Lewis Hamilton claimed a record-equaling seventh world championship with a perfectly judged victory at a rainy Turkish Grand Prix.
The Briton started from sixth on the grid and struggled to improve his lot early in the race as he grappled with the full wet tire and a Mercedes car befuddled by the cool conditions and slick track. But after a switch to the intermediate tire and as a dry line began to form around Istanbul Park, Hamilton rediscovered the sublime mixed-conditions touch for which he’s so renowned.
The Briton’s win was sealed by a superbly managed 50-lap second stint to avoid the second stop required by so many of his rivals, guaranteeing him an unassailable lead of 31s over the field when he took the checkered flag.
“I’m definitely a bit lost for words,” an emotional Hamilton said. “I wouldn’t be able to do this if I didn’t join this team. The journey we’ve been on is monumental.
“A big thank you … to my family. We dreamt of this when I was young, when we were watching the grands prix, and this is way, way beyond our dreams.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 15, 2020
Sergio Perez came home second, the Racing Point driver leaning on his reputation as a tire whisperer to coax a similarly improbable 48 laps out of his tires in the final stint to follow Hamilton home for his first podium of the season.
“I think one more lap on those tires and they would have exploded!” he said. “I think the team did a fantastic job in terms of strategy.
“Lewis today was extremely strong … but we managed to get a good result.”
Sebastian Vettel completed the popular podium, snatching third place from teammate Charles Leclerc on the final lap when the Monegasque locked up at Turn 12 while attempting to pass Perez.
“It was quite intense, quite long, but good fun,” Vettel said. “Bit of a surprise to snatch the podium in the end, but certainly very happy.”
Surprise polesitter Lance Stroll trailed home ninth in a chaotic grand prix defined by a slippery track doused with pre-race rain.
The Canadian had the perfect start to the race, acing his getaway from the soaking-wet grid, but alongside him on the front row Max Verstappen suffered badly with a too-cautious application of the throttle, allowing Perez to zip past him for a Racing Point one-two.
Verstappen dropped a further place to fourth to the lightning-fast reflexes of Vettel, who hauled his Ferrari from 11th up to third in a mighty first-lap performance.
Hamilton scrabbled onto the apex of the first turn to hold sixth place, knocking Daniel Ricciardo into Renault teammate Esteban Ocon. The Frenchman spun into the run-off area, taking Valtteri Bottas with him.
It was the end of Bottas’s mathematical title hopes, and the Finn spun several more times through the race on his way to an anonymous 14th,
The start was otherwise clean and the Racing Point cars, beautifully heating their tires, sprinted into the distance to leave Vettel and Verstappen to fight over third.
Verstappen couldn’t find a way past the slower Ferrari, with the track off the racing line too slippery to risk.
Ironically it was Leclerc in the second Ferrari who manufactured a way for the Dutchman to pass the scarlet car. Running 14th, the Monegasque switched to intermediate tires on lap six and immediately started setting purple sectoring, prompting a run to the pits.
Vettel came in two laps later ahead of Hamilton, with the racing-leading Racing Points following on Laps 9 and 10.
Verstappen waited until Lap 11, squeezing every last bit of performance out of his warm hot wet tires, allowing him to jump Vettel for third as the German brought his new rubber up to temperature.
Perez was next on the road, having lost time to a slow pit stop, and by Lap 18 Verstappen was on the Mexican’s gearbox. But in his eagerness to pass he carried too much speed through Turn 11 and ran over the curbs, spinning his car and dropping down the order.
The error promoted teammate Alex Albon up to third, the Thai having slipped past Hamilton and Vettel as the two world champions battled for fourth place. But Albon likewise couldn’t pass the defensively inch-perfect Perez, and with his tires wearing badly as the track dried, he was forced to save rubber, allowing Vettel and Hamilton to close up to the podium battle.
Leclerc — having risen to ninth with his first pit stop gamble — again shook the tree on Lap 30 to initiate the final phase of the race, stopping for another set of new intermediate tires. Vettel followed suit on Lap 33, but others were more wary, hoping to make a transition to slick rubber thanks to the emerging dry line.
The dithering was costly for Albon, who spun himself out of victory contention exiting Turn 4, his ageing intermediate tires visibly void of tread. He came in for the inevitable fresh intermediates at the end of the tour.
Racing Point delayed Stroll’s stop until Lap 35, dropping him to fourth behind the recovering Verstappen, but more concerning was that the Canadian started suffering severe graining, leaving him seconds off the pace and cutting him from a shot at victory.
It shuffled Perez into first place, but Hamilton was on his tail and powered into first place to relieve him of the lead on Lap 37.
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 15, 2020
The Briton, at long last looking comfortable on the slippery track, managed to break away from the Mexican with ease, and with Stroll out of the picture, the way was clear for him to record his commanding victory.
Perez was left to cling on to his badly worn intermediate tires against the resurgent Ferrari drivers, who were finding great pace on their newer intermediates and cutting through the midfield. They passed Stroll, Albon and Verstappen in quick order but ultimately couldn’t breach the Mexican’s inch-perfect defense.
Carlos Sainz was one of the drivers of the day, rising from a penalized 15th on the grid to a strong sixth for McLaren.
Verstappen and Albon recovered from their spins to finish an underwhelming sixth and seventh in Red Bull Racing’s 300th grand prix.
Lando Norris passed Stroll with two laps remaining to seize eighth place from the Canadian, who collected two points from his maiden pole start.
Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10 for Renault as the last driver on the lead lap.