The English Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), seven times world champion, who in Russia extended his historical record of triumphs to 100 and took the leadership of the Formula One World Championship, defends two points against the Dutch Max Verstappen (Red Bull) this weekend week at Istanbul Park, home of the Turkish Grand Prix, the 16th of the year.
Hamilton -36 years old-, who in 2020 equaling the seven titles of German Michael Schumacher was named ‘Sir’ by Queen Elizabeth, adds, after winning the crazy race in Sochi, 246.5 points: two more than Verstappen -de 24-, with which he had collided in Monza (Italy), before regaining the leadership in Russia. Where ‘Mad Max’ went back, after changing the engine, from the bottom of the grid to second place and Carlos Sainz was third, signing his fifth podium, the third with Ferrari; in a day that the other Spaniard, the Asturian double world champion Fernando Alonso (Alpine), finished sixth after losing a ‘box’ that seemed safe before it started to rain.
Since entering the calendar in 2014 – the same year that he organized the Winter Olympics – in Sochi he has always won a Mercedes. And the trend continued two Sundays ago, although the script was different, with the rain as the main protagonist, both in qualifying on Saturday – in which the Englishman Lando Norris (McLaren) achieved his first ‘pole’ in F1 and Sainz was second-; as at the end of the race, in which those who had previously switched to an intermediate compound tire won places; and those who didn’t, lost.
Norris – fourth in the World Championship, with 139 points, twelve less than the Finn Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) -, who seemed to be driving towards his first triumph in the premier class, had to give the victory to Hamilton before falling to seventh place, just behind Alonso; that, without the final rain, he would have reached a podium in which Sainz was photographed with the two drivers who will play the title this year.
The contest resumes in Turkey, debuting in 2005 and present until 2011, which was "repechage" last year to expand the calendar of the World Covid-19. And that, after falling from the latter – in which it had entered in replacement of Canada – again for reasons related to the pandemic, it was ‘re-announced’ at the end of June during the Grand Prix of Styria, in Austria.
Hamilton, who had already won in 2010, repeated his triumph last year at the circuit located in the Asian area of Istanbul. In a race, with the particularly slippery pavement, that the Mexican Sergio Pérez, Verstappen’s teammate and fifth in the World Cup (with 120 points), finished in second position.
‘Checo’, 31, ninth in Russia, will try to return to the top positions in the Turkish track, of 5,338 meters and 14 corners, eight of them to the left, including the famous’ Turn 8 ‘, with four’ pianos ‘and in which the pilots can withstand lateral forces of up to 4.6 G’s. The Istanbul Park -a circuit in which it is rolled in an anti-clockwise direction, with large asphalt loopholes and in which enough overtaking is expected- is scheduled to give 58 laps, to complete a route of 309.3 kilometers the next Sunday.
The free practice, in which, in the dry, will be rolled with intermediate compound tires – the C2 (hard, recognizable by the white stripe), C3 (medium, yellow stripe) and C4 (soft, red) – start this Friday and will be completed on Saturday; hours before the qualifying session, which will order the starting grid of the Sunday race.
Typically, the tires experienced significant degradation on this circuit. But, having been little used and almost recently resurfaced, last year it became a real skating rink, after it rained on Saturday and Sunday; and due to the low temperatures recorded (it was run in mid-November): with an average throughout the weekend of 13 degrees Celsius ambient and 15 on the asphalt. In this way, this will be another important factor to take into account, on a ‘car’ track, but also a ‘pilot’ one.
Sainz, 27, regained sixth place in the World Cup by taking the podium in Russia, where he has 112.5 points, eight and a half more than his Monegasque teammate Charles Leclerc. The talented Madrid driver – who penalizes for changing the engine of his Ferrari and will start from the back of the grid on Sunday – was fifth last year in Istanbul, one place ahead of Verstappen, who will attack on the banks of the Bosphorus the leadership of ‘ Sir ‘Lewis.
In turn, Hamilton – who was seen in Paris with Neymar and Kylian Mbappé at the birthday party of the model Cindy Bruna – seeks to equal the record of three wins on this track by Brazilian Felipe Massa. This would bring something more reinforced to the tour of America, which will host the next three races, including the Grand Prix of Mexico, on November 7.
Alonso, 40, who returned to F1 after two years out of it (in which he won the World Endurance Championship and -twice- the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Toyota), climbed to the podium four times, with three cars different, in Istanbul. The brilliant Asturian driver, tenth in the championship, with 58 points -13 more than his partner, the Frenchman Esteban Ocon-, was twice second (2005 and 2006, the years of his titles, with Renault) and another two third: in 2007, with McLaren; and in 2011, with Ferrari.
‘Checo’ and Verstappen will ride in cars whose decoration will be different from the usual one, on a weekend originally planned to host the suspended Japanese Grand Prix and in honor of their rider, Honda. The Red Bulls will be predominantly white and with areas in red -among them the bull, obviously-, the two colors of the Japanese flag; and will carry Japanese spelling. For the same reason, the French Pierre Gasly and the Japanese Yuki Tsunoda, the two drivers of Alpha Tauri, the ‘second team’ of the Austrian team, will do something similar. Adrian R. Huber