#F1 Race Review: 2021 FORMULA 1 ROLEX TURKISH GRAND PRIX


Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor CFD1801J

Ambient 15.5° Track 18.3° Humidity 93.5% Wind 2.7 m/s

Prelude

A shapeless formless veil of grey hung low over the Intercity Istanbul Ciruit, after the rain gods decided to get spicy and dump buckets of water over the track in the hours leading up to the Turkish Grand Prix. Given the low temps and lack of sun, the general consensus was Inters for the start, as occasional patches of drizzle continued to erupt at various points around the track. A wet start was generally thought to advantage those who made Q3 on the Softs, as the Medium was generally the preferred tyre for the race. However, a wet track is also a less power sensitive track, so the 22 or so bhp that Hamilton’s new ICE reputedly gained him were now going to be somewhat less useful, at least until the crossover to slicks was reached, thought to be in the 1:34s.

Speaking of new bits, turns out Mercedes was able to rustle up and extra PU, this one with all the bits attached for Ricciardo which was the only way he was going to salvage anything from his fairly abysmal qualifying from yesterday. He will thus start behind Sainz, dead last but perhaps in a good place to avoid early carnage and make a run through the field.

Given the cool track temps, getting heat into the Inters quickly will be decisive in the early phase of the race and, as has been seen in races past, a switch to slicks to soon risks losing all performance if they cannot be brought up to and kept in the window. It is a scenario that will definitely favour certain drivers and teams, but the savagery and chaos of the start could see anyone taken out (Hungary, anyone?)…

Worth noting that the dry strategy from Pirelli was a 2 stopper equal to a one stopper, with the only difference being 2 sets of Hards versus one and the Medium expected to last 12 to 25 laps. Again, though, just a reminder that a tyre whose operating window is most easily reached will be more important than the compound of the tyre in these conditions. And as a final bit of fun, the track treatment which massively improved grip, may shred the intermediates as the dry line starts to appear, a concern up and down the grid..

Summary

Lights Out!!!! Great Start by Bottas as it was Alonso going for a big spin into Turn 1 and dropping all the way down to P16, as he tried to make the outside of Turn 1 work. Into lap 2, Hamilton nicked Vettel for P9 and apparently was Gasly washing out that sent Alonso off, with a tap to the Alpine’s rear as Alonso tried to get round on the outside… And then it was Latifi with an off that promoted him to dead last as Hamilton continued to find a way around Tsunoda who was defending hard against the World Champion.

To continue to pay it forward, Alonso then bounced Schumacher into a spin, which might well result in an investigation, and put the HAAS driver right where he didn’t want to be, stuck behind his teammate and down to P19. Also rather astonishing was the fact that Tsunoda continued to keep Hamilton behind him even as lap 7 got underway, which would give some cheer to the Alpha Tauri and the Red Bull pitwall.

But it was Sainz doing the business on moving day, up to P12 and about to stick it to Ocon, with a delta of nearly 2 seconds a lap to play with. Gasly got dinged 5 seconds for the Turn 1 incident and then, lap 8 round the outside between Turn 3 and 4, Hamilton took advantage of Tsunoda going slightly wide at Turn 1 and took P8, off in chase of Stroll ahead. The Aston, it turns out, was much more easily dispatched and there you go, P7 but 20 seconds back of the leader, Bottas. Alonso got dinged for the Schumacher incident and balance was restored to the universe.

Sainz took P11 away from Ocon and lap 11 and the fast pack were now dipping into the 1:34s, the predicted crossover for slicks. Norris let Hamilton by without a fuss, recognising that it wasn’t his fight today, and now it was Gasly, 4 seconds up the road his next target. Sainz was battling with Vettel for the last of the points paying positions and was inside DRS, even though DRS was not activated due to the weather. Drizzle was reported in the pitlane and as the front rights began to visibly degrade, tough decisions for the drivers and engineers loomed larger and larger in the foreground…

Verstappen and Hamilton both agreed that the track was still too wet for slicks and that the tyres were beginning to go and lap 14 and then contact between Sainz and Vettel as Sainz chucked it up the inside for the pass. Neither car spun and Sainz carried on as if he had already made the pass, to the radio protests of Vettel. Next lap the ridiculous pace advantage carried by Hamilton powered him past Gasly into Turn 12, after adding a massive tow from Gasly to the decisive turn. P5 for Hamilton and 17 seconds to the lead. Sainz was given the green light by the Stewards to keep the place and off they raced…

By lap 18, the tread blocks on the right front tyres was beginning to disappear entirely, and it was Verstappen, setting fast lap as Sainz rocked by Tsunoda for P9. Bottas returned the favour the following lap, going purple as his teammate chased down Perez for P4. Verstappen’s pace was clearly tactical, as Hamilton was about to get held up by Perez so the more he could push the pace the better for his race plan as it would extend the gap between him and Lewis.

