Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Istanbul Park, 2021

Bottas wins damp Turkish GP as Verstappen retakes championship lead

2021 Turkish Grand Prix summary

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Valtteri Bottas won the Turkish Grand Prix, ending a year-long winless drought after leading most of the race from pole position.

Max Verstappen finished second to take a six point lead in the championship, ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who finished fifth following a late pit stop.

Rainfall earlier in the morning soaked the course with water, and light showers persisted throughout the day. All twenty cars started the race on the intermediate tyres. To their credit, it was a mostly clean opening lap – though not entirely without incident.

Pierre Gasly picked up a five second time penalty for avoidable contact with Fernando Alonso at the first corner. Alonso, who dropped to the back of the field after a spin, then picked up a five second penalty of his own when he hit Mick Schumacher and spun the Haas driver out.

All of the leaders were content to run their single set of intermediates, potentially as long as to the end of the race. That changed on lap 37, when Verstappen made a stop to switch to a new set of intermediates.

Bottas pitted from the lead on the next lap. Aston Martin even felt confident enough to send Sebastian Vettel out on a set of medium compound slick tyres, but the track was still far too wet for the gamble to pay off at all.

Charles Leclerc took the lead after Bottas’ pit stop. Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton, and Esteban Ocon were the last of the front runners running on their first set of tyres. At the front, Leclerc began to haemorrhage time to Bottas on his worn set of intermediates, setting Bottas up for a chance to re-take the lead with a lunge up the inside of turn one on lap 47. Leclerc finally pitted at the end of the lap, and much to the seven-time world champion’s reluctance, Hamilton made his stop on lap 51.

Hamilton continued to protest the decision to pit with eight laps to go. He dropped into fifth place behind Leclerc, with Gasly gaining on him in sixth. Hamilton could not make any forward progress as he suffered with graining in his new set of intermediates.

Bottas, at the front, stretched his lead out to over ten seconds – and after spinning off five times in last year’s Turkish Grand Prix, he drove to a commanding first win of the 2021 season by 14.5 seconds; Verstappen finished second to take the championship lead, and the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez finished in third, for his first podium since the French Grand Prix.

Leclerc held on to fourth, ahead of Hamilton in fifth, Gasly sixth, and Lando Norris in seventh.

Carlos Sainz Jnr was voted Driver of the Day are completing his drive from 19th on the grid after a pre-event power unit change, up into eighth place. Lance Stroll finished ninth and Esteban Ocon, the only driver to run the full distance without stopping, held off Antonio Giovinazzi for the final point in tenth.

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2021 Turkish Grand Prix reaction

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RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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55 comments on “Bottas wins damp Turkish GP as Verstappen retakes championship lead”

  1. Mercedes were also concerned about tire failure so safer to get P5 than risk it. Lewis should have pitted earlier around Perez’s pit stop and he could have been fighting for P3. Similar for Leclerc. Late pit stop.

    Only mistake i feel is that Hamilton should not have taken engine penalty in Turkey (if no major reliability concern). He could have win this one and taken engine penalty at the next race.

    Happy to see Bottas finally win a race. Perez also helped Max a lot.

    1. I agree, Lewis should have pitted earlier, it was a half measure approach from both sides but Lewis is to blame here as the risk vs reward wasn’t too much here.

    2. There was nothing to be gained by Lewis pitting earlier – he’s accepting 5th basically. Highly likely, he would would have held onto third, without pitting – very much worth and nothing was lost (i.e. he still got 5th)

      Disagree about the engine change. Turkey, is far an away not only the best remaining track for overtaking – it’s also a track where Hamilton excels (probably, because he’s one of only three who are experienced here).

      Problem was that the samey damp conditions made the race more soporific than if it had been red hot. Lewis needed it to dry out and then a race on the mediums.

      A bit unlucky – but I’d have settled for been six points behind as I think the Merc looks better than the RB right now

      1. @banbrorace Holding onto third without pitting mightn’t necessarily have been hugely likely, though, considering Ocon eventually lost two positions. We’ll never know for sure.

        1. Yes, not sure, but hamilton’s lap times seemed good, we’ll have to check that mclaren f1 site in a few days, it has laptimes for all drivers for all laps, to see if he could’ve held on to 3rd, my feeling is yes.

          1. he was losing a lot of time when it went wetter that triggered Mercedes to pit him. But if you went all the way i think he got a tyre failure as they drop off a lot!

