Verstappen says championship battle is “not going to be easy”
Max Verstappen knows that this year’s championship challenge against Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes is “not going to be easy” despite regaining the championship lead at the Turkish Grand Prix.
The Red Bull driver finished second in Istanbul, which has allowed him to move six points ahead of Hamilton. The seven-time champion went into the race with a two-point lead, but new componence to his power unit gave him a ten-place grid penalty.
Hamilton recovered to finish the race fifth, albeit after Mercedes opted to risk keeping him out longer on his first set of intermediates to try and finish even higher, leading to some frustration over the radio. Verstappen meanwhile, failed to put any real challenge to Valtteri Bottas who took his first win in a year by fourteen and a half seconds.
Verstappen felt that Mercedes was “definitely quicker this weekend” and that Red Bull “didn’t get it together”, proving that even after regaining the championship lead he would face a tough challenge to win the title.
He told Motorsport.com, “In the wet, they seem to have a bit of the edge as well. We’ll have to analyse of course why we were not competitive here, and I do think they probably stepped it up a bit more. Even with the points lead, it’s not going to be easy.”
“I think I said it before we even started the weekend, so far we’ve had a really good year. It’s not going to change the world for me if I finish first or second at the end of the day. But I’m always going to give my best. We’ll see again in Austin how it’s going to go. We won’t give up, we’ll always try to do the best we can.”
The Dutchman says that he hopes that will that at the end of the season it will be enough for his first championship. Verstappen’s focus in the closing stages of the race appeared to focus on holding second to regain the lead of the championship.
Reflecting on the weekend, he said, “Considering our whole weekend, being a bit off-pace compared to Mercedes, I think we had quite a decent race. There was no point where I could attack Valtteri, and he was just managing his race also very well and looking after his tyres.”
Hamilton says the strategy wasn’t the best in Istanbul
Lewis Hamilton believes that he wasn’t on the best strategy in the Turkish Grand Prix and feels he should have either pitted earlier or gone to the end without stopping. The Mercedes driver had worked his way from eleventh to third following a ten-place grid penalty.
Hamilton was the last of the runners to make his sole pitstop for fresh intermediates on lap fifty, while Esteban Ocon was the only driver not to stop for the entire race. The decision to make that stop was made because other drivers were struggling with graining and performance, meaning Hamilton dropped the rear of Leclerc and came under pressure from Pierre Gasly behind.
While Hamilton was able to hold on to fifth place at the chequered flag, he let his frustration be known over his Mercedes team radio throughout his final stint about his race strategy. Following the race, the Englishman said that Mercedes should have either pitted him earlier and in sequence to the drivers he was fighting or instructed him to preserve tyre life to make it to the end without pitting.
Hamilton told Sky Sports, “The tyres are bald, so you don’t know how far they’re going to go, and so there is definitely the worry of the life of the tyre. But also I wasn’t really that fast at the end there. I was struggling at low grip. Not really sure why.”
“Then all of a sudden, I have not such bad place. But I was losing performance to the guys behind. I think probably in hindsight, I should have either stayed out or come in much earlier.”
“Because when you come in with eight laps to go, you don’t have time to go through the graining phase of tyre on a drying track. So then I went through this whole sliding phase where I nearly lost four positions. A bit frustrating, but it is what it is.” Hamilton says it felt good to be in third as it was a good result starting from eleventh.
Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff says the team’s strategy predicted that Hamilton would have been caught by Leclerc and Perez if he had stayed out because we would have tried to stay out so that that would not have worked.
Tsunoda tried to hold Hamilton to help Red Bull
Yuki Tsunoda says he tried to fend off Lewis Hamilton “as much as possible” early in the Turkish Grand Prix to help Max Verstappen’s title hopes in Honda’s final season. The Honda backed driver reached Q3 at Istanbul and ran eighth early on in the race ahead of the seven-times champion.
The Alpha Tauri driver was able to keep Hamilton back for several laps with some solid defence, slowing down the recovery drive by the Mercedes driver following his grid penalty that meant he started eleventh.
