To the joy of many Formula 1 fans, F1 returned to Istanbul Park this year for the 2021 Turkish GP. The 2020 Turkish GP, which only happened because of COVID, was voted as the best race in 2020. Last year had some real bangers, but none were greater than the Turkish GP. We all felt that disappointment when we found out we weren’t racing in Turkey this year. But then the Turkish GP came on and off the calendar, before returning as the replacement for the Singapore GP. The Japanese GP weekend was initially supposed to take place on the 5th – 7th of October, but the Turkish GP was rescheduled. Read more about that on the F1 2021 Race Calendar page.
All in all, the F1 community was glad that F1 was racing in Turkey this year because it was a chance to add an ultra-exciting race to a season that was already so insane. And the 2021 Turkish GP delivered. It didn’t completely live up to the hype and last year’s race at Istanbul Park. We weren’t always at the edges of our seats. Last year, the drama was constant, but this year it wasn’t. In 2020, the race literally ended with an exhilarating photo finish between Perez and Vettel for P2 and P3.
For a race with changing conditions, an intense title battle, and a wonderful circuit, the 2021 Turkish GP didn’t deliver enough. it didn’t live up to the hype and the excitement that had been building up until this race. True, we’ve had such a great season that we’ve started to expect every race to be really exciting. While there were exciting battles and moments with some strategy drama, a race with the conditions that the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix had should be more exciting.
For once, F1 fans were actually wishing for the track to dry out, since that would spin the race around. The race wasn’t just mundane for the fans. Even the drivers said they were hoping for a race that was less boring. Max Verstappen even joked about it and said that the hardest part of the Turkish GP for him was staying awake. But there was one part of the race that wouldn’t fail to excite, especially in Turkey. And that was the race start. The race start this year was tense and exciting. The track narrowing into Turn 1 combined with the slippery track, which then led into the flowing corners made for an excellent first lap. And as we saw in 2020, someone spun around at the start.
Fernando Alonso found himself facing the wrong way after Pierre Gasly tapped him coming through Turn 1. Gasly started in P4 after an excellent quali performance but had Perez overtaking him down the inside. Alonso tried to make a move stick around the outside of Gasly, which left Gasly in the middle of a sandwich. Gasly understeered in the wet conditions and hit Alonso, which sent Alonso into a spin. Alonso’s race was ruined. He finished the race in P16 after contact with Schumacher on Lap 2 further ruined his race.
Gasly finished the race in P6, which was a great result for him and AlphaTauri. The fact that he finished in this position despite having a 5-second time penalty is praiseworthy. Gasly was given a 5-second time penalty for the incident with Alonso, which I feel is very unfair. Gasly had another car going down the inside of him, and the track really narrows at Turn 1. Given the circumstances, including the wet track, the stewards shouldn’t be that harsh on a driver. And also, a VERY similar incident happened in 2020 when Ricciardo tapped Ocon and spun him around at Turn 1 on Lap 1 in almost the exact same way. Ricciardo wasn’t penalised at all for the incident. True, the track was wetter and Ricciardo was completely squeezed in, but still, 5 seconds is too harsh for an opening lap incident like Gasly’s.
Gasly’s teammate Yuki Tsunoda had a disappointing race. He finished in P14, despite starting the race in P9. He used up his tires defending from Hamilton and then spun after pushing too hard. Tsunoda had a great start to his debut season in F1 but failed to consistently finish in the points. It’s a little harsh to expect so much from him in his first season, but his performance in the 2021 Bahrain GP meant that people saw a rising star and expected a lot from him this season.
It may not have been the most exciting race, but there’s still plenty to review from the 2021 Turkish GP. And first of all, we’re going to analyse Lewis Hamilton’s race. After starting the race in 11th, Hamilton was making a strong comeback. He was potentially going to finish on the podium, which would’ve worked out nicely for his championship battle. But a strategy mistake proved to be costly for him, and that’s what we’re going to get into now. After that, we’ll look at how the 2nd drivers for the 2 top teams both delivered, and we’re also going to check out Sainz’s noteworthy recovery drive.
Hamilton’s Strategy Mistake That Cost Him Valuable Points
For the 2021 Turkish GP, Hamilton qualified in 1st, which wasn’t a surprise considering how strong Mercedes were throughout the race weekend. But Mercedes fitted a new ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) and a new exhaust to Hamilton’s car, which resulted in a 10-place grid penalty. That’s why Hamilton started the race in 11th, which was far from where he would be ideally. We knew he was going to try and make up at least some of the positions lost. However, I don’t think anyone expected him to be as rapid as he was in the 2021 Turkish GP.
