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Valtteri Bottas Wins Damp 2021 Turkish Grand Prix

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Valtteri Bottas in 2017 Mercedes F1 cockpit
Photo: Jake Archibald via CC
2021 Turkish Grand Prix results

Since he announced his move to Alfa Romeo, no Formula 1 driver has amassed more points than Valtteri Bottas, who celebrated his first win of the 2021 season at a wet Turkish Grand Prix — a victory the man described as one of his career’s best drives.

Max Verstappen, who started and finished second, had no answer to the Finn’s speed on Sunday despite his own prowess in wet weather conditions and his customary pace advantage over Lewis Hamilton’s teammate, thus raising questions about the Red Bull Racing-Honda car’s ability to take the fight to Mercedes in the final part of the season.

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Had Hamilton not taken a 10-place grid penalty for a new internal combustion engine, he likely would have extended his lead in the championship instead of falling behind Verstappen by six points with just six races to go. The two have now exchanged the lead five times in 2021.

Behind Bottas and Verstappen, Sergio Pérez finally finished on the podium after an eight-race drought, a period of time over which his teammate has tallied four wins and six podiums. He ended just ahead of Charles Leclerc, who looked to be the fastest man on track at times. Ferrari’s latest engine upgrade seems to be working well.

It would have been interesting to see differently how the race at the front would have played out had Fernando Alonso been in the mix, as the F1 veteran seemed to have a lot of pace, but threw it all away with uncharacteristic blunders in the opening lap.

Despite an almost complete lack of rain and the ridiculously potent displacement abilities of modern F1 tires, the surface of the Istanbul City Circuit never dried, leading to interesting strategy calls. In the dry, drivers are required by regulation to pit at least once, but this is a rule that doesn’t apply when the race in wet conditions. In the end, one driver — Esteban Ocon — made it to the checkered flag on the same set of tires on which he started, something that hadn’t happened since 1997 if you exclude the “race” in Spa earlier this year.

Hamilton wanted to try the same, but his team disagreed and made the call to bring him in the pits late in the race — arguably too late, as they had hesitated for several laps when Hamilton initially expressed his desire to stay out. Had the seven-time champ managed to make it work, he may have won the race. But the second-guessing left him in fifth place when he had the pace to earn the team a double-podium finish.

“You have to rely on your team and accept the choices that they make and hope that it is the right one,” Hamilton said after the race. “I listened to the team today, could we have stayed out? Who knows. It was a risk either way.”

2021 Turkish Grand Prix championship standings