Hamilton equals Schumacher’s record of seven F1 titles after superb Turkish GP win

Lewis Hamilton matched the great Michael Schumacher’s record of seven Formula One drivers’ titles after another supreme drive saw him win the Turkish Grand Prix from Sergio Perez and old rival Sebastian Vettel.

It was inevitable that the Mercedes driver would equal the record at some point, but it took one of his finest drives to do so after starting from sixth on the grid, and with the Racing Points of Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez leading the field for two thirds of the race.

But those who stopped for a second set of intermediates were left to rue the decision as the worn tyres suddenly started to turn into slicks with the track drying, and the tread wearing out. With his tyres really coming to him, Hamilton could even afford another stop for fresh inters before the end of the race.

With the Mercedes pits calling him in three laps from the finish and the threat of rain imminent, Hamilton overruled his team, instead deciding to stay out and nurse the car home.

“I’m definitely a bit lost for words,” said Hamilton after stepping from his car to talk to Sky Sports’ Martin Brundle. “Naturally I have to start with saying such a huge thank you to all the guys that are here and all the guys back in the factory, both our factories and all our partners for enabling us and giving us this opportunity. I wouldn’t be able to do this if I didn’t join this team and the journey we’ve been on has been monumental.

“I also want to say a big thank you to team LH for sticking with me all these years, and to my family. We’ve dreamed of this when I was young, when we were watching the grands prix, and this is way, way beyond my dreams. And I think it’s so important for kids out there to see this and don’t listen to anybody out there who tells you that you can’t achieve something. Dream the impossible and speak it into existence. You’ve got to work for it, you’ve got to chase it, and navigate around, but never doubt yourself.”

Hamilton only needed to outscore closest rival and teammate Valtteri Bottas by eight points going into the  race and the Finn endured a disastrous Turkish GP, spinning three times en route to even being lapped by the victor. But that wasn’t even a consideration for serial winner Hamilton, who wanted to clinch the title in style, as he so often does.

HOW HAMILTON’S RECORD-EQUALLING RACE UNFOLDED

As expected, it was a chaotic opening lap. Drivers fought for grip on a circuit that was more like an ice rink than an F1 track, Bottas and Ocon spinning round, Sebastian Vettel gaining eight places and finally showing his true race craft in the wet after a tough season.

At the end of the opening lap, it was pole-sitter Stroll who found himself in the lead of the race. But those positions would change as often as stock market fluctuations, Hamilton making his way up to third before a mistake allowed both Red Bulls and Vettel past.

Amazingly, it was the Racing Points who were disappearing into the distance, creating a gap that looked like it would be needed as the treaded full wet tyres quickly overheated despite the soaking conditions. Crucially, for the title race, Hamilton was already ten places ahead of his teammate and that would mean a record-equalling seventh world title in the bag.

Leclerc was the first to roll the dice, swapping his wet tyres for intermediates on lap 7, Bottas following suit a lap later. And it was working, the Ferrari immediately a second quicker than anybody else.

It was a factor that didn’t go unnoticed on rival pit walls, Vettel and Hamilton next to dive into the pits, prompting a flurry of activity, leader Stroll in on lap 10 to be followed by teammate Perez a lap later. It appeared that Red Bull was too slow to react as the lap times began to fall on the inters, but a slow stop still put the Dutchman out behind Perez and ahead of Vettel.

With the entire field now on intermediates, the positions were now totally representative, the Racing Points still leading from Verstappen, Vettel and Hamilton. And Verstappen was making inroads, all over the back of Perez until a mistake sent him pirouetting down the straight into Turn 11, flat spotting his tyres but somehow keeping it out of the barriers.

And with the circuit drying out and no more rain forecast on the radar, the time for a change to slick tyres meant that it was still anybody’s race with the top five covered by just ten seconds!

HAMILTON A CLASS APART IN THE CLOSING STAGES

It made for a frantic finish, Vettel heading in for a new set of inters just as Albon spun around into Turn 4, scuppering his chances of a likely victory 24 laps from the finish.

And then the big move, Stroll in on lap 37 for a new set of inters, handing the lead to Perez. It was short lived, Hamilton diving past with the benefit of DRS and into the lead of the race for the first time.

It proved a costly gamble for the Canadian, his new intermediates graining quickly, allowing both Ferraris past. It was a shame for Stroll, who perhaps would have been better served staying out and trusting the tyres to come back to him, but the call was his team’s, not his.

Still, the drama was not over. Two corners from the end of the race on the final lap, the charging Leclerc got past Perez and into second place under DRS. But the move also caught the Monegasque, as he slithered wide, allowing both Perez and teammate Vettel past him.

“I had my team on the radio and I think one more lap on those tyres and I think they would have exploded, the vibrations were extremely bad,” said Perez after another extremely impressive drive. “It also made our race, because looking after them in the beginning with drying conditions with a different strategy was key. Lewis was extremely strong and towards the end we died, but in the end we managed to get a result.

“As always you have to be delivering weekend after weekend. You are only as good as your last race so it’s important to finish on a high and the rest is out of my hands.”

The final word, of course, must go to the remarkable Hamilton who always seems to find a way.

2020 Turkish Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

“Today, coming here we knew it was going to be an extremely difficult weekend. We were massively disappointed with our qualifying position. We knew that we were kind of on the back foot and we did the best we could, but then we learned a lot. This is what we do as a team. There is no blame game, we hash it out, we continue to improve our communication so we can make moves forward.

“You don’t always get everything perfect but today, we had that small moment at the beginning of the race with new tyres and then I couldn’t get past Seb for a while. At that point I could see Albon pulling away and I was thinking ‘Jesus, this is race is pulling away from me, falling through my fingers. But I just kept my head down, kept believing I would pick up pace of some sort, at some stage. And that’s what I did.”

Fraser Masefield

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.