But Hamilton was eventually able to make a pass on lap eight around the outside of Turn 3, with Tsunoda then dropping out of the points after spinning on lap 22.
Tsunoda explained that he “used too much tyre early on” in the fight with Hamilton, but that he wanted to do everything he could to help Honda-powered Verstappen’s title bid for Red Bull before the Japanese manufacturer’s exit from F1 at the ned of the year.
Adding, “I want Max to win in the last year of Honda, and for Red Bull as well. So I tried to hold Lewis up as much as possible, for I don’t know how many laps. I was trying to save more of my tyre. I tried to hold him behind for 20 laps. Eight laps is not enough.”
Hamilton would go on to finish fifth, meaning Verstappen retook the lead in the drivers by six points with six races remaining. While Tsunoda eventually finished the race fourteenth believing his spin cost him the chance to score points.
The Japanese driver explained that dirty spray – something also noted by Nikita Mazepin and Lando Norris – made him think a car was close behind, prompting him to push harder.
Adding, “I just couldn’t see, I thought there was a car right behind me so I just have to push, and I spun. The spin ruined my whole race so it’s a shame. We were able to score points today so yeah, just a shame.”
Perez did nothing wrong pushing Hamilton off track
FIA race director Michael Masi has confirmed Sergio Perez did nothing wrong when he went off track while battling with Lewis Hamilton during the Turkish Grand Prix.
At the end of lap thirty-four, the two drivers ran side-by-side through the final corners, with Perez went wide into the pit entry. He then passed to the wrong side of the bollard before returning to the track. The Mexican then managed to stay in front of Hamilton when they arrived at Turn One.
Some observers thought Perez might be in trouble for going off the circuit and behind the bollard before re-joining and salvaging his position. Masi says he looked at the Perez incident, but there was no formal investigation, as it was not a question of an aborted stop, with Hamilton getting a reprimand in Germany in 2018 for committing such an offence.
He explained to Motorsport.com, “But as our regulations state in the notes you only have to keep to the left of the bollard if you’re committed to entering pit lane. So nothing in it. It was good, hard racing between the two of them. Neither team, funnily enough, raised the question, neither Mercedes nor Red Bull. Good hard fight, play on.”
There was no comment from either driver in the immediate aftermath of the incident, although later in the following lap Perez said, “He pushed me off,” to which his race engineer replied, “Copy Checo, great defence.”
Typically drivers make such comments in part to defend their actions to race control. Masi said that neither Red Bull nor Mercedes got on the radio to him to suggest that the other driver was at fault in the incident.
Alonso apologises for collision with Schumacher
Fernando Alonso has apologised to Mick Schumacher following their collision on the second lap of the Turkish Grand Prix, accepting the five-second penalty given by the stewards.
The Alpine driver started fifth at Istanbul Park, before being hit and sent into a spin by Pierre Gasly which resulted in him being dropped down towards the back. As Alonso attempted to make up places on the following lap, he went down the inside at Turn Four, only to make contact with the Haas.
That earned Alonso a five-second penalty at his pit stop, after it was decided he was “predominantly to blame” for the incident. He also picked up two penalty points on his FIA super licence.
Alonso would ultimately finish the race sixteenth, while Schumacher crossed the line nineteenth ahead of Haas teammate Nikita Mazepin. Asked about the crash by Motorsport.com, Alonso said, “I thought I was alongside him, but obviously it was a late move, so we touched each other.”
“Unfortunately he had the spin, and I got the penalty. I take it, of course. I’m sorry to have the collision with him. Obviously that happened only because I was P14. I should not have been in that position. The luck seems to keep avoiding us this year big time. I guess we are accumulating a lot for next year.”
Schumacher said that in racing these things happen, especially in those types of corners saying, “these things happens”.
Adding “Especially in those kinds of corners where you have a long corner in front and then you prepare for Turn 4, it’s really easy to just try a divebomb,” Schumacher said. But unfortunately this time it didn’t work out. We learn and we’ll move on.”
Schumacher qualified a career-best fourteenth on Saturday in Turkey, and felt that it had been his best weekend in F1 “up to the race”.
