Mika Häkkinen looks back at the recent Turkish Grand Prix.
That was a brilliant performance from Valtteri Bottas on Sunday in Turkey. A strong victory, his 10th in Formula One, and an important result because he scored the maximum possible points for Mercedes and kept Max Verstappen’s Red Bull behind.
With team-mate Lewis Hamilton finishing fifth, it was critical that Valtteri prevented Max from scoring the win, so his domination of the race was great to see.
Valtteri showed great skill in managing the intermediate tires, which were used throughout the race due to the damp conditions. Particularly at the start of the race and then again after his pit stop.
It is so easy to destroy the grip levels on a set of intermediates by pushing too hard straight from the pits, which is what happened to both Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc later in the race. Valtteri just focused on beating Max off the start-line, protecting his tires until they were ready to be pushed, and drove a perfect race.
There is no doubt this was one of his best victories in Formula One, so I am not surprised at how happy he and Mercedes were after the race. On a day when Lewis Hamilton had to take a 10 place grid penalty as the result of an engine change, Valtteri did everything his team could hope for.
Lewis had a difficult race because of the critical timing of pit stops. The best moment to stop was around the time when Max pitted, and that’s precisely when Valtteri came in for a new set of intermediates too. Any other strategy felt like a risk, even if the car felt ok at that moment.
VALTTERI: “It’s been a while. It feels good. From my side, that’s one of the best races I’ve had. It’s not easy to choose the strategy here in these conditions. It feels like a well-earned victory” #TurkishGP ???????? #F1 pic.twitter.com/mAJFeZzBd5
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 10, 2021
While I can understand why Lewis decided to stay out and try to keep going until the end of the race, for sure the tire performance would have dropped away. We saw that with Esteban Ocon’s Alpine, which never made a pit stop, and also with Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari, which stayed out and led the race for nine laps. Ultimately Charles’ tires were providing no grip, and that’s what would have happened to Lewis.
He could also have suffered a tire failure, and failing to finish is not something he can risk in his battle with Max for the World Championship. In my opinion finishing fifth, on a day when Valtteri won and Max had to settle for second, was a good result for Lewis.
What is also clear from the weekend is the Mercedes car has moved ahead of the Red Bull in terms of performance. Lewis and Valtteri were quickest in qualifying, and Max admitted Red Bull have work to do if they are to win this World Championship.
One strong point for Red Bull on Sunday was the performance of Sergio Perez who drove a strong race, protected Max and finished third. I thought his battle with Lewis was excellent, showing confidence and maturity from a driver who we know is good at tire management.
Sergio has had some difficult races recently, so this was a great performance and good timing for the team.
As we move into the final six races in the World Championship, Valtteri and Sergio will come to play an increasingly important role in providing Lewis and Max with the right level of support and strategy options. Max only leads the World Championship by six points, so with 156 points available during these final races the title could swing one way or the other very quickly.