Formula One: Five things we learned from the Turkish Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton lost his grip on the world championship lead in Istanbul as a botched strategy call from Mercedes allowed Max Verstappen to take a six-point lead with just five races remaining.

Hamilton, 36, was heard fuming over the team radio as a late pit stop saw the Briton lose two positions on the track, allowing for his Red Bull rival to open up a greater lead heading into Texas later this month.

There was plenty to digest from yet another thrilling weekend. Here, Sportsmail runs through the five things we learned from Sunday’s race in the wet.  

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Lewis Hamilton lost his grip of the world championship lead after a dramatic race in Istanbul

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Mercedes lose their nerve over Hamilton’s risky tyre call

Istanbul holds happy memories for Lewis Hamilton. Last year, a stunning drive in wet conditions saw the Briton rise from sixth to first to clinch his seventh world title – putting him level with Formula One legend  Michael Schumacher. 

Yet he will want to quickly forget his experience in Turkey this year, with a disastrous strategy call resulting in Hamilton giving up ground to Verstappen in the title race.

Mercedes’ decision to pit the world champion backfired as he slipped down to fifth

Hamilton wanted to stay out on the intermediates but Mercedes opted for a fresh set

The 36-year-old was heard seething over the team radio following the Silver Arrows’ decision

Mercedes appeared to initially back Hamilton’s bold call to stay out on his first set of intermediates, but with 10 laps remaining the Silver Arrows lost their nerve and called their man into the pits.

That decision backfired with the 36-year-old losing two track positions and he was left seething with the call made by his team. Mercedes maintain that the damage would have been far worse for Hamilton had he stayed out due to the incoming rain, but the lack of streamlined thinking between driver and team was made clear for all to see in Istanbul.

With the stakes rising, Hamilton was unable to cash in on his big gamble.  

 

Red Bull on song with strategy 

While Mercedes and Hamilton failed to make the big decisions count in Istanbul, the same cannot be said for championship rivals Red Bull.

Fresh from a superb call last time out in Sochi to put Verstappen on intermediates which saw the Dutchman take second place, Christian Horner & Co were once again spot on with their decision making.

While Mercedes made a strategic error, Red Bull got their tactics spot on in Turkey

Christian Horner’s decision to recruit Sergio Perez was vindicated once again in Istanbul

Bringing Perez in early for a fresh set of inters was a risky call and would have gone awry had the track dried, but conditions remained wet and the Mexican managed to leapfrog Charles Leclerc onto the podium.

In fact, Perez’s performance this weekend provided further vindication for Horner’s decision to recruit the former Racing Point star. With Hamilton breathing down his neck, Perez executed some outstanding defensive driving to keep the world champion at bay and protect team-mate Verstappen. 

It has been a long time since we have seen hard racing between Red Bull and Mercedes not result in a crash, and Perez’s composure in that battle set the foundations for a strong weekend for the constructor. 

 

There’s still plenty of life left in Valtteri Bottas 

What a difference a year makes for Valtteri Bottas. The Finn endured one of his worst drives in Istanbul last season, finishing 14th after spinning five times. Team-mate Hamilton lapped him as he romped home to victory.

It was a completely different story for the Mercedes man this time around. Having taken pole due to Hamilton’s 10-place grid penalty, Bottas was tasked with fending off the threat of Red Bull star Verstappen.

After a torrid couple of years at Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas proved he’s still got it in Formula 1

The Finn managed the race superbly and gave Max Verstappen no openings throughout

The 32-year-old has struggled to make life difficult for Verstappen this year, all too easily giving up track position for the Red Bull man, but he encountered no such difficulties in Turkey.

Bottas managed the distance between himself and Verstappen brilliantly, so too was his tyre management and pace control. With a performance like this, it is hard to believe that the 32-year-old had not sealed victory for a year before Sunday’s race.

Toto Wolff described the Finn’s’ drive as a ’10/10′ performance while Bottas labelled it ‘one of his best ever races’. Confirmation of his move to Alfa Romeo next season appears to have lifted a weight off of Bottas’ shoulders and if he performs anywhere near this standard next season it could be a very fruitful partnership indeed.   

 

Carlos Sainz showing his class for Ferrari

Carlos Sainz was unable to hide his shock upon learning that he had been voted Driver of the Day by fans following his fantastic drive in Istanbul, the first time he has received the award in his career. 

And the Spaniard was fully deserving of the prize. Sainz carved his way through the field in Turkey, particularly in the opening 10 laps where he almost passed a car a lap in tricky conditions.

Carlos Sainz is developing into one of the best drivers in the wet and was Driver of the Day

The 27-year-old is developing a reputation for being a master of the wet, and his expertise in the rain saw him move from the back row of the grid to eighth place.

In truth, the result could have been all the sweeter had he not suffered a terrible pit stop that lasted an agonising eight seconds. Had he stopped for between two and three seconds, he would have likely passed Lando Norris for seventh. 

But that won’t take the shine off a wonderful drive for Sainz. He passed Daniel Ricciardo early in a big boost for Ferrari, with the team going head-to-head with McLaren in the constructors’ standings. Leclerc’s fourth place finish rounded off a fantastic weekend for the team.   

 

Sebastian Vettel continues to make perplexing decisions

Hamilton was not the only driver to see a bold strategic call backfire.

In fairness, there was nothing bold about Sebastian Vettel’s decision to go for slicks in Istanbul. It was simply baffling. 

Sebastian Vettel’s baffling decision to go for slicks exemplified his sad decline in F1

The German’s experiment on the medium compound last just one horrendous lap in which he slipped and slid all over the track. He was fortunate not to crash on his entrance into the pits and he appeared dejected over the radio when informing his team that the strategy was not paying off.

Vettel’s decision making has come into question in recent years, and coupled with a number of driving errors, has become a consistent trait for the four-time world champion. 

He finished in 18th, in front of the two Haas cars in a seriously disappointing showing.   

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