  2. 2 Things:

    1. Might be a long while before we hear the Finnish national anthem again.
    2. Dumb move of the day: Mercedes pit wall.

    1. Dumb move is Lewis not coming in on first call

      1. @jelle-van-der-meer Not if the opposite narrative is repeated often enough

    2. My thoughts as well watching BOT on the podium – it’s likely that this might have been his final F1 win. He completed an excellent race, never let the tyres fall off the cliff unlike most of his recent races.

      For those of you familiar with the matter after Mika we had Kimi and now we still have Valteri – are there any Finnish drivers currently in the pipeline that could make it to F1? What has changed in the last decade?

      1. @nnachev Presently, no one looks like being close to reaching F1, AFAIK.

        1. @jerejj – what a blow from a heritage standpoint: no Brazilians already, now the Finnish.

    3. @72defender The Estonian national anthem is set to the same tune as Finland’s, and Juri Vips could easily be an F1 winner if he makes it into the Red Bull senior team at some point, so it might not be quite as long as you think!

    4. When finnish drivers get fired by a top team, they heat up and have great performances and win races, 2018, 2021!

  3. Sainz was driving 1.31s on inters that were 10laps old. They took time to get in right window.
    Meanwhile Lewis was only managing 1.35s. While tyres were only getting worse, as we could see with Ocon barely staying in 1.38 at the end.

    Matter of time that Leclerc and Perez would have gotten Lewis.
    So would have been p5 anyway.

    1. Good point.

      Bit unlucky for Lewis. He clearly was the fastest – he needed it to dry out or pour it down

      1. I’d say he was lucky enough that BOT won the race OR that RBR/VER didn’t overcome the performance deficit to Mercedes although the racing conditions weren’t dry, therefore that big chunk of 7 points + the FL point didn’t go to VER.

    2. Indeed so the Mercedes pitwall had it right, Lewis should have pitted the first time he was called in.

      All drives that pitted took 5-10 laps before they got better lap times, Bottas initially didn’t catch Leclerc but then suddenly he did very quickly.

      1. He first was called in lap 42 which was already after Bottas, Max, Perez etc.
        He finally came in on lap 50.

    3. Agreed, to stay until the end would have been way too risky and ended up being fourth at best with potential for disastrous results.
      The best time for Lewis to pit seemed to be around the time Checo pitted, probably would have ended up third in that scenario.

  4. Excellent drive for Bottas, i guess he feels much more relaxed since the contract situation has been settled and this is shown in his driving.

    Solid result for the championship but Mercedes didn’t maximize their potential with Hamilton. They are both “at fault” for the strategic mishap but I’m sure they can be slightly satisfied with P5.

    We didn’t see a lot of the rest of the field, but I don’t think we lost much…

    1. A Bottas 3.0 (or is 5.0??!!) could be crucial in the fight

      With Perez coming to the party as well – it’s going to be a great last few races

      1. While we have a great season thus far, somehow we didn’t have a race weekend where both 4 guys at Red Bull and Mercedes were fighting for pole/win without any issue. Hopefully as you said, the last races are even better in that aspect

  5. About time Merc have a dominant car in the race. RedBull had about 6/7 races in a row. Look at Austria winning by them gaps on the shortest track. So yes i am very happy it is all to play for now.

    1. That was right before the stiffer tires they got at Silverstone though

  6. Hamilton would have walked today came home with 26 points then would have had a 13 point lead should have done that especially if Max is quicker next race. Also Mercedes missed the ball big time should have undercut Perez. They probably lossed max 2 points. Austin will be good for Merc they need bottas to keep this up.

  7. What great defense by Checo, he was pushed wide, pace disadvantage, yet somehow manages to stay ahead. I hope he improves his quali and then he should finish 4th in championship. Great win by Bottas, didn’t think these conditions would b suit him but he did a fantastic job, I dont think Max had the pace to win.

    1. Absolutely crazy defense, finally a good race for perez.

  8. Can’t entirely blame Mercedes pit wall. I mean Verstappen managed second from dead last while Lewis gained 6 places only. Facepalm for advertising greatest comeback drive ever from all, merc, Lewis and sky. Boy did that backfire.

    1. Stop wumming!! Totally different race. Keep the same weather conditions throughout the last race and Verstappen’s probably no better than 8th.

