in years. Valtteri Bottas started the race from Pole Position with Max Verstappen alongside him as Lewis Hamilton started 11th due to grid penalties. 

The Turkish Grand Prix returned to our screens once again, with Formula 1 ready to race around the Istanbul Park circuit once again. 

Before the race got underway, McLaren confirmed that, after a poor Qualifying session, Daniel Ricciardo would take a new Internal Combustion Engine, Turbocharger and MGU-H for the race. This would place the Australian behind Carlos Sainz on the grid, who also starts from the back after power unit changes. 

Yet again, rain would show itself in a Grand Prix weekend in 2021 after Saturday running was done partly in wet conditions. The weather would play its part once more, as the drivers would complete their out laps to the grid on the Intermediate tyres. 

Memories of a chaotic 2020 Turkish Grand Prix emerged in the minds of fans, but the drivers hoped that a much grippier circuit would give them a better chance at pushing through the field. 

A better sight for all, however, was the crowd returning to Istanbul Park to support their favourite drivers; a sign that normal times are returning.

However, the drivers' full focus would be on the race ahead, especially Hamilton who would have wet conditions to contend with as he hopes to extend his championship position from 11th. 

By the time the race came around, the intermediate tyres were still on the cars but no rain was falling, meaning the crossover point would be one of the key elements of the race for drivers to decide their fate. 

As the lights went out, Fernando Alonso and Pierre Gasly collided at turn one, spinning the Alpine to the back of the pack. Bottas maintained the lead with Verstappen in second and Charles Leclerc slotting into third. 

Alonso made contact with Mick Schumacher's Haas after a failed move on the German, with the two-time world champion handed a penalty for the collision later in the Grand Prix.

Nicholas Latifi brought out a yellow flag in sector two, spinning to last as Sainz and Ricciardo fought for 17th. Hamilton had pushed past Sebastian Vettel's Aston Martin by the end of lap one and then focused on passing the AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda. 

At the end of lap five, Sainz passed George Russell's Williams in the final complex of corners, promoting himself into 14th. Kimi Raikkonen was the Spaniard's next victim, passing the other Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi a lap later whilst other drivers began to consider cooling their tyres. 

Hamilton finally got past Tsunoda on lap eight, flying around the outside of the Japanese driver. Tsunoda's teammate Gasly was handed a five-second time penalty for the collision with Alonso on lap one. 

Lance Stroll was soon passed by Hamilton, with the seven-time world champion making the same move on the Canadian as he did a lap before on Tsunoda whilst Sainz made his way into 11th and past Esteban Ocon. 

After struggling to get past the McLaren cars in Monza and Sochi, Hamilton was surely pleased to be able to overtake Lando Norris on lap ten so easily, slipstreaming the young Brit before passing him into turn 12. 

After a strong push through the field, Sainz's next overtake did not go as well as he would have wanted. The Ferrari driver hit the side of Vettel at turn 12, with the four-time world champion reporting the collision over team radio. 

Hamilton, meanwhile, easily passed Gasly on the back straight and slotted into the top five after 15 laps. However, the next car up the road was Sergio Perez, and Red Bull Racing was surely hoping that the Mexican would be able to put up a fight to hold the championship leader up. 

Verstappen's engineer soon told the Dutchman that his tyres were better than the Silver Arrows and the Red Bull driver soon began to push harder to catch Bottas.

The Finn's teammate also struggled with tyre management, as Hamilton labelled his tyres as 'bald' whilst AlphaTauri informed Gasly that the Mercedes was struggling with wear. 

The race was starting to heat up once more in the cold conditions, with Sainz proving his error in passing Vettel was a one-off as he out-braked Tsunoda to take ninth. 

Ricciardo was then asked by McLaren as to how much faster he could go on new tyres, with the Australian pitting for a brand new set of intermediate tyres to try and improve on 16th. 

A familiar foe of the drivers throughout the weekend proved to be an issue once again, as Tsunoda spun at turn nine. The drivers had struggled throughout FP3 at this corner, and the AlphaTauri driver was the next to fall foul of the turn. 

Ferrari reported to Leclerc that Ricciardo was slower on new intermediate tyres, with the Monegasque subsequently setting the fastest lap of the Grand Prix. 

