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October 11, 2021

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Verstappen snatches lead as Bottas soars

Valtteri Bottas ended his year-long drought with a dominant victory in Turkey yesterday while unhappy Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton finished fifth and lost the Formula One championship lead to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Verstappen, 24, was runner-up and 14.584 seconds behind the Finn at a wet Istanbul Park to overturn a two-point deficit to Hamilton and walk away six points clear with six races remaining in a thrilling title battle that could go all the way to the final race in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez finished third with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc fourth and ahead of seven-time world champion Hamilton, who had started 11th due to an engine penalty.

“It’s been a while, but feels good. I think from my side probably one of the best races I’ve had ever,” said Bottas, who started on pole position and was never threatened. “Apart from that one little slide, everything was under control.”

The victory was the Finn’s first since Russia in September last year.

“Haha, yes!” Bottas shouted after his 10th career win and 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 Istanbul Park circuit beneath a grey sky amid persistent drizzle.

Verstappen, who started on the front row, had a quiet race and said it had all been about tire management.

“I’m happy to be on the podium. I think it’s been close the whole year and I’m pretty sure in Austin it will be a good battle with Mercedes, so we just have to keep pushing, keep trying,” he said.

The United States Grand Prix in Texas is the next race on October 24.

Hamilton might have also been on the podium but Mercedes called him in, against his judgement, for a late stop from third place for a fresh set of intermediate tires with the track drying.

“We shouldn’t have come in man. Massive (tire) graining. I told you,” said the angry Briton in heated radio exchanges as he realized he had lost two places in the pits.

He pointed out afterwards that Alpine driver Esteban Ocon, who finished 10th, had managed to make one set of tires last the entire race.

Had he stayed out and kept third, Hamilton would be only a point behind Verstappen.

“We thought we could finish third without stopping or, if a dry line emerged, maybe going to a soft tire,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

“Then we saw Leclerc dropping off and Lewis was dropping off and it was clear we wouldn’t make it to the end.”

Spaniard Carlos Sainz was voted driver of the day for going from the back of the grid, due to power unit penalties, to eighth for Ferrari.

McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo of Australia had also started from the back after a complete engine change.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly was sixth with Lando Norris seventh for McLaren and Lance Stroll ninth for Aston Martin.

Beginning from pole, Bottas avoided a tangle between Gasly and Fernando Alonso on the first lap, and led until pitting on the 38th lap of the 58-lap race.

That gave Leclerc the lead but as his tires faded so did his pace and the Finn soon reclaimed the lead, going on to take his first win in over a year.

Verstappen made no attempt to challenge Bottas and was content to ease home second knowing that Hamilton was three places further back.


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