Valtteri Bottas says goodbye to Mercedes with victory in Turkey, while Verstappen returns to lead

Valtteri Bottas took the victory in a very wet Turkish Grand Prix, which forced all the drivers to always use intermediate rain tires. Max Verstappen, with his second place, snatches the leadership of the World Cup from a Hamilton who could only be fifth.

Formula 1 is perhaps one of the most unfair sports championships. We all know that the driver who doesn’t have the best car rarely wins. Perhaps we would have to go back to the triumphs of our Fernando Alonso, when he won the 2005 and 2006 World Cups with a Renault that was a very good car, yes, but it was in the light of Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari.

For this reason, when this year we are clear that there are two cars on a par in the Circus Olympus, Mercedes and Red Bull, with two extraordinary drivers at the wheels of their first cars, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, there are other conditions that can decide the balance of triumph on one side or the other. We are talking about the subordinates. Of the second pilots. Of the squires. Whatever we want to call them, but we’re talking about Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes and ‘Checo’ Prez at Red Bull.

Because yesterday was the ‘race of the second boys’. Because both one and the other provided a service to their ‘bosses’ that is not paid for with money. Bottas, because he was the best driver of the weekend, and he won in Istanbul in what may be his last triumph with Mercedes, and who knows if in his career in Formula 1 (remember that next year he will race in Alfa Romeo) . The Finn, with his victory, subtracted seven points from Max Verstappen, who would have won easily had Bottas not been involved. And with this, he subtracts seven points from the Dutch at the moment when the World Cup is tightest.

And then there’s Sergio ‘Checo’ Prez. The Mexican, who has already won a race this year, has confirmed more than enough that his signing for the Austrian squad has been a success. Because he makes a team, because he is a great driver, and because he is fully aware of his role in the blue car pit (yesterday white in tribute to Honda, which runs its last races in Formula 1). Prez finished third behind Bottas and Verstappen, but the highlight of his performance was undoubtedly his tight grip on a Lewis Hamilton who came to despair behind the Mexican, who was able to stop the seven-time world champion, as Fernando Alonso did a few races ago. Once again, Hamilton, who no one doubts that he is one of the best drivers in history, once again loses a fight with a driver and a car with an even level. Let’s remember that most of his seven World Cups were a triumphant ride with almost no competition.

Although the great protagonist of the race in Turkey was the rain, in the form of ‘txirimiri’ without force but without pause, which forced the strategists of each team to rake their brains in relation to the choice of tires. In the end, the entire test had to be run with intermediate rain tires, an unusual situation, which some managed better than others. The one who did the worst was, precisely, Lewis Hamilton, who started in eleventh position due to an engine change, but still could have been much better. But we already know that the British Achilles heel is the management of the tires (and that is no longer the disaster that it was in his first races), but in the end, because of his degraded tires, he could not even with Prez and not even with Leclerc, who got a creditable fourth place for Ferrari.

Carlos Sainz had to start from the tail of the peloton yesterday to achieve a creditable eighth place, 11 ahead of his 19th on the grid.

Sainz, an overtaking machine

And speaking of Ferrari, we must highlight the race of Carlos Sainz, the ‘best climber’ on the grid yesterday, since he started in nineteenth position, also due to an engine change, and finished eleven places higher, in a race with a continuous ‘game by game’, overtaking by overtaking, under the gentle and persistent rain. The Madrilenian, who was named ‘Driver of the Day’, is undoubtedly having a great season at the Cavallino, since at this stage of the Championship, after 16 races disputed, and with only five (or six) appointments ahead, Sainz continues ahead of his teammate Leclerc in the classification, sixth and seventh, even if only by half a point of advantage (116.5 to 116). And that Leclerc always has the new material and development before Sainz. And let’s not talk about the ‘suspicious’ everlasting problems of Madrid when stopping in the pits, where the mechanics always always always find themselves with some ‘problem’. Yesterday, without going any further, he lost more than six seconds at a stop.

The spin in the first corner that ruined the many perspectives of Fernando Alonso in Turkey.

Alonso, convicted of a spin

On the other side of the Spanish performance, and for once, about Fernando Alonso we have to write in negative. Because, although the Asturian was in his best position on the grid in years, fifth, a few meters ahead of the starting line his career went down the drain, when he was touched by one of the drivers classified as ‘dangerous’ on the grid, the French AlphaTauri Pierre Gasly, which caused a spin on the Alpine 14, without impact, but with the consequent loss of places and condemns her to fight a whole race in the wet in the tail of the peloton. The Frenchman was sanctioned with five seconds for this action, exactly the same punishment that Alonso himself suffered with a similar action with Mick Schumacher, undoubtedly the result of the rage of the two-time world champion at the lost opportunity.

And, in short, the World Cup is more precious than ever. At the top of the rankings the two roosters continue to exchange the lead race after race. And the crest to dominate, at least the next two weeks, in which the Circus crosses the pond to run in the United States, is Max Verstappen, who his second place yesterday, but above all helped by the fifth of Hamilton, takes him six points at the top of the table (262.5 by 256.5). I said, the Circuit of the Americas in Austin (Texas) will be the next most exciting World Cup event in recent years.

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