ISTANBUL — Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas won the Turkish Grand Prix for his first victory of the season on Sunday, while Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished second to reclaim the overall lead from title rival Lewis Hamilton.
Sergio Perez capped a strong day for Red Bull by finishing in third place. Verstappen wiped away Hamilton’s two-point lead and now leads the Mercedes driver by six points with six races left in a thrilling title battle that could go all the way to the final race in Abu Dhabi.
Defending champion Hamilton started from 11th despite finishing fastest in qualifying because of a 10-place grid penalty for an extra engine change. He lost valuable points by finishing fifth after coming in for a late tire change — despite telling his team he wanted to stay on track when still in third.
That may have given Verstappen a bigger gap in the championship.
“It’s been close the whole year. This season has been really good,” Verstappen said. “It was not easy today, the track was very greasy. It just seemed like Valtteri had a bit more pace. Just happy to finish second.”
Hamilton finally came in for new tires on Lap 51 but did not agree with the decision.
“Why did you give up that place?” a frustrated Hamilton barked on team radio using an expletive.
Hamilton was getting increasingly agitated after his pit stop as he lost ground to Charles Leclerc and had Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri gaining on him.
“Just leave it alone,” he snapped to his race engineer when informed of Gasly’s gap.
Leclerc came in earlier than Hamilton and placed fourth, missing out on a 14th career podium, while Gasly took sixth ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo started from the back after complete engine changes.
Sainz Jr. managed to finish a commendable eighth and was voted the day’s best driver.
Bottas finally got the winning feeling again when he overtook Ferrari’s Leclerc with about a dozen laps left, clinching his first victory since the Russian GP in September last year.
“It’s been a while” he said. “Probably one of my best races ever in Formula One, everything was under control.”
His 10th career win was a much-needed one during a frustrating last season with Mercedes before joining Alfa Romeo next year.
To cap it off he clocked the fastest lap on the 5.3-kilometer (3.3-mile) Istanbul Park circuit beneath a grey sky amid persistent drizzle.
Bottas made a better start than Verstappen, which has rarely been the case. The Finnish driver hit 100 kph (62 mph) in 3.09 seconds compared to 3.17 for Verstappen as spray kicked up from the wet track.
Starting fifth, Fernando Alonso made a move on the outside of Gasly, who clipped Alonso’s rear left tire and sent him spinning off. Alonso came back and then soon did the same to Haas driver Mick Schumacher when he bumped him. Gasly and Alonso got five-second time penalties.
Hamilton soon jumped from 11th to ninth but had trouble getting past AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda with no DRS.
Tsunoda blocked one attack well, but Hamilton overtook on the outside on Lap 8, then caught Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin on the next lap and Norris on the 11th.
Hamilton then clocked three straight fastest laps as he chased down Gasly in fifth. He got him, too, on Lap 15 but his relentlessly high speed was wearing down his tires.
As Sainz Jr. carved his way through the field, fastest laps switched between Bottas, Verstappen, Hamilton again, and Leclerc. Drivers waited for the track to dry out more before changing tires. But the rain started falling again.
Next in line for Hamilton was Perez.
Hamilton’s first attack came on Lap 35, but Perez blocked him expertly with late braking on three turns.
Red Bull pitted Verstappen for new tires soon after and made the change in a quick stop of 2.1 seconds. Perez’s defending allowed Verstappen to come back out still ahead of Hamilton, while Bottas covered Verstappen’s stop straight after.
Mercedes told Hamilton to box for new tires on Lap 42.
“Why?” said Hamilton, and did not come in.
“OK, we’ll stay out one more lap,” his engineer told him.
Hamilton refused again.
When he did, Mercedes may have made the wrong call in overruling a record-equaling seven-time world champion with a record 100 wins.
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