      It was expected that the track would dry out and we’d get some proper racing. Instead we got, literally, a 10% slower motion version of a boring dry race

      1. Still, TV graphic said in one instance 3,2 sec faster then car in front. He was on average 1,2 (and I’m generous here) then any other car bar Bottas’s. No excuse.

    2. If the new regulations really balance the perfomances as promised, 2022 Mercedes better be good, otherwise Hamilton will have a nxt season in which all the races will be ike this one – stuck in trafic if the car ahead is not 1sec slower and struggling to pass Perez.

  9. James, it’s Valteri …
    😏

  10. Absolutely great racing from Perez. Even though Hamilton tried to push him (very) wide he kept his foot down on the outside… My favourite move of the race. Max was cruising after the pitstop and one failed attack to Bottas. Nice for managing engine wear.

    Hamilton might have been right that he could have done better by not stopping. But likewise there was a risk of him bein eaten up by LeClerc and Perez.. so the result would have been the same.

  11. Max seemed a bit boring today.
    Was he thinking,
    “I don’t have to finish ahead of Valtteri, just Lewis. So just chill till Lewis is trying to get past me”

    I really expected Lewis to be on the podium at minimum and would not have bet against him winning.

    Peculiar race with some good drives from the newer guys.

    1. Boring indeed. A champions drive.

    2. He seemed to not have the pace to match bottas at all, it was more likely leclerc would overtake him (great ferrari here) than him overtaking bottas.

  12. Very happy for Valtteri!

  13. I’m confused about Ocon: is it not in the rules that you have to change tyres once?

    1. Doesn’t apply if it is classed as a wet race.

      1. Ok, thanks!

    2. With a dry race yes – but with a wet race not.
      As soon as inters or wets are fitted the tyre rules go out the window.

    3. Not when it’s a “wet race”… There is no obligation to use different compounds or even put for tyres. Since most races there will be a drying track or more rain coming it’s very rare that you could do a whole race on (worn) inters let alone wet tyres

      1. Hamilton could have, wasted this record!

  14. The false dawn of catching verstappen after his stop fooled Hamilton into thinking he could keep going forward on the same tires. Instead the same graining phase that gave that impression almost cost him going down to 7th. Possibly if he changed with verstappen he would have continued to go forward. Hindsight.

  15. What the hell was Vettel’s stint on inters?

  16. If Max is unable to catch Bottas in wet conditions it is obvious Mercedes is the faster car now. That means that if coming races are dry, the WDC will be going to Hamilton. Question remains where Mercedes has found the extra power to catch up with RB.

    1. You can’t come to such a sweeping conclusion based on this track. The expert consensus is that either car will be faster than the other at some tracks and there are some rather interesting reasons if you care enough to delve deep into some of the high quality technical writing out there. For example, check Mark Hughes’ explanation for why the Red Bull (and Mclaren for that matter) struggled relative to Mercedes this weekend.

    2. The Mercs were surely fastest this weekend, but then again Max struggled too long with the set up so they might not have gotten it right (enough) in the end this weekend. Maybe next track it will be quick out of the box and they can catch up with the Mercs. But as someone stated on this site: ‘I wouldn’t be surprised to later find out that through reliability fixes or otherwise the Merc engine has been able to unlock higher modes’. Let’s see at the next round. So far this weekend to me was a perfect summary of this years championship battle: a faster but more nervous and therefore error prone Mercedes team.

  17. Ham doesn’t have anywhere the high level of intelligence to override the brains at Merc.

    He’s not a Senna or Schumacher, he needs to just drive and obey his team.

    1. This is pretty evident by, opposite to today, how much he complained about tyres refecty able to give many FLAPs to the end of the race. IF 2022 Mercedes cant keep being the fastest car, 2022 Hamilton season will be a eality call.

      1. Russell’s a smart guy and will make Ham look very silly next year.

  18. Ah, finally bottas beat verstappen on performance this year, he had never done that before, could’ve done it at monza, but had the engine penalty, I know mercedes was faster here, but so far even when mercedes was at its best (spain, portugal) bottas was always too slow.

    Perez instead managed to beat hamilton on performance in baku, even before verstappen’s problem was holding him off, and in monaco when hamilton had a subpar weekend.

  19. Lewis of the day: Valtteri
    Valtteri of the day: Lewis

  20. I suppose this is the first time this season that both Bottas and Perez managed to do what they were hired for.

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