Hamilton began his charge at the very start of the race. He passed Ocon into Turn 1, and despite Vettel putting up a strong fight, Hamilton passed the Aston Martin for P9. On Lap 8, Hamilton and Tsunoda battled as Tsunoda tried to keep P8. Tsunoda tried to stop Hamilton from overtaking him, but Hamilton made a beautiful overtake around the outside of Turn 3. By Lap 14, Hamilton already passed Stroll and Norris. He was making positions really fast. I’m sure that Red Bull would’ve been worried because Hamilton was looking REALLY strong.
Hamilton reached the Top 5 on Lap 15 when he overtook Pierre Gasly down into Turn 12. Hamilton had the slipstream and got a really good run through Turn 11. But if Hamilton wanted to make any more gains, he would have to really put the pedal to the metal, because the next car was 8 seconds ahead. Lewis Hamilton’s pace was even more shocking after this. After 19 laps of pushing, Hamilton caught up to Sergio Perez, who was in P4. On average, Hamilton gained 0.421 seconds a lap on Perez during those 19 laps. That’s some insane pace, especially since the Red Bull is a front-runner, not a midfield car.
Despite Hamilton having some really threatening pace, Perez really fought the Merc hard. Hamilton got a really strong slipstream through Turn 11 and overtook Perez, but Perez hit the brakes later than Hamilton into Turn 12. They were side-by-side through Turn 13, but into the final corner, Hamilton didn’t leave Perez space, with Perez almost getting pushed into the pitlane. Perez continued the battle through the final corner, and it turned into a drag race into Turn 1. Hamilton looked like he secured the position, but Perez used the inside line advantage to dive for the apex of Turn 1 and regain P4. It was commendable defending from Perez, which I’ll get into later on in this post.
Something that’s noticeable is that Hamilton was managing his tires really well compared to others. Hamilton went up to P4 when Perez pitted for new Intermediate tires. But here’s where Hamilton made a costly mistake. On Lap 41, Hamilton, Leclerc and Ocon were the only drivers who hadn’t pit for new intermediate tires. Leclerc was in the lead of the race and wasn’t planning to pit at all when his engineer confirmed that he could make it to the end of the race. Mercedes, however, were calling Hamilton in. They told him he needed a new set of Intermediate tires to make it to the end of the race.
Typically in a wet race, drivers don’t need to pit at all. But in this situation, the track was damp enough for inters, but it wasn’t dry enough for slicks. It was in the phase, and that really wears out the intermediate tires. I’ve experienced that for myself in the F1 game! But Hamilton, Leclerc and Ocon were trying to stay out and make it to the end on one set of inters. So let’s take a look at what happened with these drivers, especially with Hamilton,
Hamilton stayed out of the pits when Mercedes were calling him in. He went with his instinct to stay out, which is exactly what he did. Charles Leclerc came into the pits on Lap 47 after his rear tires completely fell off the cliff. His tire deg was horrible, and there was no way he was going to make it till the end of Lap 58 on that old set of inters. Hamilton decided to stay out.
His tires were wearing out a lot, but it wasn’t a huge problem until Lap 50, which is when Hamilton finally came in for a new set of inters. It was a very late stop, but staying out till the end of the race was definitely not the right decision. Hamilton could’ve stayed out till the end of the race, but he could’ve lost out to Perez and even Leclerc. Worst-case scenario, he ends up with a puncture. The Mercedes strategists and Hamilton just weren’t going to take those risks, especially because we’ve already entered the critical stages of the championship. Hamilton can’t afford a bad result or a DNF.
Esteban Ocon did take that risk, and he barely made it to the end of the race. He finished in P10, with REALLY worn-out tires (as you can see on the left). Pitting Hamilton so late was a gamble in itself, because he lost to Perez and Leclerc anyways. Hamilton came out of the pits in P5, which was where he was before the pitstops.
But this was a huge gamble because although the risk of a puncture was gone, Hamilton was really close to getting overtaken by Gasly, who was in P6. The new inters came with an issue that Hamilton and all of the others experienced. When the inters are new, you get a burst of pace for a lap or so. However, the track was slightly damp and not wet, meaning the inters started heating up and graining. That was a phase that lasted from 3-5 laps, and you could see that all the drivers experienced that dip in pace. By Lap 54, Hamilton was in that phase, while Gasly was going faster and faster on his inters.
During that phase, Hamilton lost the chance to overtake Leclerc for P4. For Lap 53 and 54, Gasly was really close to Hamilton. But on Lap 55, Hamilton’s tires finally found some grip, and he started gaining time. His tires were leaving that phase of graining and finally getting the grip that Hamilton needed, which is why he finished the race 2 seconds ahead of Gasly.
