Valtteri Bottas won the Turkish Grand Prix, after a dominant drive from pole position. He led off the line and never looked back. Max Verstappen’s Red Bull didn’t have the pace to go with him. Behind the pair, Sergio Perez made the most of Red Bull’s clever timing with the pit stops and Ferrari’s misfortunes with Charles Leclerc, who tried to stay out on the tyres he started the race on.
Starting on intermediate tyres, most drivers struggled to get away, especially Fernando Alonso, who was spun around by AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly on the first turn, an incident that earned the Frenchman a 5s time penalty. Alonso then himself spun the Haas of Mick Schumacher around, undoing all his good work from qualifying, earning the Spaniard the same punishment as Gasly.
Lewis Hamilton had to start from 11th after his engine change penalty, and made a good start, pressurizing Sebastian Vettel early on and getting past him around the outside of turn 3 on the second lap. He then went on to make the same move on Yuki Tsunoda, a couple of laps later. Hamilton was on a charge and by lap 15 he was in P5, with further passes on Stroll, Norris and Gasly.
Another driver on a charge was Carlos Sainz, the Spaniard having started from 19th after getting the new Ferrari hybrid system, got up to points scoring positions by lap 13, with an audacious move on Sebastian Vettel which resulted in contact, but no damage done for either. Sainz continued his fightback, overtaking Tsunoda and chasing after Vettel’s teammate, Lance Stroll.
Daniel Ricciardo was the first driver to try out a new set of intermediate tyres on lap 24,after starting on the back of the grid, a gamble which didn’t really pay off, as there wasn’t enough water on the circuit to suit well the treads of the green-walled compound. The gamble didn’t pay off, and Ricciardo finished in P13 in the end, behind the Alfa Romeo duo of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen.
Another driver to gamble, even more, was Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, who pitted for medium tyres on lap 38, but he and his team quickly realised that wasn’t going to work, as he flew off the road several times and came back for another set of intermediates, finishing a disappointing 18th in the end, ahead of just the Haas pair of Schumacher and Mazepin.
Meanwhile, Hamilton came across the Red Bull of Sergio Perez on lap 34, and as expected, the Mexican didn’t make it easy for the 7-times champion, battling hard on the last few corners and keeping his position ahead of the Mercedes. Shortly after this sequence, most of the field started pitting for new intermediates, triggering pit stops all around. Verstappen stopped on lap 37, with teammate Perez pitting on the next lap. Hamilton stayed out and was lapping about the same pace as the Red Bulls.
But an argument started over the Mercedes radio waves around lap 43, when Hamilton refused to pit for new intermediates as his team were asking. This conversation dragged on until lap 51, when the Briton finally stopped. That released Sergio Perez, Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly ahead of him, and left the champion infuriated with the decision to stop.
Leclerc was another one on a fight with his team over the radio, with doubts over whether to stop or not. He did stop on lap 48, and kept his place ahead of both Hamilton and Gasly. The general trend from those pitting was that new intermediates weren’t really working properly, with severe graining kicking in just a few laps after the stop.
Esteban Ocon, for Alpine, was the only driver to go the distance with the set of tyres he started the race on, earning him one point and a net gain of two places, as he finished in tenth place. His teammate Fernando Alonso was not able to recover from his earlier adventures, and ended up in P16 at the chequered flag.
At the front, Bottas was never really challenged and brought home an important victory, a stark contrast to his performance at the Istanbul in 2020 – where he finished 14th and had many spins - which will undoubtedly make the senior management over at Alfa Romeo very happy with their future star.
The championship picture now has Max Verstappen leading Lewis Hamilton by 6 points as the championship heads to America, for the United States Grand Prix, in a fortnight’s time.