NASCAR Race Weekend Central

F1 Review: Steady & Smooth Valtteri Bottas Wins Wet Turkish Grand Prix

Valtteri Bottas nailed the start of the Turkish Grand Prix and then set sail on his way to claiming his 10th win in Formula 1. Bottas’ last win came at the Russian GP in 2020 and he had struggled through some poor performances in 2021, but after starting from pole, he put together a clean performance in helping Mercedes keep first in the constructor’s championship over Red Bull (433.5 – 397.5). Max Verstappen started second and finished second in a quiet race. He made no challenge on the leader and brought his car home clean in the challenging wet conditions. His finish gave him the lead again in the driver’s championship, now leading Lewis Hamilton by six points (262.5 – 256.5).

Sergio Perez kept Red Bull close by finishing third after starting seventh, giving him one of his better weekend performances of the year. Though he won the Azerbaijan GP, then followed it by finishing third in France, he has been absent from being a presence in the top five for most of the season. His performance in Istanbul should give Red Bull some relief in having him signed for 2022. Charles Leclerc also put together a solid weekend by qualifying fourth and finishing fourth. The Ferrari driver earned his fifth fourth-place finish of the season and moved the team closer to challenging McLaren for third in the constructor’s battle (240 – 232.5).

Hamilton took fifth in a dispiriting result. The championship contender had been holding on to third when he was called to the pits for fresh tyres with less than 10 laps to go. The move proved faulty and Hamilton chided his team for the error. With frustration in his voice, he told them, “I told you not to come in.” Hamilton was probably correct. He had been holding on to third with a 10-second gap over Leclerc and looked like he would occupy the final step on the podium. For all the calls that show the driver and team working in accordance, this race showed how a relationship can fray and the predicted best result does not come to fruition.

As for the rest of the field, Pierre Gasly deserves kudos for his sixth-place finish after starting from fifth. Lando Norris did the best that he could with a McLaren that could not match pace on the sweeping turns, starting eighth and crossing the line in seventh.
Carlos Sainz earned Driver of the Day for his stellar performance of starting at the rear and taking eighth. Such a result will further endear Sainz with the Tifosi as he continues to enmesh himself at Maranello. Lance Stroll performed admirably in taking ninth and giving Aston Martin some respectability in what has been a tough season. Esteban Ocon took the tenth spot and the final points-paying position of the race.

The Race

The Turkish GP provided the first race that was actually completed to its full distance in the wet (looking at you Belgian GP, aka the shortest F1 race in history). While the rain never poured down on the track in Istanbul, it continued as a persistent mist throughout the event. The track never dried and kept the drivers on intermediate wets for the duration.

Bottas started on pole, reacted better on the start, then eased out to a lead he would never relinquish. In fact, Bottas likely felt no pressure at all as he was both clearly in control but also in a better car than anyone behind him. His 10th win helped ensure that Verstappen could not earn the most points for the race and kept the title challenge close in both the driver’s and manufacturer’s standings. Although the wet conditions provided some early moves, like Fernando Alonso spinning out from fifth and dropping to 15th, the wet track never inspired any calamity or foolish moves. In what seemed surprising, the race was pretty, well, clean. Go figure. Many drivers finished close to where they started with a few notable exceptions. Hamilton came from 11th to fifth, Sainz from 19th to eighth, and then, um, that’s about it. Either the teams did not have the adjustments in their arsenal to grab spots in the wet or whether the track encouraged the results, seeing such little movement from the start to the finish appeared a bit peculiar.

The Good

If anything typifies good racing in F1, then the battle between Hamilton and Perez on lap 35 serves as the example. The two fought for the fourth spot at that point of the race. They drove wheel-to-wheel, coming close but never touching.

The side-by-side racing represented the epitome of respect and stellar racing with Perez ultimately prevailing. The fight for the position came after Hamilton had stalked his way through the field and Perez became the primary target for earning a good result, while Perez was doing his best to give Red Bull the result it needed.

Red Bull put on one of their most complete races of the season, and that comes without the team earning the win. Even with a time deficit to Mercedes that hovered around one-tenth per lap, the team recognized to remain steady and hold on to what it could.
The second and third-place results were the best that Red Bull had tallied since the French GP in June.