When you look at the data, you can clearly see that Hamilton should’ve pitted when Mercedes first called him in. Hamilton himself admitted that in hindsight, he should’ve come in on Lap 41. If he did so, he would’ve secured a podium, because he would’ve overtaken Charles Leclerc when Leclerc pitted. And as for Perez, there would’ve been another battle between them. Based on Hamilton’s pace and the estimates of how much pace Hamilton would’ve had, he could’ve caught up to and even overtaken Perez for the podium.
At the 2021 Turkish GP, we saw some really tricky weather conditions. This race highlighted the importance of strategy in Formula 1. We saw how important getting the strategy right in uncertain situations was in Russia. In Russia, Mercedes nailed their strategy, and they would’ve got it right in Turkey too, but they should’ve been more assertive and told Hamilton that he had to pit if he wanted to go for a podium and if he wanted to keep the lead of the championship.
Strong Races For Both Perez and Bottas in Turkey
Both of the 2nd drivers had great races in Turkey. Valtteri Bottas, who is pretty much the 2nd driver in Mercedes, managed to win the race after starting on pole position. Bottas was looking strong throughout the weekend, except for in FP3. With Hamilton’s grid penalty, Bottas started on pole and was looking ready to take his first race win of 2021. It’s safe to say that Bottas has had a disappointing season so far. He has been consistently on the podium, but he has also had 2 DNFs and only finished above 3rd thrice this season before the 2021 Turkish GP. This race was the perfect chance to get back on the top step of the podium.
Bottas did everything he needed to do in this race. First of all, he got a good start and then pulled a sufficient gap to Verstappen. By Lap 6, Bottas was 1.6 seconds ahead of Verstappen. That gap kept getting larger and larger. The only time when Bottas lost the lead was when he pitted for a new set of inters and Leclerc didn’t. Leclerc came into the pits on Lap 47, which was a lap after Bottas overtook him into Turn 1.
Bottas kept his tires the way he needed to keep them and maintained the gap to Verstappen behind. It was perfect for him and Mercedes. He hauled 26 points from the race, which is the most a driver can get in a race. Bottas proved that he deserved the win by getting that extra point from the fastest lap. Bottas securing the win was really important for Mercedes’ fight for the constructors’ championship. And it’s not a surprise that Mercedes celebrated this win so much. Unless Bottas can have a streak of exceptionally strong performances, this may be his last win with Mercedes. And since he’s moving to Alfa Romeo, this might be his last win in Formula 1!
Bottas wasn’t the only 2nd driver who succeeded in Turkey. Sergio Perez had a disappointing qualifying session since he qualified in P7. Because of Hamilton’s penalty, he started in P6, but he definitely delivered in the race. While his drive was great, Perez did face some good luck. Take the race start, for instance. Perez got a good start and was making a move down the inside of Gasly into Turn 1. As I mentioned earlier, Gasly made contact with Alonso, which sent Alonso into a spin. Perez gained a position there. Gasly lost momentum because of that contact, which gave Perez P4.
Perez was in the Top 4, which means he was going to go for the podium. But to get on the podium, Perez would have to overtake Charles Leclerc. Ferrari had a horrible weekend leading up to the race, but in Q3, Leclerc performed and qualified in P4. And in the race, Leclerc had some really surprising pace. He was able to pull a gap to Perez, which was unfortunate for Red Bull.
To make matters worse for Red Bull, Hamilton was on a charge. By Lap 34, Hamilton had caught up to Sergio Perez. Hamilton got a really strong slipstream through Turn 11 and overtook Perez, but Perez hit the brakes later than Hamilton into Turn 12. They were side-by-side through Turn 13, but into the final corner, Hamilton didn’t leave Perez space, with Perez almost getting pushed into the pitlane. Perez continued the battle through the final corner, and it turned into a drag race into Turn 1.
Hamilton looked like he secured the position, but Perez used the inside line advantage to dive for the apex of Turn 1 and regain P4. It was commendable defending from Perez, and it proved that Red Bull made the right decision to sign him for 2022 as well. Perez has had some tough races this season, at the 2021 Turkish GP, he drove brilliantly. Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said “he raced Lewis just as hard as Max does.” Verstappen is literally Hamilton’s championship rival, and they race each other as hard as they can. They’ve raced each other so hard that it’s led to crashes at the 2021 British GP and the 2021 Italian GP.
This shows that Perez is not only being a team player but that he’s a really good F1 driver. Christian Horner publicly appreciating that also shows that Red Bull are also feeling optimistic about Perez’s future. Hopefully, this also shows that they know they made the right decision by signing Checo for another year. When Leclerc pitted on Lap 47 after his strategy proved to be a mistake, Perez got up into P3 and secured a double-podium for Red Bull. Red Bull still have a lot of ground to regain in the constructors’ title, but this race was definitely good for their championship fight.
