Valtteri Bottas dominated a wet Turkish Grand Prix, but Max Verstappen has retaken the world championship lead by finishing second while Lewis Hamilton faded to fifth after rising as high as third from his 11th-place start.
Rain drenched the track in the morning, and although it reduced to barely a drizzle for the race, the track never truly dries, and the entire race was run with wet rubber.
In the tricky conditions Bottas executed the perfect start from pole to hold Max Verstappen in second at the first apex, and from there he wielded his Mercedes to perfection to constantly massage open the gap to the Dutchman until it was effectively insurmountable.
Unchallenged for the duration of the race, Bottas crossed the line with a comfortable 14.5s advantage and a bonus point for fastest lap of the race on the final tour.
“I think from my side I have to say probably one of the best races I’ve ever had,” he said. “Everything was under control.
“The car has been very good in every condition, and I’ve had really good confidence with it and I could control it. I’m glad everything went smoothly for once for me, and that’s nice.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 10, 2021
But Verstappen was perhaps the race’s bigger winner, his quiet second place turning a two-point title deficit into a six-point lead over fifth-placed Hamilton.
“It was not easy today,” he said. “It just seemed like Valtteri had a bit more pace.
“I’m of course so happy to finish second because in these conditions it’s also easy to get it wrong.”
Hamilton started 11th with a penalty for an engine change and was able to gain two places on the first lap, once from the spun-around Fernando Alonso and another from Sebastian Vettel, but his race began to unravel from lap two, when he struggled to get past Yuki Tsunoda for eighth.
For eight laps the Japanese driver defended steadfastly at the cost of more than a second a lap. By the time the world champion muscled past the rookie around the outside of Turn 3, he was more than 18s off the lead battle.
A series of decisive overtakes got him up to fifth behind Sergio Perez on lap 14, but he was barely able to close the gap, with the race falling into a muted rhythm of management as the teams tried to gauge the movement of the weather.
With the inclement conditions lingering, drivers made their way into the pits at around mid-distance. Only Sebastian Vettel dared to try slicks, but with a dry line still not evident, he slipped and slid his way back to the pits on the following lap to revert to intermediate rubber, having dropped from 10th to 19th.
But Hamilton too was in the mood to gamble and chose not to pit, toying instead with running the entire race on a single set of tires. He had just come off second-best in a wheel-to-wheel duel with Sergio Perez in a move that started around the outside of Turn 12 and ended with Perez claiming the apex at Turn 1 on laps 33 and 34, but when the Mexican stopped for new rubber, the Briton told his team to leave him out to hold the place.
The Mercedes pit wall debated the call for the next 15 laps, and Hamilton rose to third in the process after Leclerc pitted from a briefly held lead, but eventually the Briton was called in to guard against a late tire failure undoing his recovery.
Hamilton acquiesced and pitted on lap 50, but he hadn’t realized he would lose places in the process, and he rejoined in fifth behind Perez and Charles Leclerc. Worse, on the wet-dry track his new tires immediately went through a graining phase, putting him at risk of losing another place, this time to the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly.
He radioed his team angrily, registering that Verstappen would score an extra five points on him, but there was nothing to be done about it with less than eight laps to run, and Hamilton cross the line an unhappy fifth.
Inheriting his place on the podium was an excellent Perez, who survived duels with Hamilton and Charles Leclerc to take just his third rostrum finish of the season.
“It was quite an intense race in the first stint with Lewis and fighting with Charles,” he said. “It was one of those races of having to be patient, pushing at the right times.”
Red Bull Racing’s double podium wasn’t enough to make up ground on Mercedes in the constructors standings, with the gap widening to 36 points.
Leclerc was a strong fourth for Ferrari. The Monegasque also toyed with not making a stop for fresh tires, having risen into the lead after Bottas made his sole tire change, but his lap times began to slow substantially after lap 40, and eventually Ferrari pulled him in to bank fourth place.
Gasly finished sixth just 2.4s behind Hamilton, the Frenchman unlucky to have picked up a five-second penalty for tipping Alonso into a spin at the first corner of the opening lap.
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 10, 2021
Lando Norris was subdued in seventh for McLaren ahead of a superb Carlos Sainz, who started 19th with a power unit change penalty but underpinned an excellent recovery with an aggressive first stint, rising to ninth before his first stop and picking up an extra place in the second half of the race.
Lance Stroll finished ninth for Aston Martin ahead of Esteban Ocon, the only driver in the field to make the flag without a pit stop, taking the final point of the race.