- Hamilton could win his 7th world championship title
- The track resurfacing was completed just 10 days before the event which meant a very slippery track
- To improve the grip level, rented cars were made to lap around the circuit to lay rubber
- The possibility of rain could spice up the event
- Sauber (Alfa Romeo) celebrated its 500th grand prix event
- Red Bull racing was celebrating its 300th race
- George Russell was to take engine related penalties for the race
The lack of grip due to the new surfacing did not help the drives at all as everyone found it really difficult to put their foot on the throttle. The free practice 1 saw times which were slower than the GP2 times set a decade ago on the same track. All the free practice sessions failed to produce any representative lap time and this meant that we were heading into the qualifying with almost nothing to analyze for the rest of the weekend. Max Verstappen headed all the 3 parts of the practice and Red Bull remained the car to be beaten as they were looking the best in the slippery conditions.
To compound the grip problems at the Istanbul park, it was wet to start the qualifying and this posed a challenge for the teams and driver. Everyone came out on the wet weather tires and Verstappen was off just a couple of corners into his out-lap to prove how less grip the circuit offered. After some 11 minutes of running, the race control decided it was too wet to drive as there was a heavy chance of cars aqua plaining. The session resumed once the rain stopped but Romain Grosjean found it very difficult and lost his car under braking into Turn 1 and beached it in the gravel which brought out the second red flag of the session. The qualifying resumed and it was visible that the conditions were improving significantly but not so for Nicolas Latifi who lost control and beached his car in the gravel bring out double waved yellows. Kevin Magnussen, Danill Kvyat, George Russell, Romain Grosjean and Nicolas Latifi were eliminated in Q1 with Danill Kvyat spinning coming out of pits.
The second part of Qualifying saw times drop further as the conditions improved and Alfa Romeo’s of Kimi Raikkonen and Giovinazzi found it suiting their car very much as they both put in competitive lap times enough to get them into Q3. Both the McLarens and Ferraris failed to make the cut into Q3 with Pierre Gasly being the other driver to be eliminated by posting the slowest time of the session.
The Q3 started with everyone barring Sergio Perez coming out on full wet tires. Perez though opted for the green walled Intermediate tires and went fastest of all in the first round of laps. This prompted all the other teams to pit for intermediates as the tires required time to get to the temperature and give their best performance. Max Verstappen aborted his what could be the fastest lap time to pit for Intermediates. The Intermediate tires seemed to be the best for the conditions and Lance Stroll came out to put in a brilliant effort to take the pole position with Max Verstappen still on a good lap. Sergio Perez who had led the session for the major part, could not put together a decent lap and did not improve. Max Verstappen though did improve but it was only good enough for P2. Lance Stroll, therefore, became only the 3rd Canadian to take pole position and the 5th youngest to do so. The difficult conditions did not disappoint as it gave us a unique starting grid with both the Racing Points starting in top 3. Alex Albon qualified P4. It was a good day for Renault as they qualified 5th and 7th with Ricciardo and Ocon respectively. The two Mercedes could only qualify 6th and 9th with Hamilton leading Bottas. Kimi Raikkonen and Giovinazzi rounded off the top 10 with 8th and 10th positions, respectively.
With rain coming down and the slippery nature of the track, it was going to be a race to watch out for. And there was drama even before the race started as Giovinazzi and Russell crashed on their way to the grid. The rain and the new surface meant that the even numbered side of the grid was much more a difficult place to start from and Max Verstappen found it so as he was crawling at the start of the race. The two Racing Points made good getaways to run 1-2 with Lance Stroll heading Perez. Behind though there were slips and spins, with Ocon being tagged by Ricciardo at Turn 1 into a spin and Valterri Bottas could do nothing but spin his Mercedes to avoid Ocon. Sebastian Vettel though made an incredible getaway and ran as high as P3 by Lap 1. Hamilton made a superb start to take P3 at the start but lost in under braking to given away his position to Vettel, Verstappen and Albon. Bottas though again collided with the Renault of Estaben Ocon, resulting in a spin for the Renault driver. The Red Bulls looked very comfortable and Max Verstappen was soon chasing the Racing Points who had comfortably got into the lead after the first few laps. On Lap 18, Max Verstappen got behind Perez and began pounding behind his gearbox but the spray coming out might have distracted Max and that resulted in a spin. Max dropped from P3 to P6 and pitted soon to change his flat spotted Intermediates. Stroll led for 34 laps of the race but then pitted for another set of Intermediates, but this was the show over for Stroll sadly as he never could switch on those set of tires and struggled with graining.
On Lap 37, Lewis Hamilton who has pitted only once closed the gap to Sergio Perez and took the lead with the help of DRS. Once he took the lead, there was no looking back as Lewis Hamilton probably drove one of his best races and was at his very best. Lewis Hamilton went on to win the race which made him the World Champion for 2020 and therefore, he equaled Michael Schumacher’s record of 7 world championship titles, the most for any Formula 1 driver. There was a 3-way scrap for the second position though as Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel had closed onto the gearbox of Sergio Perez. Charles Leclerc locked his brakes up going into the penultimate chicane which gave Sergio Perez to reclaim the second position and allowed Vettel to pass Leclerc. Leclerc finished P4 and thus capped off Ferrari’s strongest race of 2020. Carlos Sainz took a brilliant 5th place with the two Red Bulls of Max and Albon finishing 6th and 7th respectively. Norris, Stroll and Ricciardo rounded off the top 10. Valterri Bottas had a weekend to forget as he struggled to keep the car on track. He spun multiple times during the race and finished a lowly 14th.
By winning the Turkish GP, Lewis Hamilton became the 7-time Formula 1 World Champion. Sebastian Vettel was chosen as the Driver of the Day. Though the race had many ups and downs, it must be said that this was one of the best races of the season. A Lewis Hamilton masterpiece with many close battles going on through out the race made it one of the best in recent times.
We hope for many more races of this kind where we as Formula 1 fans will be entertained to the highest possible level.