Bottas wins Turkish GP from Verstappen and Perez – Hamilton fifth

Valtteri Bottas won his first grand prix since Sochi 2020 with a commanding pole to flag performance from Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez as Lewis Hamilton lost his championship lead by finishing fifth.

Damp and drizzly conditions with the constant threat of heavier rain in the air made for tough decisions by race strategists. And with only laps remaining, Hamilton found himself in podium position and the only man not to stop for new inters.

The defending champion wanted to stay out but was overruled by the team, perhaps costing him two places late on, the deficit now six points to rival Verstappen.

“It’s been a while but from my side it’s probably one of the best races I’ve had ever,” said race winner Bottas afterward. “Apart from that one little slide, everything was under control. But like I said before the race the car has been really good in every condition and I had really good confidence with it and could really control it.

“It’s not easy to choose an alternative strategy here, when to stop and to which tyre but I’m glad everything went smooth for one for me and that’s nice.”

On a damp circuit but with no rain falling, the field all pulled off the line on the intermediate compound tyre. And it was Bottas who got the best start off the line as behind him Alonso pirouetted off track and to the back of the field after being nudged by Gasly.

Avoiding the dangers of the opening lap scraps, Hamilton was making early inroads, gaining two places in as many laps. Comfortably quickest of all in the dry, the champion was finding passing on the intermediates a trickier prospect and race tactics would again prove all important in the race outcome.

Having negotiated Tsunoda and Stroll, Hamilton set about compatriot Norris and made the move stick late on the brakes into Turn 12. Next up, Pierre Gasly and into the top 5 with another trademark move.

A much tricker proposition was going to be Verstappen’s teammate Perez, and with the intermediate tyres wearing down to slick proportions, Daniel Ricciardo was the first to experiment with a fresh set on lap 22.

With more rain in the air, it seemed the wise option, but the leaders chose to stay out and a titanic battle for fourth ensued, Perez and Hamilton going wheel to wheel for three corners before the Mexican held the advantage.

Verstappen was the first of the big hitters to dive into the pits on lap 37, a quick stop maintaining his net second position. It triggered a series of stops, but Hamilton gambled to stay out on his worn inters, gaining rapidly on those on newer tyres ahead.

The Englishman wanted to stay out whilst Mercedes called for him to box, the Ferrari of Leclerc doing likewise but conceding the lead on lap 47 before pitting. It meant that Hamilton was the only driver on the first set of inters with ten laps remaining, before finally pitting with seven laps to go.

It put him back out behind Perez once again and not a happy man, telling his team as much over the radio. With his new inters entering the early graining phase, both Gasly and Lando Norris were suddenly on his tail, leading to a frantic fight to the flag.

And whilst Bottas enjoyed a clear run to the flag ahead of Verstappen and Perez, a furious Hamilton was able to just hold on to fifth behind Leclerc.

“It was not easy today, the track was very greasy we just had to manage the tyres the whole race so we couldn’t really push and it seemed like Valtteri had a bit more pace, could look after the tyres a bit better as well.” said Verstappen afterward. “So happy to finish second because in these conditions it’s so easy to get it wrong and you lose your back, so overall very pleased.

“It’s been close the whole year and I’m pretty sure again in Austin it will be a good battle with Mercedes so we just have to keep on pushing, keep on trying to improve and then we’ll see where we end up at the end.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.