2021 Turkish F1 GP preview: Verstappen and Hamilton battle for the leadership in Istanbul

The Formula One entourage has arrived at the shores of the Bosphorus Strait for the 2021 Turkish F1 GP and sixteenth round of the calendar, which is to be held this weekend (October 8-10) in Istanbul. 

After its return to the World Championship calendar last season following a nine-year absence, the Istanbul Park Circuit is back as an alternative solution to the ongoing COVID-19 induced cancellations. 

At the ninth edition of the Turkish event, the state of the tarmac at the Istanbul track remains one of the greatest concerns amongst the teams. Its poor grip last time around made it feel more like an ice ring and cars struggled to stay on the track.  


Hamilton, to defend his two points lead

Otherwise, the World Championship is on fire. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) will be defending his new lead, which he regained after a somehow bitter victory in Russia. There, he ousted Max Verstappen (Red Bull) from the top but got a much modest advantage than expected.

Despite the Dutchman starting last in Sochi, Hamilton only managed to get five points on him. The seven-time champion is really going to have to sweat his 2-point strong lead at the top of the standings. 

Istanbul Park might bring back fond memories for Hamilton since it was there that he equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles in 2020, but things have changed considerably since then. 

The German hegemony has been undermined by the strength of the Austrian teamVerstappen and Red Bull, for their part, are out to hit back at Mercedes and Hamilton.

Spurred on by his great comeback in Sochi, where he climbed from last to second, The Dutchman will be after his seventh victory of the season. 


Second drivers of Mercedes & Red Bull

The team’s second drivers will also be part of this intense war between them. These must do everything in their hand to try and help their respective leaders.

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas is performing much better than his counterpart at Red Bull. Despite not having claimed any victory this year – compared to Hamilton’s five wins – the Scandinavian driver has taken nine podiums, two of them in the past three races. 


Checo Perez, on the other hand, has not quite found his footing yet at Red Bull. The Mexican is not performing as expected behind the wheel of the RB16B. He knows he must turn things around and he has assured he is ready to climb back up the podium again, something he hasn’t done since France. 

Midfield battle: McLaren vs Ferrari

There could also be some intense fighting in the midfield. McLaren, specialists in fishing in troubled waters, want a new podium and will be on the lookout for any mistake of Mercedes or Red Bull. 

A team on the rise, the Britons would be eager to patch things up after their Russian fiasco. In Sochi, the sudden rain couple with the wrong decision of keeping the slick tires on, deprived Lando Norris of his first Formula One triumph.

Meanwhile, his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, better adapted to his new MCL35M, has finished in the top four in three of the last four races. The team from Woking is currently third in the Constructors’ standings with 17.5 points more than Ferrari, fourth. 

Both scuderias will continue their battle to dominate the middle zone in Turkey. As for the Italians, they are in for a complicated race. Carlos Sainz, who took his third Ferrari podium in Russia, is starting from the back of the grid.

 His engine change comes with a penalty and he will be obliged to make his way back up the track during the race. Only then he will remain the driver with the longest streak within the top 10, which he has done for eight consecutive races so far. 

Images of 2021 Turkish F1 GP: F1.com.

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