Valtteri Bottas registered his first win of the 2021 Formula 1 season at the Turkish GP, yet he isn't the main talking point after the weekend.
The 2021 Turkish GP is now in the books and it was a race that was anything but dull. The 2020 edition of the race was a wet one that saw Lewis Hamilton clinch his seventh driver’s championship. 2021 also saw a wet race, but the impact on the driver’s championship was very different for Hamilton and Mercedes. On the other hand, it was a good race for title rivals Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing. Elsewhere, teams jostled for points on a track that, despite not seeing rain for the majority of the contest, did not dry out at all.
As always, there was plenty to ponder after the end of the Turkish GP. We look at the major talking points from the race.
Ah, but to be a fly on the wall at the Mercedes garage on Sunday. The race was as mixed as mixed can get for the defending world and constructor’s champions. Valtteri Bottas converted a pole position into a comfortable win. However, disagreements over pit stop strategy eventually saw Hamilton finish fifth.
It was a weekend of redemption for Bottas, who lost out on the title at Turkey last year. Back then, a steering issue and wet conditions saw him spin multiple times and finish outside the points. But here he drove a flawless race and led essentially from start to finish.
For Hamilton, it was a case of what could have been. He charged through the grid starting from 11th due to a penalty and was up to third. But the confusion over pitting left him score 8 less points than Verstappen. Could this be a moment that decides the course of the title? Only time will tell, but it did certainly give off that feeling.
On the other hand, what a weekend it was for Red Bull. The 2-3 finish was the best they could do given how well Bottas went up front. However, the result saw them get valuable points in the constructor’s championship race and – crucially – take the lead in the driver’s championship.
Verstappen did well to get second, although he never looked likely to threaten Bottas’ grip on the lead. Perez, meanwhile, did even better to get third. He held off Hamilton in a wonderful duel, then put so much pressure on the Brit that Mercedes felt compelled to call him into the pits late.
All in all, the weekend went almost as well as Christian Horner would have wanted it to go. They are in a good position with six races remaining in the season.
Wet races always throw up a few glaring errors made by drivers. But it’s worse when the errors are being made by former world champions. And that is exactly what happened with Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel. Alonso spun on the first lap of the race when tapped by Pierre Gasly – which, somewhat harshly, saw the Frenchman get a 5-second penalty.
On the same lap, Alonso was caught up in another incident – this time causing the Haas of Mick Schumacher to spin. This saw the Spaniard get a penalty of his own and he finished a disappointing 16th, a whole lap behind the leaders. Yet it was even worse for Vettel.
Aston Martin boldly decided to put him on the medium compounds at a time when everyone else was on inters. It would have been genius if it worked out. But it did not; Vettel resembled the F1 version of Bambi on ice on his one lap on slicks, dropping down all the way to 18th – where he would finish the race.
There wasn’t much noise made about Ferrari’s performance at Turkey, which is a bit puzzling. However, another double points finish for the Scuderia saw them cut the deficit to McLaren in the battle for the ‘best of the rest’. They were able to take advantage of the fact that only one McLaren – Lando Norris – finished in the points.
Daniel Ricciardo struggled at the back of the grid and would finish 13th. Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc converted a third-place starting position into a fourth-placed finish. And Carlos Sainz, who also took a grid penalty, charged through the field to finish eighth.
Admittedly, Ferrari will not be content at fighting for third place – their aim is always to compete for victories. But their current car isn’t equipped to win races on the regular, and they are doing a fine job. This is especially true when you remember just how ordinary they looked in 2020.
2021 has been a strange season for AlphaTauri, with many feeling the team have underperformed given the strength of their car. This is evident in the fact that Pierre Gasly has consistently been fighting for points. However, the struggles of rookie driver Yuki Tsunoda have hampered the team.
Their contrasting fortunes continued at Turkey. Gasly took a harsh five-second penalty yet still managed to finish the race in sixth. Tsunoda, meanwhile, had a good first half of the race – and was even duelling with Hamilton at one point. However, a spin later in the race saw him drop down and finish the race in 14th.
Neither is in danger of losing their seat any time soon; both, in fact, have been confirmed as AlphaTauri drivers for next season. However, the team – and particularly parent company Red Bull – will expect more from them in the coming season. This is especially true in Tsunoda’s case, who is highly rated within the team but has a penchant for making silly errors.