The Comeback That Earned Sainz Driver Of The Day
Even though he only has 4 points to show for it, Carlos Sainz absolutely nailed this race. Carlos Sainz started the race in P19. He was supposed to start dead last because Ferrari replaced engine components in his car, but McLaren did the same for Ricciardo, so Ricciardo started last instead. Sainz got pretty busy at the start, which is what you would expect when you have a pack of 18 cars starting ahead of you. On Lap 1, Sainz got up into P17 after overtaking Nikita Mazepin and Fernando Alonso, with Alonso having that unlucky spin at Turn 1.
Sainz overtook Latifi and Mazepin after Latifi spun and Alonso spun Mazepin. It’s safe to say the 2021 Turkish GP saw plenty of spinning! On Lap 6, we saw how much confidence Sainz had in that Ferrari. He overtook George Russell around the outside of Turn 12 and was already ahead of the Williams at Turn 13. Less than 2 laps later Sainz was past the Alfa Romeos. Daniel Ricciardo wasn’t making that kind of progress, while Sainz was just flying. By Lap 9, Sainz was just behind points-paying positions after overtaking Esteban Ocon into Turn 12. Again, you could see how much grip Sainz had and the confidence he had under braking.
Sainz wasn’t even a 6th of the way through the race, yet he was already on the brink of the Top 10. The TV Direction at the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix wasn’t nearly as bad as it was at the Russian GP, because you could see the action in the race. The fans could see Carlos Sainz making those overtakes, which is why they could vote him Driver of The Day. They could appreciate how well he was doing.
Unfortunately for Sainz, his streak of clean moves ended on Lap 14. The Spaniard made another divebomb into Turn 12, this time overtaking Sebastian Vettel. Sainz nailed the braking, but he got a snap of oversteer mid-corner. That resulted in his car making contact with Vettel’s Aston Martin. It was small contact, and there was no damage done. But it showed that the notorious mid-corner oversteer nearly caused issues for Sainz and that he may need to be a little more careful as the track conditions changed.
Nevertheless, Sainz was now in the Top 10. This was on Lap 14, meaning Sainz had only completed 24% of the race. Getting into the Top 10 after starting in 19th would probably take a driver at least half of the race, yet Sainz didn’t even need a quarter of the race. However, one of the main reasons he gained these positions so fast was that at this point s that the field was still bunched up in the early laps of the race. It took Sainz 5 laps to actually get past Vettel because he had to close the gap that Vettel had formed to Ocon.
The gap between Sainz and Tsunod ahead wasn’t really big, so Sainz was ready to chase after the AlphaTauri. Fortunately for Sainz, Tsunoda spun at Turn 9, so all Sainz had to do was keep pushing to catch up to Lance Stroll, who was in P8. The thing is, Sainz wasn’t so rapid anymore. It was only at around Lap 34 that he could come within a second of Lance Stroll.
Since the track wasn’t dry, DRS was not activated throughout the race. This made overtaking harder, and with Sainz’s intermediate tires wearing out like everybody else’s Sainz was struggling to overtake Stroll. On Lap 36, Sainz came into the pits for a new set of intermediate tires, and things went South. His pitstop was completely botched, and he lost around 5 seconds in the pits. After the pitstops, he was in P10. That’s a sham,e because if his pitstop was a regular pitstop, he could’ve been up there challenging Norris and Gasly and chasing higher positions.
Sainz got into P9 after Stroll lost out in the pitstops. And finally, in the latter laps of the race, Sainz overtook Ocon for P8, which is where he finished. Carlos Sainz proved at the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix that he’s taken his career to the next level this year with Ferrari. His team made a mistake that cost him a couple of positions, but even with the mistake of finishing P8 after starting P19 in a race with such changing and unpredictable conditions is insane. Sainz was actually ahead of his teammate Charles Leclerc in the drivers’ standings.
He was ahead by 8.5 points, but Leclerc finished 4th and gained 8 points on Sainz in the standings. Sainz is beating his teammate and has really surprised everyone. People were speculating coming into this season that there might be a curse on the 2nd seat at Ferrari, just like the situation that Red Bull had. But honestly, Sainz has proven that Charles Leclerc isn’t going to be Ferrari’s only wunderkind. Ferrari has two really strong drivers that can help them rebuild the team and take the team back to wins, and hopefully, championships.
The 2021 Turkish GP was a really interesting race to review. We got the opportunity to dig deep into some aspects of the race, like Hamilton’s strategy. We also looked at how the 2nd drivers of both Red Bull and Mercedes enjoyed success in this racer. And lastly, we appreciated Carlos Sainz’s epic comeback to end this post. Stay safe, stay on the lookout for new posts, and enjoy F1ntastic!