Asked if he would have fallen back anyway without the Alonso clash, Schumacher said: “I don’t know how much the following killed my tyres. Obviously I was following Nikita for quite some time. I imagine that I would have been able to extend the run and go a bit faster probably.”
‘Scary’ spray made things harder – Norris
Lando Norris says the ‘scary’ spray being thrown up during the wet Turkish Grand Prix made things much harder for drivers. Tricky conditions rain showers and low cloud drizzle meant the circuit never fully dried with drivers needing to manage their tyres throughout the race.
One of the things which stopped the McLaren driver moving up the order was limited visibility, with him saying that on the way to the grid he couldn’t see a thing and was quite scared with how bad it was. He told Motorsport.com, “I think the first lap I managed to get a gap and control it very well from then on.”
“I think it’s because the water sits on the surface quite a bit. It obviously didn’t dry, so there’s always that bit of water and I think it’s not like down in the cracks of it [the asphalt].”
In August, the Belgian Grand Prix was abandoned after three laps because of concerns about viability. Norris said that what he experienced in Turkey was pretty bad, and not helped by the water thrown up having some oily content – which stuck to the cars and visors.
Asked if the spray was worse in Turkey than elsewhere, Norris said: “A little bit more I would say. But it’s terrible at other tracks, probably every other track you go to. It just stayed bad for a little bit longer. On lap one, it was more like an oily water rather than just water, if that makes sense. So it became like a bit more blurry.”
Other drivers also mentioned how the dirty spray caused them difficulties in the race, with Yuki Tsunoda claiming it contributed to the spin that cost him a points-scoring finish.
he explained, “There was not [a clear] mirror, I couldn’t see anything because of dirt and dust. I just couldn’t watch, I thought there’s a car right behind me so I just had to push and I spun. But anyway the spin ruined my whole race, so it’s a shame.”
Van der Merwe to miss Middle East leg after not being vaccinated
FIA medical car driver Alan van der Merwe is set to miss the final races of this season even if he recovers from coronavirus. Ahead of the Turkish Grand Prix the Dutchman and F1 doctor Ian Roberts both tested positive for the virus, they were replaced by the Formula E medical team.
Van der Merwe subsequently confirmed on social media last weekend that he has not been vaccinated against COVID for personal reasons. Part of the entry requirements to both Qatar and Saudi Arabia proof of vaccination is required, its also understood that it will also be necessary for access to the red zone/paddock area in Abu Dhabi.
Van der Merwe is thus one of several unvaccinated F1 personnel who usually travels to races who won’t be able to attend the last events of the season. He used Twitter to explain the reasons behind his personal choices and confirmed that he expects to miss some races.
He wrote, “In Switzerland (I’m half Swiss) and other developed countries, prior infection counts as much as a vaccine. I trust that those countries know what they’re doing, and also respect countries’ more restrictive rules and not travel there.”
Adding, “I am fully aware that I will potentially be less employable or that my freedom of movement will be restricted based on my choices. That I will not choose convenience over my own health does not mean I am making decisions out of selfishness. We all just want to be healthy.”
FIA race director Michael Masi confirmed that the entry restrictions will prevent some F1 personnel from travelling to those races. Explaining that the governing body had to respect those requirements.
He said when asked by Autosport, “From what we understand, there’s a couple of countries that you probably won’t be allowed to enter the country, unless you’re vaccinated. Which is no different to, let’s call it in some parts of the world, malaria shots or whatever it might be that you can’t enter the country.”
Masi says Roberts has tested positive independently of Van der Merwe before Istanbul, and it thus wasn’t a case of the former quarantining as a precaution. Van der Merwe and Roberts were replaced in Turkey by Formula E medical car team of Dr Bruno Franceschini and driver Bruno Correia.
Masi said that the in the COVID era the FIA has been well prepared to replace key F1 officials with their equivalents from other major championships.
Adding, “The good part is having spoken to both Alan and Ian multiple times over the weekend that they’re relatively okay, and have both been available all weekend on the end of the phone, or whatever needed to help Dr Bruno and Bruno in their acclimatisation into this world.