After the “magic moment” of his 100th victory in Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) continues in Turkey on his way to his great goal, the record of an 8th World Cup, with only two points of advantage over his rival Max Verstappen (Red Bull ).
F1 is divided into two categories. Those who can win the title and the rest. In recent years, the first of these groups was summed up in one name: Hamilton. But in 2021, after two-thirds of the World Cup, Verstappen keeps the Mercedes driver company.
The British veteran has 246.5 points, while the young Dutchman has 244.5. One seeks the historical record of eight world titles at 36, while the other wants to debut at 23. The first has just achieved his 100th victory in Russia and the second has already won 7 Grand Prix in 2021, accumulating 17 wins in total since his debut in 2015.
In Sochi, Hamilton irritated Verstappen by talking about the “pressure” of competing for the title for the first time.
Asked again at a press conference about this alleged increase in pressure, the Dutchman again denied it: “If at the end of the year we finish in first place, obviously it will be an incredible success and that is what we are working for. But even if we finish second it will still be an excellent season and, in the end, that is not really going to change my life. “
You can’t force things. You just have to work hard and well, “he added.
The duel, which has already seen two crashes in Silverstone and Monza, is resumed on the Bosphorus, in an unusual scenario: this Grand Prix of Turkey will be only the 9th. Visited seven times from 2005 to 2011, the Istanbul Park circuit once again hosted F1 in 2020, added to a calendar turned upside down by the pandemic. Like this season.
Last year, the Grand Prix offered many surprises, with Lance Stroll (Aston Martin, then Racing Point) starting from pole position for the first – and only – time in his career.
– Red Bull in white and red –
But in a chaotic race, Hamilton, who started 6th, dominated the rain and his rivals to match Michael Schumacher at the top of the F1 pantheon with seven winches. In that race Verstappen finished sixth.
A weekend to forget for the Dutchman or a bad omen? “I think the circumstances will be quite different this year, we hope the track will have a little more grip,” he said.
In the rain, the asphalt that had been redone was transformed into a skating rink for the drivers eleven months ago. This time, the 5,378 km track has been treated to avoid slipping and spinning, although we will have to wait for Friday and the first tests (08:30 GMT) to verify it.
“I think we understood some of the problems we had (in qualifying last year) and that we have corrected some, so I think we are better prepared,” Hamilton said.
Turkey receives the ‘paddock’ on the date initially scheduled for the Japanese GP, canceled due to the health situation. For the frustrated occasion of a farewell to Honda in front of the Suzuka crowd, Red Bull had prepared a special livery, white and red, in homage to the Japanese motorist who leaves F1 at the end of the year.
Circumstances force it to be done from a distance, on the Asian shore of Istanbul, with the cars of Verstappen and his partner, the Mexican Sergio Pérez, white and with the red bull, inspired by the RA272, the first Honda that won in F1, at the 1965 Mexican GP.
On the AlphaTauri cars of the Japanese Yuki Tsunoda and the French Pierre Gasly, one word, “arigato” (thank you in Japanese), will appear on the rear wing. AFP (HN)