Lap 21 and it was now the battle for P11 between Ocon and Vettel, with the Alpine driver having very quietly worked his way to inside a second on the Aston. It looked to be a drawn out affair, fought in hundredths over many laps, but until Hamilton caught Perez it was the major action on track. Lap 22 and that changed, as Ricciardo, with little to lose, hit the pitlane for a set of new Inters and all the teams settled down to have a close look at his sector times as Tsunoda spun it at Turn 9, which dropped him to P13 as the rears looked to be completely gone on the Alpha Tauri.

Ooooh and then Leclerc rocked in a fast lap, into the 1:32s, taking the ball away from Bottas… Ricciardo’s times looked fast for midfield teams, but not quicker than those at the front so decisions were being made accordingly depending on one’s proximity to the Macca driver. Pit Delta at 24 seconds probably playing a part in those choices. Pit window for Bottas on lap 27 would put him out in P5, just ahead of Gasly. Gasly was still inside Verstappen’s pit window, though the top two continued to creep away from him at a couple of tenths a lap. Bottas told his engineer the tyres were basically slicks now and he was told that going long was the plan. Norris was given a target of plus 5 laps and the race was now thoroughly in the hands of the drivers as conditions continued to be exceedingly challenging.

Mazepin cost Hamilton a chunk of time as the HAAS driver missed the approach of the Mercedes into Turn 11 and Lewis was forced to back out to avoid a collision. The HAAS driver realised his error and let Hamilton by in the braking zone for Turn 12 but it was a dodgy bit of driving from the rookie…

Vettel continued to repay Ocon for Hungary, making his car increasingly wide as the Alpine driver searched for a way round the Aston and it was Alonso, next to blink, into the pits on lap 32 for a set of Inters as there was still some rain falling at various points on the track. 5 second penalty served and off he went, down to P18 for his misdeeds. At the front, Bottas was extending his lead on Verstappen, and to make matters worse, Hamilton was now on Perez’ gearbox probing the Mexican’s defense…

The good news for Verstappen was that Gasly was now outside his pit window, but the bad news was that Leclerc was just 2.3 seconds back and faster than him. Drivers on the radio were also saying the rain was picking up and Ricciardo’s tyres were at last doing him favours, as he rocked by LAtifi and was now significantly faster than those at the front… oooh lap 35 and a four turn battle between Hamilton and Perez absolutely riveting, as they went side by side with each driver looking to have the advantage till at last Perez took the inside into Turn 1, though he may well have gone the wrong side of the pitlane cone in his defense… On replay he clearly did, but in this instance the rules allowed for that and no penalty was awarded.

Verstappen, Sainz, Tsunoda Russell all in then, and Perez had done the job he was hired for, with Verstappen out just ahead of his teammate. This brought Bottas in lap 37 and the die was cast….Vettel also in and he chose to go for the Mediums…. and again everyone had a look to see what the Aston could do on the slicks.

Perez was also in and out on Inters lap 37, as Vettel again had a spin, going to slicks now clearly the wrong call, handing that spot to Alpine for no reason whatsoever. So Vettel was back in for the more sensible choice and gonna have to go have a listen to those onboards post race to see exactly who was at fault for that one…

On replay, Vettel almost dumped it entering the pitlane, such was the sheer incorrectness of his choice. Lap 40 and Gasly and Stroll were in in which left Leclerc in the lead, Hamilton in P4 and Ocon in P8 as the only runners in the top 10 yet to pit. Giovinazzi was in to undercut Ocon and one presumes, for reasons, Alpine failed to pit him to defend. Perhaps they figured he could get to the end without needing another set…

Lap 43 and a serious difference of opinion about taking new tyres emerged at Mercedes, with the team wanting Lewis to take new tyres and Lewis thinking they should persist as he felt the crossover was coming… Lap 45 and Sainz had caught up to the back of Ocon and was having a go at the Alpine. Verstappen was on the radio complaining that his steering was going increasingly left hand down, perhaps a part of the story behind the rather anonymous race he was having thus far.

Lap 46 and Bottas was inside a second on Leclerc while Sainz got the job done on Ocon, a dead certainty given the Alpine driver’s tyres were 45 laps old. Big slide for Leclerc and Bottas makes the move, into the lead as the Ferrari driver was on the radio discussing staying out to the end. Hamilton was on the radio wondering if the tyre would last to the end and the stakes just kept rising…

Lap 48 and Leclerc folded his hand, in for a set of new Inters, which left Hamilton and Ocon as the holdouts. Ocon had a 6 second gap to Stroll that he needed to defend for 10 laps, and Hamilton had a 12 second gap to Leclerc, who was now on a fresh set of tyres, making the calculus a bit more difficult for Mercedes…

