Formula 1 championship leader Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes appear to be faster at the Turkish Grand Prix than they’ve been all season, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said.
Mercedes reportedly had a front row lockout at Istanbul Park after qualifying on Saturday, but Hamilton was fined 10 grid places for an engine change that exceeded his allowance.
Instead, teammate Valtteri Bottas will start from pole position with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, two points behind Hamilton in the standings with seven races to go, alongside the front row.
Horner told Sky Sports TV that he expected Hamilton to progress quickly from 11th place: “Lewis looks probably the fastest of the whole year here.
“The Mercedes is plugged in here, it performs well on this asphalt and this track and it will come out of it pretty quickly. So we have to focus on our own race, get the right strategy, the reliability, all of those factors and see how we do.
“The guys recovered well overnight. The whole engineering team at the trackside and back at the Milton Keynes plant did a solid job today to make the progress we have so hopefully that will put us in better shape for tomorrow.
“The best route to beat Mercedes is to finish ahead of them. We are therefore very focused on our race and trying to capitalize as many points as possible from both drivers.
“I hope we will be closer to them in the race than in qualifying today, we see that they are very quick on one lap, if that is sustainable throughout the race, we will see”, added Horner.
Hamilton won on a slippery surface in Turkey last year starting sixth on the grid, with Verstappen starting second but finishing sixth.
Verstappen will start Sunday’s race on the “dirty” side of the track, with less grip.
When asked if he has the pace to beat the Mercedes, the driver’s response was straightforward: “No. But of course we will try to follow and see what we can do and see what happens in the race in general.
The 24-year-old Dutchman started the previous race in Russia from behind due to a similar penalty, finishing second, and said Hamilton could not expect an easy pass from the other drivers battling for position. and points.
“It was fun, to be honest, seeing other guys fighting in front of you, almost getting knocked out, all that stuff… you just have to be really alert but I mean I think we’ve all been faced with this stuff, ”he said.
“Some were also fighting for their positions and then you get caught up in the fight they’re in with other cars. Of course, they also try to run for their best result. I had a great time in Russia. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Additional reporting by Agnes Carlier)