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Lewis Hamilton sealed his seventh Formula 1 World Championship with a win at Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix as damp corners threw a wet blanket on the best-laid plans throughout the rankings.
To cap off a weekend marked by surprises and wipeouts, Racing Point’s Lance Stroll started off from pole position, lengthening his lead to over 10 seconds over teammate Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez, before a third tyre change in Lap 36 proved too insurmountable a challenge.
“I don’t know what happened,” the crestfallen Canadian said, after finishing the race in ninth.“We had so much graining on the first set of intermediates that we decided to pit because we were just losing seconds a lap. I just don’t know where that graining came from, it just happened instantly.
“We started the race on full wets, then we put an inter on and I was quite far up the road … the second set of inters were new but just grained again, massive graining and no pace, so we’ll have to look into it. It was pretty terrible today.”
Astoundingly, Checo managed to somehow keep his second set of tyres going for 48 laps, finishing at P2 – his first podium this season and his best result since 2012, when, coincidentally, he came second to Hamilton.
Meanwhile, Mercedes AMG’s Hamilton started from sixth and steadily moved up the ranks, putting some of the iconic ‘Hamilton wet’ laps on the board.
Further back the line, team mate Valterri Bottas who started at a disappointing ninth position got into two tangles, both with Renault’s Esteban Ocon within the first lap.
“That was a long race, such a long day,” the 31-year-old Finn said after the race, barely managing to hold onto second place in the drivers’ standings despite a point-less P14 finish in Istanbul.
“Obviously in the first lap, everything went wrong … someone in the first corner was spinning, I was avoiding and I spun as well.
“I had contact in Turn 9 and the car was not the same anymore. I struggled to stay on track – I couldn’t stay on track!” he added. “The steering wheel was offset, there was a piece missing from the front wing.
“It was a disaster, I tell you. One of the most difficult races I’ve done, for sure.”
Sunday also marked the first race in the season that Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen did not take a podium finish, ending the race just 1.5s ahead of teammate Alex Albon.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, on the other hand, took his first top-five finish of the year, with a cosy third place finish.
Meanwhile, his teammate Charles Leclerc floundered in the final lap despite driving an impeccable 57 laps. He was all set for a second place finish after sneaking by Perez in the final lap, but he locked a wheel and lost valuable acceleration as both Perez and Vettel snuck by.
The team radio roared with his frustration as he crossed the finish line mere milliseconds behind Vettel, “I am so sorry to the whole team, I am stupid.
“Unfortunately in the last corner, nothing to say, in the last three corners. In the end, the end result counts. I was good for one part of the race but when it matters and that’s it. Fourth. I’m so disappointed.”
All in all, the race led to seismic shifts down the ranks, as Racing Point jumped to third in the constructors’ standings leading McLaren by just five points.
While the top prizes are all but decided, Bahrain’s races will prove to be an interesting playground for racers further down the ranks as team bosses look to make driver changes for next season.