The Bad

Oddly enough, there is little to criticize on this race. That doesn’t mean that the race was the beautiful example of what F1 can be, but rather that it was what it was given the conditions.

The Questionable

Credit should be given to the ambitiousness of Aston Martin and Vettel. When Vettel pitted on lap 38, the two thought that opting for the medium slicks would be a good idea. While such a move might sometimes serve as to be opportunistic, in this instance it turned out to be overly optimistic – or, as Jeremy Clarkson has stated, “ambitious, but rubbish.” For Aston Martin, the decision held little in the way of loss. Vettel sat outside of the points and had failed to move forward. The prospect of slicks working out and providing a launch forward through the

Just two races ago, Ricciardo led from start-to-finish at the Italian GP in Monza. In Sochi, Ricciardo hung around near the front, qualifying fifth and finishing fourth. Norris, also hung out near the front for the Italian and Russian GPs, showing all of the promise that has been afforded him. But the Turkish GP looked like another one of the duds that Ricciardo has put together this year. He failed to make it out of Q1 in qualifying and then made little headway in the race, crossing the line in 13th. There is still something not quite right between the Ricciardo–McLaren marriage but it may take the offseason to figure out what it is.

The Notable Driver

Sure, Carlos Sainz drove a fantastic race and deserves his DotD award for taking eighth for Ferrari but, really, for the car he had such a result is exactly what he should have done. Still, respect. But the driver that deserves a nod is the one who gave away the Russian GP two weeks ago. Lando Norris could have been forgiven for a lackluster performance. Rather than being crestfallen and allowing the disappointment to continue, Norris took a mediocre McLaren and earned a Q3 starting spot and then crossed the line in seventh. Solid results like these are the ones that mark a driver who is able to get everything he can with what he can and moves forward.

The Quotable

Bottas celebrated his win by saying, “I think from my side, I have to say, probably one of the best races I’ve had ever. Just apart from that one little slide, everything was under control, but like I said before the race, the car has been good in every condition and I had good confidence with it and could really control it.”

Verstappen seemed rather tame in his comments, offering, “The race was all about managing tyres, to make sure they lasted to the end which means it wasn’t the most fun race to drive as you always want to push hard. Nevertheless, I think we maximised the result today and it’s good to be leading the Drivers’ Championship again.”

Sainz, in jubilation, commented, “This was one of my best races, and probably my strongest with Ferrari! That first stint in those tricky conditions was very intense but good fun. I overtook at different parts of the track and using all kinds of lines, so I really enjoyed myself.”

Hamilton rued the decision he and his team made after the race, stating, “I feel like I should have stayed out. My gut feeling was to stay out and I feel that’s what I should have done. So I’m frustrated in myself for not following my gut. But I work as a team, so I did the best I could with the advice I was getting.”

Up Next:

The United States Grand Prix on Oct. 24 at Circuit of the Americas, Texas. ESPN, 3pm ET

The Results: Turkish Grand Prix, Istanbul Turkey; Intercity Istanbul Park (Oct. 10, 2021)

Pos No Driver Car Laps Time/Retired PTS
1 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 58 1:31:04.103 26
2 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 58 +14.584s 18
3 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda 58 +33.471s 15
4 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 58 +37.814s 12
5 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 58 +41.812s 10
6 10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda 58 +44.292s 8
7 4 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 58 +47.213s 6
8 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 58 +51.526s 4
9 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes 58 +82.018s 2
10 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 57 +1 lap 1
11 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 57 +1 lap 0
12 7 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 57 +1 lap 0
13 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes 57 +1 lap 0
14 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda 57 +1 lap 0
15 63 George Russell Williams Mercedes 57 +1 lap 0
16 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault 57 +1 lap 0
17 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 57 +1 lap 0
18 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Mercedes 57 +1 lap 0
19 47 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari 56 +2 laps 0
20 9 Nikita Mazepin Haas Ferrari 56 +2 laps 0

Note – Bottas scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race.

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