Formula 1: Five things we learned from the Turkish Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton lost his grip on the world championship lead in Istanbul when a failed strategy call from Mercedes allowed Max Verstappen to take a six-point lead with just five races left.
Hamilton, 36, was furious over team radio when the Briton lost two positions on the track during a late pit stop, enabling his Red Bull rival to take a bigger lead on his way to Texas later this month.
There was plenty to digest from another exciting weekend. Here, Sportsmail runs through the five things we learned from Sunday’s wet race.
Lewis Hamilton lost his grip on the world championship lead after a dramatic race in Istanbul
Mercedes lose their nerves over Hamilton’s risky tire call
Istanbul has fond memories for Lewis Hamilton. Last year saw the Briton rise from sixth to first in a stunning wet drive to take his seventh world title – leveling himself with Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher.
Still, he will soon want to forget his experience in Turkey this year, with a disastrous strategy call that led to Hamilton giving up ground to Verstappen in the title race.
Mercedes’ decision to pit the world champion backfired as he slipped into fifth place
Hamilton wanted to stay out on the intermediates, but Mercedes opted for a fresh set
The 36-year-old was heard fuming on team radio after the Silver Arrows’ decision
Mercedes initially appeared to support Hamilton’s bold call to stay out on his first set of intermediates, but with 10 laps to go, the Silver Arrows lost their nerves and called their man into the pits.
That decision backfired when the 36-year-old lost two track positions and he was left fuming with his team’s call. Mercedes insists the damage to Hamilton would have been much worse had he stayed out due to the oncoming rain, but the lack of streamlined thinking between driver and team was made clear in Istanbul.
With the rising stakes, Hamilton was unable to cash in on his big gamble.
Red Bull on number with strategy
While Mercedes and Hamilton failed to make the big decisions in Istanbul, the same cannot be said for championship rivals Red Bull.
Fresh off a great call last time in Sochi to put Verstappen on intermediates, which gave the Dutchman second place, Christian Horner & Co were once again spot-on in their decision making.
While Mercedes made a strategic mistake, Red Bull got their tactics on the spot in Turkey
Christian Horner’s decision to recruit Sergio Perez was justified again in Istanbul
Bringing Perez in early for another set of inters was a risky decision and would have gone awry had the track been dry, but conditions remained wet and the Mexican managed to skip Charles Leclerc to the podium.
In fact, Perez’s performance this weekend further justified Horner’s decision to recruit the former Racing Point star. With Hamilton breathing down his neck, Perez executed an excellent defensive driving style to keep the world champion at bay and protect teammate Verstappen.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen hard racing between Red Bull and Mercedes not lead to a crash, and Perez’s composure in that battle set the stage for a strong weekend for the constructor.
There is still plenty of life left in Valtteri Bottas
What a difference a year makes for Valtteri Bottas. The Finn had one of his worst runs in Istanbul last season, finishing 14th after five spins. Teammate Hamilton shot him in the ear as he raced home to victory.
It was a very different story this time for the Mercedes man. After taking pole due to Hamilton’s 10-place grid penalty, Bottas was tasked with fend off the threat from Red Bull star Verstappen.
After a few scorching years at Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas proved he still has it in Formula 1
The Finn drove the race excellently and gave Max Verstappen no openings everywhere
The 32-year-old struggled this year to make life difficult for Verstappen and all too easily gave up the track position for the Red Bull man, but he encountered no such problems in Turkey.
Bottas managed the distance between him and Verstappen brilliantly, as did his tire management and pace control. With a performance like this it’s hard to believe that the 32-year-old hadn’t sealed victory a year before Sunday’s race.
Toto Wolff described the Finn’s drive as a ’10/10′ achievement, while Bottas called it ‘one of his best races ever’. The confirmation of his move to Alfa Romeo next season seems to have lifted a weight off Bottas’ shoulders and if he manages to get close to this level next season it could be a very fruitful partnership indeed.
Carlos Sainz shows his class for Ferrari
Carlos Sainz couldn’t hide his shock when he learned that he had been named Driver of the Day by fans after his fantastic drive in Istanbul, the first time he received the award in his career.
And the Spaniard fully deserved the award. Sainz made his way through the field in Turkey, especially in the first 10 laps where he almost passed one car per lap in difficult conditions.
Carlos Sainz develops into one of the best drivers on wet surfaces and was Driver of the Day
The 27-year-old is developing a reputation as a master of wet roads, and his expertise in the rain saw him move from the back row of the grid to eighth.
In reality, the result could have been all the better if he hadn’t had a terrible pit stop that lasted a whopping eight seconds. If he had stopped between two and three seconds, he would probably have passed Lando Norris in seventh.
But that won’t take the shine off a beautiful ride for Sainz. He passed Daniel Ricciardo early in a big boost for Ferrari, pitting the team against McLaren in the constructors’ standings. Leclerc’s fourth place rounded out a fantastic weekend for the team.
Sebastian Vettel continues to make confusing decisions
Hamilton wasn’t the only driver to see a bold strategic call backfire.
Frankly, there was nothing bold about Sebastian Vettel’s decision to go for slicks in Istanbul. It was just mind-boggling.
Sebastian Vettel’s mind-boggling decision to go for slicks illustrated his sad decline in F1
The German’s experiment on the medium compound lasted only one terrible lap in which he slipped and slipped on the track. He was lucky not to crash as he entered the pits and he seemed dejected over the radio when he informed his team that the strategy was not paying off.
Vettel’s decision-making has been questioned in recent years and coupled with a number of driving errors has become a consistent trait for the four-time world champion.
He finished 18th, ahead of the two Haas cars in a seriously disappointing show.