By Carol M. Creasey
Lewis Hamilton was in impressive form in Free Practice 1 and 2 in Turkey. Last year this is where he clinched his seventh world title in a wet race, starting from 6th on the grid. By the time Free Practice 3 came around, it had started to rain, so he elected not to run any more ending up in 18th position.
Prior to the weekend it had been decided that he would take an engine related penalty because Mercedes had to swap his ICE, which triggered a ten-place grid penalty. Lewis stated that he must get pole position, to limit the damage, which would then mean he would start from 11th position.
His brilliant form continued all through qualifying, when he topped both Q1 and Q2, and finally in Q3 he led Valtteri Bottas by one tenth, with Max Verstappen in 3rd some four tenths adrift of him. It had been noticeable that both Red Bulls had not looked comfortable on the track up to that point.
Due to Lewis’ penalty, Bottas inherited pole, Verstappen was starting in 2nd, and Charles Leclerc in 3rd. The Briton warned it would not be easy to overtake, but he would give it everything to get up the grid. Toto Wolff spoke afterwards, saying there was no-one else he would rather have in the car at difficult races such as this.
On race day, the track was wet at the start, and later as the track was drying there was a mixture of wet and dry patches. Lewis made some fine overtakes to take himself from 11th right up to 5th position. They were all very exciting to watch, and he did try to overtake Sergio Perez for P4, but the Mexican driver defended very strongly, so ultimately Lewis had to concede.
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After the first batch of pit stops, Lewis, who didn’t stop yet, found himself in 3rd place. It was a tough call to make with the tyres, and when Mercedes called him in to pit, initially he told them he wanted to stay out. However, they had more information than he did, and his times were getting slower, so in the end he pitted just 8 laps from the end of the race. When he came out, he asked the team where he was, and when he heard he was in 5th place, he was angry, and spoke his piece to them.
It is not uncommon for drivers to do that in the heat of the moment, but when he was given the full facts later, he understood there was a high likelihood that he would have been overtaken anyway, and in an even worse scenario he could have had a DNF if his bald tyres burst. Afterwards Lewis reminded everyone that ‘we win and lose together’, and although disappointed, he realised that it was not to be on that day.
Bottas drove a fine race to take the win, and he also posted the fastest lap. Vertappen came in 2nd, with Perez 3rd.
What stands out for me today with Lewis, was his fine clean overtakes, and although he has lost his championship lead by 6 points, he looked in fine form, and I can’t wait to see the next race in Austin.
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