After Lewis Hamilton overhauled Valtteri Bottas with his final run in qualifying, Mercedes got the best possible result available to them on the grid for the Turkish Grand Prix.
If Bottas took pole ahead of Hamilton, the world championship leader would fall to 12th on the grid. If Hamilton was fastest, he’d start a place higher in 11th. Either way, Bottas would start from pole, so having Hamilton ahead was clearly in Mercedes’ best interests.
However Bottas led the pair after their first runs in Q3. That changed when Hamilton began his final run before his team mate and moved ahead. When Max Verstappen completed his final lap in Q3 and failed to dislodge the pair from the front row, the biggest threat to Mercedes was gone.
Did Mercedes therefore to tell Bottas to back out of his final flying effort, to ensure the best possible starting positions for both drivers? The opportunity was there: Bottas reached the finishing line 18 seconds after Verstappen.
But afterwards Bottas made it clear there had been no such instruction from his team. “I wasn’t asked to slow down and I was definitely going for it,” he confirmed.
Hamilton’s speed through the final sector of the lap, which includes two of the slowest corners, proved decisive.
“I started to struggle a bit with the front end in the last sector,” Bottas explained. “I just had some understeer in turn 12 and 14, so I could feel I was losing a bit of time. Probably used the tyres a bit more, earlier in the lap. So I was fully going for it, for sure.”
Telling Bottas to back off could also have put him in jeopardy from the only driver running behind him who could potentially beat his time – apart from his team mate – Charles Leclerc. However the Ferrari driver ended up almost three-tenths of a second behind Bottas.
Verstappen fell short of beating Bottas by less than two-tenths of a second. He told his team on the radio his battery hadn’t delivered all the expected power at the end of his lap. Later, Verstappen confirmed this has been due to how he used the battery earlier in the lap, and not a technical problem on his car.
While Verstappen said the lost time wouldn’t have been enough for him to take pole position, it underlined how big a threat Red Bull were to Mercedes. The world championship therefore couldn’t take any chances when it came to their drivers’ lap times.
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Bottas radio from his final run
|Musconi||We’ve got three cars about to start a lap in sector three. Lewis at the last corner.|
|Musconi||Lewis is finishing his lap, correction.|
|Musconi||We’ve got Leclerc now on the start/finish line starting a lap. Behind him, Tsunoda.|
|Musconi||So Alonso’s got a seven second gap ahead to Norris. Expect a tiny bit of bunching.|
|Musconi||And Stroll behind on an out-lap. Leclerc has aborted. Only car on a lap is Tsunoda, 20.|
|Musconi||Plenty of time in hand. Perez in the last corner is going. Verstappen now is going. And Norris five ahead will go soon.|
|Musconi||Tsunoda still 16 behind. Alonso two-and-a-half ahead. Four ahead. Four-and-a-half. Five seconds.|
|Musconi||No radio communication during Bottas’ final timed lap|
So currently P2.
|Musconi||Got Lewis and Leclerc finishing but Lewis is already ahead.|
|Musconi||So confirm P2. Leis, yourself, super Max, Leclerc, Gasly, Alonso, Perez, Norris, Stroll and Tsunoda. Good job.|
|Bottas||Well done guuys, good job. So that’s pole tomorrow yeah?|
|Musconi||And you’re coming into the pit lane.|
|Musconi||So Lewis’ fastest lap was the first one.|
|Musconi||It was mainly sector three, a tenth and a half.|
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2021 Turkish Grand Prix
- Fifth place was possible from back row without slow pit stop – Sainz
- Giovinazzi ignoring position swap order was “not ideal”, admit team
- Bottas becomes 35th Formula 1 driver to reach 10 race wins
- Medical Car driver van der Merwe likely to miss further races due to Covid-19 rules
- Drivers to ask Masi why Alonso and Norris went unpunished for “very clear” incidents