Nikita Mazepin nearly collided with Hamilton as the Mercedes tried to lap the Haas. Hamilton had to lift off on a flat corner to avoid a collision with the blue-flagged car. Up ahead, Bottas extended his advantage. 

At the end of lap 31, Alonso came into the pits, serving his five-second time penalty and replacing his worn tyres with a fresh set of green-walled rubber. This coincided with Sainz reporting more rain.

On lap 33, Hamilton reached the Red Bull of Perez and sized the Mexican up for a pass to promote himself into the top four. An attempt on lap 35 resulted in the two drivers going side-by-side, with Perez eventually coming out on top in their initial battle. 

Hamilton remained on the back of Perez throughout the next lap as Norris followed Ricciardo in making a second stop for intermediate tyres. This is what Red Bull had re-signed Perez for, and the Mexican's defence against Hamilton proved he could be the driver they needed to help Verstappen in the championship.

Verstappen came into the pits for a brand new set of tyres, a gamble given their strong position in the race. However, with other teams making stops, it made sense for the Dutchman to pit to try something different to win. 

Sainz was the next of the heavy-hitters to pit but a slow stop by Ferrari cost him some time after being stationary for 8.1 seconds. However, Vettel took even more of a gamble by pitting for medium tyres. 

Almost immediately, the four-time world champion brought out a yellow flag whilst Bottas and Perez made their stops. It was a step too far for Aston Martin, and Vettel was brought back in on the next lap for new tyres. 

Hamilton had continued in the race along with Leclerc, who now led the Turkish Grand Prix for Ferrari. Hamilton soon fought his team in terms of strategy, with Mercedes wishing to pit him as Hamilton wanted to stay out. 

By lap 46, Bottas had caught Leclerc and soon wished to pass him for the race lead. Ferrari then told Leclerc they wished to pit him, but Bottas was too quick for the Italian team and re-took the lead of the Turkish Grand Prix. 

Leclerc came in on lap 48 and dropped down to fourth. Lap times began to improve and Sainz set multiple fastest laps whilst Mercedes came out into the pits once again. 

Hamilton pitted on lap 51, with the pit crew making a perfect stop to send the seven-time world champion out ahead of Gasly's AlphaTauri. A similar sight to last year returned, as Perez and Leclerc fought for the final step of the podium in the final laps of the race. 

Leclerc then came under threat by Hamilton, complaining of a lack of rear grip as the Mercedes closed behind him. However, Hamilton himself was weary of Gasly who began to close in on the Mercedes as his tyres began to grain.

Despite the tension for the leaders in the middle of the race, the rest of the Grand Prix was ultimately dominated by Bottas, who took his first win of 2021 and his first since the Russian Grand Prix last year. 

Verstappen re-took the championship lead after finishing second, now leading Hamilton by six points in the title fight whilst Perez took another podium for Red Bull to assist in Red Bull's fight against the Silver Arrows. 

Hamilton will be disappointed with the Turkish Grand Prix, believing that Mercedes' strategy had cost him a podium and, ultimately, points in the Drivers Championship. 

Bottas believes that the tenth victory of his career is his best

"I think from my side, I have to say probably one of the best races I've had ever, just apart from that one little slide everything was under control. 

"Like I said before the race, the car's been really good in every condition and I have really good confidence with it. I could really control it and it's not easy to choose the strategy here with these conditions, when to stop and to which tyre and everything. 

"But I'm glad everything went smooth for once for me, that's nice."

Perhaps one of the most impressive performances all weekend was Sainz's push through the field to eighth. However, Esteban Ocon's 58-lap stint on intermediate tyres is an impressive feat; the only driver to do so in the race. 

As we look ahead to the United States Grand Prix, Verstappen will be looking to take Red Bull's first win in Texas since 2013, but Hamilton's history at the circuit means he will be excited for the race in the Southern States. 

Full race order: 

Valtteri Bottas
Max Verstappen
Sergio Perez
Charles Leclerc
Lewis Hamilton
Pierre Gasly 
Lando Norris
Carlos Sainz
Lance Stroll
Esteban Ocon
Antonio Giovinazzi
Kimi Raikkonen
Daniel Ricciardo
Yuki Tsunoda
George Russell
Fernando Alonso
Nicholas Latifi
Sebastian Vettel
Mick Schumacher
Nikita Mazepin

Image credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team

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