Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Istanbul Park, 2021

Hamilton breaks Istanbul track record as Turkish Grand Prix practice begins

2021 Turkish Grand Prix first practice

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Lewis Hamilton broke the 16-year-old track record for the Istanbul Park as he set the pace in the first practice session for this weekend’s race.

The world championship leader’s best effort of 1’24.178 was over four seconds quicker than the quickest time seen during last year’s rain-effected weekend. That also cut half a second off Juan Pablo Montoya’s track record, set during the inaugural Turkish Grand Prix.

The track surface was clearly much improved from last year. The whole top five fastest times within a 1’24 and the entire field faster than the best time last year, Max Verstappen’s 1’28.330 set during second practice in 2020.

Verstappen ended the session within half a second of Hamilton. During the hour of running it emerged Mercedes will replace the world champion’s engine this weekend, incurring a 10-place grid penalty.

The first hour of practice was busy but incident-free. Several drivers reported a considerable improvement in grip compared to last year’s ice-rink conditions. Lando Norris said the change was noticeable from his first lap of the Istanbul Park track.

Ferrari, who have tended to be less competitive in cooler conditions, took well to the 30C track temperatures, both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz placing in the top five. Norris and Pierre Gasly were comfortably in the top 10 as usual. Alpine showed an early edge on their midfield rivals, both Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon lapping strongly, the latter within a tenth of the second Ferrari as he sought to address a set-up imbalance he was unhappy with at Sochi.

Sergio Perez, like Verstappen running a one-off livery on his Red Bull in tribute to outgoing engine supplier Honda, placed tenth-fastest. Both set their fastest times on soft tyres, but the 0.8-second gap between them was the largest among any pair of team mates.

Despite a very slow start, setting just one lap in the first half of the session, Kimi Raikkonen made up his lap count in the second half of the session, meeting team mate Antonio Giovinazzi’s 24 laps. The same as both Red Bull drivers and tied for lowest count over the hour.

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2021 Turkish Grand Prix first practice result

Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’24.17826
233Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’24.6030.42523
316Charles LeclercFerrari1’24.6540.47626
477Valtteri BottasMercedes1’24.8420.66427
555Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’24.8600.68224
631Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’24.9090.73129
74Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’25.3471.16925
810Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’25.3821.20429
914Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’25.3831.20525
1011Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’25.4591.28123
1163George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’25.6851.50724
123Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’25.7501.57225
135Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’25.8101.63225
1499Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’25.8131.63523
156Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’25.8631.68527
167Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’25.9331.75523
1718Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’26.3612.18328
1822Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’26.4242.24627
1947Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’26.6362.45825
209Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’27.0192.84127

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2021 Turkish Grand Prix

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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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13 comments on “Hamilton breaks Istanbul track record as Turkish Grand Prix practice begins”

  1. Well, this certainly looks more like a normal weekend. If I remember right the times by the McLarens were set fairly early in the session, so they will probably be closer to the front come tomorrow. Will be interesting to see whether Bottas can get and stay ahead of Verstappen on and off the grid.

  2. As expected, I reckon pole time on dry track would be 1:22.xxx, depending on the improvement rate.

  3. Merc looking mightily strong again.

  4. The times are even faster than I expected! Pole should be somewhere in the low 1:22s or possibly high 1:21s.

    I wonder, if it was a smart decision to give Hamilton the ‘small penalty’ and not change everything. I guess he will still take part in qualifying, probably grab pole and start from P11. But that also means having cars everywhere around yourself. There’s always a high risk for a crash.

    1. I thougt this myself! But don’t expect if something happens in the first corner that Mercedes will admit they did something wrong! Hamilton pace was rather impressive…

    2. @srga91
      The wise decision was to delay this change to Mexico a track where RBR are normally favourite just like RBR did in Sochi and lucked into a second place that tasted more than a victory. Hamilton is a contender for the win in Istanbul, why theoretically let Verstappen reduce the gap while he could even open it. In Mexico Hamilton has the pace to finish 3rd in all cases. So a possible 1st+3rd is still better than a possible 2nd+3rd.

      I think Mercedes are relying heavily on the simulations, AI and data to take their strategic decisions where as demonstrated in Hungary sometimes some racing common sense can suffice.

      1. @tifoso1989
        I agree, they should have waited at least until they saw how competitive they actually are around here. But maybe Mercedes encountered an issue with Hamilton’s engine, like they did with Bottas’ one in Monza and Sochi, and just wanted to be safe.
        The weather forecast might have also played a part in their decison, as there could be rain on Sunday, which might mix up the order during the race.
        As you say, Mercedes are now possibly handing Verstappen a win on a track where Hamilton looks very strong.

      2. +100%

        Daft decision unless nothing happens at the start

  5. Funny how we forget there is a second Mercedes. If this were their track then the calculus might be, Bottas can win and we get Hamilton a new engine. And limit the damage by keeping rbr to second place.

    1. @dmw
      Bottas has been underperforming heavily for the last 3 years even by his poor standard. It’s just Toto and Lewis kept that extending his contract and praising him for “team dynamics” reasons. It’s the first time in the hybrid era that Mercedes faced a real challenge for the championship and despite having a championship contender as seen in the hands of Hamilton, though Bottas has been lagging in terms of results and pace. Even in races where Mercedes was the faster car Bottas hasn’t been able to challenge for wins.

      1. @tifoso1989 The luck seems to have it that he will be ahead of the pack anyway this time

        1. @balue
          I have to agree with you given the pace Mercedes showed in practise though I have a feeling that he’ll still find a way to screw his own chances of scoring probably his last F1 win.

          1. @tifoso1989 He will probably have to give it up to his team mate

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