The maths looked bad for Ocon, as Stroll was nearly a second a lap quicker and it was also a bit late in the day at Mercedes, as Gasly was now edging toward his pit window. And that was that, the team called Lewis in and he was out with some fresh Inters, 2 seconds ahead of Gasly, opting to avoid a DNF from tyre failure versus the extra loss of championship points from pitting and losing places…

The end of Lap 51 and Perez made his move on Leclerc, braking late and rocking round the outside of Turn 12, going on to put another 4 seconds on him in short order. No rear grip reported Leclerc as he looked to be unable to bring them into the window for optimum performance. Hamilton was rapidly into position on Leclerc, but he complained of “massive graining” which, to be fair, might also have been Leclerc’s issue as well. Lacking the time to slowly bring the tyres into the window, they pushed too hard too soon and created a temperature imbalance between the tread and the bulk, resulting grains of rubber being rolled off the surface, ruining the grip. And Hamilton was most displeased about it on the radio…

This left Hamilton vulnerable to Gasly, who was inside a second with 3 laps to go and huge championship implications as well. Even worse, Norris was also playing in this game, meaning a potential 2 place swing for the Mercedes driver. Further back, it became clear that Alpine had bet on salvaging a singular point and the death of Ricciardo’s tyres was what they had hung their hat on, the Macca driver only able to match Ocon for laptime as the last laps rolled onto the leaderboard.

Lap 57 and Hamilton had recovered some performance, enough to pull a small gap on Gasly but not as much as Leclerc, who had extended his lead over Hamilton to nearly 4 seconds… and oh my, what’s this, Giovinazzi scooting up the inside of Ricciardo into the final lap, taking Raikkonen with him and chasing down Ocon… inside 2 seconds as the entered the 2nd sector, inside a second as they wound their way through the last sector, Ocon tiptoeing through the final turns with tyres 58 laps old and just holding off the Alfa’s charge…

It was rather more pedestrian for Bottas clocking fastest lap on the penultimate lap before breezing unhindered across the line, his first win of the season and incredibly important to the team he will be leaving at the end of the season. Still, given the contretemps over pitting Hamilton, a bit of unease in Mercedes’ house as that will need to be resolved, even though looking at Perez’ times once he was past Leclerc he had nearly 2 seconds a lap in hand so at best perhaps he could have held off Leclerc had he stayed out…

Bit of bubbly at Red Bull then, as barring Verstappen winning outright, it was an optimum result when it was absolutely required, with Verstappen now in the lead of the Driver’s Championship and the lead of Mercedes in the Constructor’s trimmed to 36 points. And that with Verstappen suffering from some minor issues and the car itself never really in the performance window they wanted. Bonus, their bogiest of tracks now in the rear view mirror and Mercedes’, Mexico, yet to come…

P4 for Leclerc should be the highlight result, thought they might be wondering if they would’ve nabbed a podium had they pitted him at the same time as the other leaders. But it was the brilliant progress of Sainz that stole everyone’s hearts, and P20 to P8 is already a good story, but winning Driver of the Day was just the chef’s kiss. Add to that they significantly trimmed their deficit to McLaren in the Constructor’s and it was a happy day indeed for the Scuderia.

Even though it should be party city at Alpha Tauri, Gasly finishing P6, no doubt there will be a bit of woulda coulda as the 5 second penalty he was given for the contact with Alonso, which was, well let’s just let the word dubious do the heavy lifting here, was the difference between being behind instead of ahead of Hamilton. And even though Tsonoda’s defense of Hamilton was an encouraging sign of his progress, the subsequent course of his race showed that he still has some way to go before coming into the promise that he has shown.

Norris carried the banner for McLaren, after Ricciardo’s less than stellar qualifying, and he clearly got the most out of his race, going P7 in the end but the larger picture may be problematic for them if Ferrari’s new PU continues to leave them with an advantage to the end of the season.

Aston is very much in a get what you get and don’t get upset, but there is no doubt that Vettel chucked a chance at points away with the slick tyre gamble. Still, Stroll had a fairly uneventful ride and they correctly pitted him at the right time to maximize his points.

And that just leaves Alpine, with Ocon managing a singular point going full yard on his tyres, though the picture of his right front post race suggests they were about a half lap from it going all wrong. AT best, they saved themselves from having to pass Ricciardo with a fresh set of tyres, but thanks to Giovinazzi it made for an incredibly exciting to the end of the race. Of course, that is cold consolation as Alonso, in a much better starting position, had a race better forgotten after the mayhem in Turn 1 and will be hoping that a trip to the US will cleanse their palate…

Discuss!!!

And remember to play nice in the comments!!

4 responses to “#F1 Race Review: 2021 FORMULA 1 ROLEX TURKISH GRAND PRIX

  1. What would have been a mediocre dry race, was a mediocre wet / damp race. The only good things that came out of it was Verstappen back in the drivers WC lead, and listening to the crying Hamilton fangirls….

  2. Its equally entertaining to see how quickly, at every given opportunity, the racists and bigots start jumping up and down in glee

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