Analysis of an enthralling race in Turkey which delivered a record seventh world title for Lewis Hamilton, brought to you by Bahrain International Circuit
As Lewis Hamilton crossed the line to claim victory in the Turkish Grand Prix and, more importantly, equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven World Championship titles, his first words were to the millions of young fans watching at home, undoubtedly inspired by this incredible achievement. “To all the kids out there, dream the impossible,” he said. This was from a man who came from a modest background and through hard graft and effort, fought his way relentlessly to the very top. In contrast to many drivers in F1, his father worked four jobs to pay for his early karting career. It was only when he was signed by the McLaren young driver programme in 1998 and took his first drive in F1 seven years later, that the dream started to become reality. That reality for the now seven times world champion must surely have been more than he or his family could ever have dreamt of. However, it was races like this one in Turkey which gives a good insight in how he has achieved that remarkable feat.
His victory was almost inexplicable in a race that was simply pandemonium from start to finish. The track had recently been resurfaced, having not been used by F1 since 2011, with the new tarmac already causing huge problems earlier in the week with low grip in dry conditions. However, when the rain came down, firstly in qualifying, and then before the start of the race, the track was nothing short of an ice rink. In qualifying there was a major shock as Lance Stroll took his debut pole, ahead of his team mate Perez in third and Verstappen in second. Mercedes however, were way down in qualifying with Hamilton sixth and Bottas eighth and in these conditions there was little expectation of a podium for the 2020 Constructor champions.
Indeed, it seemed from the start that we could have been in for an upset as both Racing Points took off well. Verstappen, on the other hand, looked like he was going in reverse, with zero grip on cold tyres on a soaking surface. From that moment, there would be no point in trying to summarise the number of subsequent spins, missed corners and errors from drivers who, in many cases, had not experienced such conditions before on a track unfamiliar to many of them. For the viewer, it was as exciting as it was terrifying for the drivers. Remarkably, however, all but three drivers finished the race and in the end it was a combination of driver precision, experience and clever strategies that won the day.
In terms of the Championship, Bottas needed to make up seven points versus Hamilton to keep the race alive. So when he spun at the first corner, putting him down to 17th position, the title race was pretty much over from that point. What was remarkable, however, was that Hamilton didn’t want to settle for a conservative, midfield finish. His ambition to win was far greater than that. His team got the strategy calls right, only stopping once for tyres when many others stopped twice. But they could only do that because of Hamilton’s ability to run a set of intermediate tyres far longer than anyone else. At the end of the race, there was no tyre tread left in sight, leaving any normal person wondering quite how that was possible is such treacherous conditions.
In addition to Hamilton’s remarkable win, it was experience elsewhere that shone through. Sebastian Vettel rediscovered his mojo coming a remarkable third, with Sergio Perez holding on for second.
F1 takes a break for a week, as the team at the BIC get ready for F1’s arrival for Bahrain’s unique set of two races. In the meantime, the world of F1 can reflect on a remarkable seventh world championship for Hamilton, a man who not only dreamed the impossible, but delivered it.
* Laurence Jones is head of Marketing and Communications, Bahrain International Circuit