Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Sochi Autodrom, 2020

Can anything delay Hamilton’s coronation? Turkish GP talking points

2020 Turkish Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton with make history this weekend by equalling the record for most world championships won by a single driver – unless Turkey’s demanding circuit, and what is expected to be a tricky surface, catch him out.

Hamilton’s seventh championship

Hamilton could well seal his seventh drivers championship title in Istanbul. In fact, he’s almost certain to do it.

There are plenty of permutations but all Hamilton needs to do is to not allow team mate Valtteri Bottas to cut his current 85-point lead by more than six. If he finishes ahead of his team mate, or even one place behind his team mate if fails to secure the fastest lap, Hamilton wins.

Bottas would need Hamilton to either retire or to finish a considerable distance behind him to keep his title hopes alive. As the season so far has shown, barring some mechanical misfortune, that is unlikely to happen.

Turn eight

Istanbul Park track map
Istanbul Park track map
Nine years since Formula 1 last visited Istanbul Park, its current generation of cars are predicted to tackle its signature, quadruple-apex turn eight flat out. That will make for a spectacular sight over a single flying lap, but whether drivers can afford to keep their feet planted through the corner throughout the race is another matter.

Turn eight makes up more than 10% of the whole Istanbul circuit, both in terms of distance and lap time. In the race, drivers may be unwilling to subject their tyres to the strain of tackling the corner flat-out lap after lap. But backing off could leave them vulnerable to attack on the straights which follow.

It will also be a severe test of driver fitness. The 2020 cars generate more downforce than then ever, so drivers can expect to encounter huge G forces around the corner nicknamed ‘Diabolica’. Let’s hope they’ve got the neck training in.

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Tyre gambles

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Imola, 2020
Tyre failure ended Verstappen’s race at Imola
Pirelli have changed their allocation of tyres for this weekend, from the usual eight soft sets, three mediums and two hard to seven soft, three medium and three hard. That gives an indication of the challenge they expect this weekend.

They brought the same tyre selection and compounds – the hardest in their range – to the Portuguese Grand Prix at Autodromo do Algarve, which they consider the track most comparable to Istanbul.

This is also the same combination which was brought to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone where the harsh demands of the circuit, especially on the front-left corner, saw several drivers suffer late-race tyre failures. Istanbul shares some similarities with Silverstone, though the highest loads are transmitted through the right-hand-side of the car, at turn eight.

Will the tyres withstand the punishment Istanbul is expected to dish out? At the last race in Imola Max Verstappen suffered a sudden tyre failure. After analysing the tyre, Pirelli did not find any indication of tyre weaknesses or imperfections, but found some cuts in the tread area indicating it may have been damaged by debris. The sport’s official tyre supplier has set minimum pressures of 23 psi for fronts and 20 psi for rears this weekend.

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Stroll’s opportunity to recover

Stroll is on a five-race point-less run
Undergoing 5G through more than 10% of a lap for a weekend might not sound like the ideal way to come back from a “physical and mental battering” but that will be what Racing Point have to hope Lance Stroll does.

Following his podium finish in Monza five races ago he’s failed to score a point. It’s been a tough run for Stroll, who had a heavy crash in Mugello, retired after early contact in Sochi, sat out the Eifel Grand Prix with Covid-19 symptoms and tangled with other drivers in Portugal (Lando Norris) and Italy (Esteban Ocon), spoiling the two races since his return.

Racing Point need him to regain his early-season form as they are locked in a very close fight with Renault and McLaren for third in the championship.

Absent personnel

Two team bosses won’t be on the pit wall this weekend. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto will stay back at base.

“Mattia has always approached his role in an innovative way, trying to think outside the box,” said the team’s sporting director Laurent Mekies. “He has come up with a method of working that gives the flexibility to manage the priorities in the most efficient way possible. He had already adopted this approach when he was technical director and has applied it even more so now as team principal.

“At first it might seem strange not to see him physically in the briefings or on the pit wall, but he will make use of all the current communication technologies so that his voice and input will be loud and clear to everyone, both inside and outside the team.”

While Ferrari have made the change out of choice, Williams acting team principal Simon Roberts will be absent by necessity: He recently tested positive for Covid-19, and though the team say he is well, he will be in self-isolation this weekend.

Williams previously announced other changes will be made in their team this weekend due to staff members self-isolating following positive Covid-19 tests, so they may not be at full strength in Turkey.

Russell’s chance at redemption

After losing what could have been first his points finish at Imola, George Russell took the setback to heart, penning a letter of apology to his Williams team.

He said he’d used the week in between races to “reflect on what happened at Imola and learn from my mistake” and that he’d be aiming to “fight back” this weekend. But the team have only four chances left to score their first points of the season.

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Over to you

Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Turkish Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

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    Author information

    Hazel Southwell
    Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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    7 comments on “Can anything delay Hamilton’s coronation? Turkish GP talking points”

    1. Can anything delay Hamilton’s coronation? Simply No. Was never in doubt.

      1. Feel free to copy / paste this into the relevant comments section next year also.

      2. Sure there are things that can. Mercedes could have an engine/gb issue. A crash that puts him at the back of the field / out of the race might do the trick. It still is only a matter of time though.

    2. To be honest it’s going to be the usual suspects imo. The Hamilton/Merc juggernaut will continue unless an incident or mechanical failure intervenes. So as usual this yr I’ll look to the mid-field for the on track action, but that’s not a bad thing.

      1. I agree there @johnrkh, in qualifying it is tight enough that either Bottas or Max can give us a few minutes of hope. And for the race we have a boatload of cars that can give us an interesting battle for the points paying positions to enjoy in between seeing how big the gap out front is interparced with FLAP messages about Hamilton beating the lap record.

    3. I reckon there is a chance that Turn 8 alone will bring some “uncertainty” to the weekend, in particular the race. Not sure if that will bother the Mercs, but some teams and/or drivers will be affected by it, just as @hazelsouthwell wrote.
      Soem drivers will be probably slow a bit during the race on the turn to “save” both their necks and the tyres but could then be atacked by the cars behind, and on the other hand drivers that go full on the turn too often might be more tired at the end, and of course could risk tyre failures or severe degradation. And of course the lack of experience running in this track just adds up to all that.

      I expect some variations during the race, in particular the final third where all the wear will start playing its part. But even if the Mercs somehow suffer a setback, I seriously doubt Bottas will take advantage of it to prevent Lewis from sealing the championship; most likely it will be Bottas loosing more points.

      Only thing certain will be the radio messages from Lewis “The tyres, Bono!” :-D

    4. The one and only, the coronavirus, can delay his coronation, which I hope not happening…

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