Turkish GP Race: The best race of 2020?

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Turkish GP 2020 Race Start F1
Image: Racing Point F1

Turkish GP 2020: It’s not very often Formula One has a race that lives up to the fever pitch excitement fans build-up ahead of it. With the threat of rain in the air, a hugely popular circuit, the grid being mixed up after a wild qualifying session, the Turkish GP had the potential to be one of the biggest letdowns of 2020. Instead, every element gelled together to deliver what may be the best race of 2020.

Despite the gigantic pressure resting on Lance Stroll’s shoulders following the young Canadians maiden pole, his Racing Point streaked ahead and was unchallenged ahead of the bogged down Max Verstappen. With Sergio Perez getting an equally good getaway, the two Racing Point RP20’s scampered off into the distance. Somewhat reminiscent of how the W10’s they are modelled off did so many times last year.

Behind the leading duo at the end of the first lap was Sebastian Vettel. With the four-time champion starting down in P11, Vettel deployed all of his experience to make up an outstanding eight places on the opening lap.

Two of those positions came on the very first corner with Esteban Ocon getting tagged by teammate Daniel Ricciardo sending the Frenchman spinning. Valtteri Bottas was immediately behind Ocon and copied the pirouette almost exactly. Bottas spun without contact but made up for that shortly after when both he was battling Ocon at turn 7 and hit the Renault. Through no fault of his, Ocon twice faced backwards in just half a lap and couldn’t recover to the points by the end of the race as a result.

Although the rain wasn’t falling, the track surface had returned to the state the teams found it on Friday morning; i.e. treacherous. I commend all twenty 20 drivers for completing even a single lap of the Istanbul Park circuit. Somewhat remarkably, the only safety car period of the Grand Prix was a result of a mechanical failure rather than a crash.

Antonio Giovinazzi repeated Verstappen’s Hungarian Grand Prix mistake and crashed into the barriers before the race began. However, Antonio’s retirement shortly after the first round of pitstops on lap 11 was apparently not related to this contact. The stranded Alfa had a gearbox failure when it stopped on the side of the track. The marshalls deemed it poorly placed enough to warrant a VSC to help its recovery.

With all the drivers who had started the race on wet tires already having pitted, no-one benefited from the slowdown. Inversely, the drop in speed created additional tire warming problems for the remaining 19 cars. This allowed Verstappen to close in on Perez when the green flags waved, who was, in turn, closing in on Stroll ahead. 

Valtteri Bottas Mercedes F1 Turkish GP
2020 Turkish GP, Sunday – LAT Images

With the promise of the Red Bull being apparent from FP1, Max looked certain to take the lead within ten or so laps if he could take advantage of the extra grip his RB16 had over his pink rivals. However, Verstappen’s frustrating weekend continued as he impatiently attempted an overtake going into the fast right-hand turn 11. Max was tackling the corner at a far too acute angle as well as being well off the ever-drying racing line. The Dutchman performed a 720 spin and was lucky to not damage anything more than his tyres as he promptly retreated to the pits for a fresh set of rubber. 

Perez now had the sister Red Bull of Alex Albon closing in on him as the race reached half distance. Albon finally performing the duty of the second Red Bull driver and picking up the pieces when Max could not. However, the challenge didn’t last too long and Perez saw a second RB16 spinning in his mirrors. The grip on Albon’s worn intermediate tyres finally ran out and he lost third place to the champion-elect, Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton had been having an uncharacteristically quiet race with struggles getting his tyres the bite on both wet compounds. He had an off-track on the first lap where he locked up, dropping from P3 to P6. However, Charles Leclerc down in 9th pitted for fresh inters and immediately set purple sectors. Most the field followed suit while Hamilton went his own path and stayed out. Combined with Albon’s spin, this elevated Hamilton back to third without him needing to perform a single overtake.

One other man stayed the course with the older intermediates too, Sergio Perez. Racing Point pitted Stroll from the lead with the Canadian struggling to keep pace with those catching him. This promoted Perez to first, albeit briefly. With conditions dry enough for DRS, though not dry enough for slicks, Hamilton easily sailed past Checo to take the lead of the race.

Perez wasn’t the only Racing Point slipping back. The new set of rubber on Stroll’s car would not fire up whatsoever. In the first laps following his stop, both of the Ferrari drivers eased past him. Leclerc impressively also got past Vettel with his Pirelli’s a little warmer than those on the sister Ferrari. As for Stroll, though, over the next laps, he lost out to Albon and Sainz as well. Lando Norris eventually took eighth place from the polesitter who finally finished the race in a lowly ninth.

But up at the front, it was a serene drive from Hamilton who was able to extend his lead to 31 seconds by the chequered flag. As if this wasn’t enough, to remove any doubt on who the world champion was, the Brit lapped his sole remaining title rival Bottas en route to his victory. This may have been Hamilton’s tenth win of the season, but it easily ranks as his best of the year.

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes F1 Turkish GP
2020 Turkish GP, Sunday – LAT Images

While Ricciardo, Latifi, Grosjean, and Verstappen all continued to slide and spin in the lower positions, the fight for second place reached its conclusion on the final lap. Perez, like Hamilton ahead of him, still had the tyres from lap ten equipped. After successfully holding strong against a one-by-one Red Bull attack, he now faced two pacey Ferrari’s simultaneously. 

Leclerc had nibbled on the closing laps but drove down the inside of the heavy-braking turn twelve on the very last lap. But the Monegasque couldn’t slow down in time and Vettel was suddenly through instead. Ducking and diving on a different line from Perez ahead of him, Vettel seized on the mistake his younger teammate made. But the final percentage of grip on Perez’s tyres kept him ahead of Vettel on the line by just three-tenths to make it a Hamilton, Perez, Vettel podium finish to a captivating Turkish GP.

2020 Turkish GP Results

  1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  2. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)
  3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
  4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
  5. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)
  6. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  7. Alexander Albon (Red Bull)
  8. Lando Norris (McLaren)
  9. Lance Stroll (Racing Point)
  10. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault)
  11. Esteban Ocon (Renault)
  12. Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri)
  13. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
  14. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
  15. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo)
  16. George Russell (Williams)
  17. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
  18. Romain Grosjean (Haas) – DNF
  19. Nicholas Latifi (Williams) – DNF
  20. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) – DNF


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