With Formula 1 set to resume the 2021 season with the Turkish GP, we look at how the last five races in the same venue took place.
Formula 1 returns to Turkey for a second time in two years this weekend, although the circumstances surrounding the race are once again linked to the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020, the Turkish GP made a comeback after a 9-year hiatus in a revised calendar. That was meant to be a one-off, but the race is taking place again this year. It wasn’t part of the original calendar this year, but the cancellation of certain races saw F1 return to Turkey. It remains to be seen if the race will be back on the 2022 calendar, although that scenario seems unlikely as of now.
Nevertheless, the race has seen some pretty intense racing take place over the years. Here we look back at the last five editions of the race.
The 2020 edition of the race saw Hamilton claim his seventh world driver’s championship – equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of title wins. Hamilton once again proved his ability to drive in supreme form in the rain, as the weekend was an extremely wet one. It didn’t start off too well for him and Mercedes, as he qualified in sixth. Lance Stroll took a shock pole position, with Racing Point teammate Sergio Perez starting third.
Stroll led for 30-odd laps but his race took a turn for the worse when a pit stop saw him lose tyre grip. Hamilton would overtake Perez in the latter stages of the race and see out the rest of the race. In doing so, he would become a record-holder in F1 yet again. The race also saw Charles Leclerc lose out on a third-place finish after attempting an overtake in the last corner. He would lose the position to teammate Sebastian Vettel, who claimed his last podium for Ferrari as a result.
Speaking of Vettel, the fourth round of the 2011 season saw the German – then of Red Bull – claim a dominant win at Istanbul. Vettel was the defending world champion in 2011 and was leading the championship standings going into Turkey. He ensured he exteneded his lead at the top with a win in a race that was quite competitive. Indeed, the race had the most pit stops for a Grand Prix race ever. It also saw the most overtaking moves done in a GP race since 1983.
Not that any of this mattered much to Vettel. He took pole position from teammate Mark Webber by over 0.4 seconds and would lead the Australian home in a 1-2 finish. The final podium slot was taken by Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, with Hamilton – then of McLaren – finishing fourth.
Hamilton was expected to challenge for the title coming into 2010 but he was yet to find his groove. Given the Turkish GP was the seventh race of the season, he needed a win – and fast. Thankfully that win came in Istanbul, although it was anything but an easy day in the office. And the win came about thanks to an almighty assist from the Red Bull drivers.
Webber led the race, having started on pole, but was being challenged by Vettel. On lap 40, the two came together and Vettel was forced to retire. A certain 1-2 finish now gone, Webber had to settle for third as Hamilton led teammate Jenson Button home for a McLaren 1-2. However, Hamilton had to fend off a late challenge from Button to keep the race lead.
2009 was a fairytale season for Button and Brawn GP, who unexpectedly won the driver’s and constructor’s titles. And coming into the race at Istanbul, it was Button who led teammate Rubens Barrichello in the driver’s standings. The Brit would start the race in second, ahead of Barrichello but behind Vettel’s Red Bull. As fate would have it, Barrichello would have to retire from the race towards the end due to gearbox issues.
Button, who took the lead off Vettel on the first lap at Turn 1, managed to hang on to the lead till the end. Vettel had pushed hard and, in the end, trailed Button only by 0.5 seconds. However, Button was not to be denied on the day. His run of 6 wins of 7 races played a key part in him winning his maiden F1 world championship in the end of the year.
Few drivers enjoyed being at Istanbul Park as much as Felipe Massa. The Brazilian driver won three straight races at the venue, with the hat-trick being completed in 2008. That was the year he came closest to winning the championship, only to lose out in the smallest of margins. But he was in imperious form that year, taking more wins than eventual title winner Hamilton.
One of those wins came in Istanbul, where Ferrari out-smarted McLaren in terms of pit-stop strategy. Hamilton did lead the race for a long time but, after the final round of pit stops, found himself sandwiched between the Ferrari’s of Massa and Kimi Raikkonen. Massa would see out the remainder of the race with minimal fuss.