While the drivers’ championship battle took another swing, Valtteri Bottas made his yearlong return to the top of the podium after winning the Turkish Grand Prix from pole position on Sunday, October 10.
The Finnish veteran, who originally posted the second-fastest lap in qualifying, started on pole position after his teammate, Sir Lewis Hamilton, was hit with a 10-place grid penalty for competing with a newly installed Mercedes engine in his car. After launching away from the field at the start and on damp conditions, Bottas led the first 37 laps. He returned to the lead on Lap 47 of 58, which he would keep for the remainder of the event as he beat runner-up Max Verstappen by more than 14 seconds.
With the victory, Bottas, who also set the fastest lap of the event, became the sixth different winner of this year’s F1 season as he achieved his 10th Grand Prix career win. Bottas, who remains in third place in the drivers’ standings, is down to his final six events with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team, a team he joined in 2017 and went on to record his maiden Grand Prix victory. He is set to join Alfa Romeo Racing for the 2022 season.
“It feels awesome,” Bottas said. “It feels good. I don’t know. Almost like a relief to actually win a race this year. It’s been a while and it was not an easy race win. With these conditions, just needed like full focus, non-stop and couldn’t do any mistakes. The pace I had was really good and I was confident with the car. I feel like since Monza, things have been going quite well and quite nicely. There’s not pressure about anything, so I can just really enjoy, focus on the driving and that seems to work.”
Trailing Bottas to the finish line were Red Bull Racing’s two competitors, Max Verstappen and Sergio “Checo” Perez, both of whom sported a special silver Honda tribute scheme to pay homage to Honda’s final season as a power unit in F1. Verstappen finished in second place for his 12th podium result of the season and reassumed the lead in the drivers’ championship standings by six points over Lewis Hamilton. Perez, meanwhile, settled in third and achieved his first podium result since finishing third at Circuit Paul Ricard for the French Grand Prix in June.
“I think we had, in general, a decent race,” Verstappen said. “I think we maximized the result. Valtteri was a little bit faster, but of course this whole weekend, we were a bit behind in pace compared to Mercedes. This race was all about just managing the tyres through a certain lap. As a team, to finish second in Turkey was a very good result. I wish I had a bit more pace in the car so it would’ve been a bit easier. We are in the fight. We’ll keep fighting and we’ll see in the coming races how competitive we are going to be.”
“It’s been a while since I’m not on the podium,” Perez said. “Unfortunately, I think the last couple of races, we’ve been simply so unlucky. Today’s a special podium because it’s one of those days that I wasn’t fully comfortable with the car, especially on that first stint. It made it very tricky. It was good to get that podium. I think I learned a lot from my first stint to apply to my second one and how I bring the tyre in. That made a good difference. I really hope that from Austin onwards, we can be stronger than [Mercedes].”
While Charles Leclerc finished fourth after leading nine laps, Hamilton, who was able to methodically work his way to the front, ended up in fifth place after opting to pit for tyres with eight laps remaining while battling for a podium spot. The result left Hamilton furious with his team over the late decision to pit.
“I feel like I should’ve stayed out,” Hamilton said. “My gut feeling was to stay in and I that’s what I feel like I should’ve done. So frustrated in myself in not following my gut, but I work as a team. [I] Did the best I could with the advice I was giving…That’s life.”
Pierre Gasly, who qualified in the top five for the sixth time this season, rallied from a five-second penalty for colliding into Fernando Alonso on the opening lap to finish sixth followed by Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz, who started at the rear of the field while competing in a new power unit to his Ferrari. As a result of his drive from the rear of the field, Sainz was named ‘Driver of the Day.’ Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon completed the top 10 on the track.
Antonio Giovinazzi settled in 11th followed by teammate Kimi Räikkönen, Daniel Ricciardo, rookie Yuki Tsunoda and George Russell. Fernando Alonso ended up in 16th ahead of Nicholas Latifi and Sebastian Vettel, who slipped off the course twice in the opening lap and later spun while trying to enter pit road. Rounding out the 20-car field in the running order were Haas’ Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.
1. Valtteri Bottas, 26 points, 49 laps led
2. Max Verstappen, 18 points
3. Sergio Perez, 15 points
4. Charles Leclerc, 12 points
5. Lewis Hamilton, 10 points
6. Pierre Gasly, eight points
7. Lando Norris, six points
8. Carlos Sainz, four points
9. Lance Stroll, two points
10. Esteban Ocon, one point, +1
11. Antonio Giovinazzi, +1
12. Kimi Räikkönen, +1 lap
13. Daniel Ricciardo, +1
14. Yuki Tsunoda, +1
15. George Russell, +1
16. Fernando Alonso, +1
17. Nicholas Latifi, +1
18. Sebastian Vettel, +1
19. Mick Schumacher, +2
20. Nikita Mazepin, +2
Max Verstappen leads the drivers’ standings by six points over Lewis Hamilton. Meanwhile, Mercedes continues to lead the constructors’ standings by 36 points over Red Bull Racing Honda.
With six races remaining to the schedule, the 2021 Formula One season will be taking a one-week break before returning to Circuit of the Americas for the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, on Sunday, October 24.