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Daniel Ricciardo position, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen championship points, Valtteri Bottas wins

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Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas claimed his first chequered flag of the season to win the Turkish Grand Prix on Sunday as Max Verstappen reclaimed the lead in the title race.

The Red Bull driver finished second to take a six-point lead in the championship ahead of Lewis Hamilton who finished fifth voicing frustration with his Mercedes’ team strategy.

Sergio Perez, in the other Red Bull, took third with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in fourth.

Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo finished outside of the points in 13th having started the race from the back of the grid after McLaren made wholesale changes to his car.

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Bottas wins Turkish GP, Max second | 03:11

Ricciardo was left frustrated, saying that his car struggled with its tyres all race.

“I think we had maybe four laps in the race where we had good pace but the rest was hard,” he said.

“I got a bit excited because I thought maybe it will just keep getting better and better, but it lasted four laps and then the rear dropped away again, so the last ten laps were a bit painful, just trying to hang on.

“Obviously, we were fighting for the points and that strategy was our best chance, but it was just really unpredictable. I know others went longer, with one going the entire race on one set, but at the end I saw my tyres and they were on their last legs.

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t a strong race but we’ll try to analyse it.”

Meanwhile, Hamilton declined an initial call to come in for fresh tyres but finally acceded to the Mercedes team instructions, boxing eight laps from the end.

It cost Hamilton two places as Perez and Leclerc flew on ahead and the Englishman did not hide his frustration over the radio.

Hamilton was not happy with the team instructions.
Hamilton was not happy with the team instructions.Source: AFP

– ‘Shouldn’t have come in’ –

“F**k man, why’d you give up that space?” Hamilton fumed over team radio.

As he struggled to hold off Pierre Gasly in the AlphaTauri, he said: “We shouldn’t have come in. Massive graining man. I told you.”

A disgruntled Hamilton later pointed out Alpine’s Esteban Ocon made it round with one set of tyres, intimating that he could have stayed out.

“I feel like I should have stayed out,” Hamilton told Sky F1. “My gut feeling was to stay out, and I feel like that’s what I should have done. So I’m frustrated in myself for not following my gut.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff backed the call at the end of the race, saying that it was Hamilton’s delay in stopping which hurt his chances of claiming a podium.

“That would have been better than what we ended up with,” Wolff told Sky Sports after the race. “But it was measured and in the car, he didn‘t see how much he was dropping off. It was clear that had he stayed out then he would have lost out to Gasly.

“We thought we could finish third without stopping or, if a dry line emerged, maybe going to a soft tyre.

“Then we saw Leclerc dropping off and Lewis was dropping off and it was clear we wouldn‘t make it to the end.”

Hamilton was quickest in qualifying but had to start the race in 11th because of a grid penalty incurred for changing his engine.

The seven-time champion gained two places on the opening lap before picking his way up to fifth where he was held up by Perez, the two of them dicing at the end of lap 35 in some classic wheel-to-wheel racing.

Valtteri Bottas celebrates the win.Source: Getty Images

As the other cars came in to change their tyres Hamilton stayed out, moving up to third and looking good for the podium.

Although the rain eased by the start of the race, the wet conditions prevailed throughout, making the tactics around tyres and the timing of pit stops all the more important.

Championship leader Verstappen said: “It wasn’t easy today.

“The track was very greasy, we had to manage the tyres the whole race so couldn’t really push.

“Just seemed Valtteri had a bit more pace, could look after the tyres all race. Happy to finish second in these conditions, it’s easy to get it wrong so you drop back.”

Race winner Bottas said after his 11th career win it was “probably one of the best races” he ever had.

Bottas began from pole, avoiding a tangle between Gasly and Fernando Alonso on the opening lap, and led until pitting on the 38th lap of the 58-lap race.

That gave Leclerc the lead but as his tyres faded so did his pace and the Finn soon reclaimed the lead, going on to take his 11th Grand Prix victory and his first win since Russia over a year ago.

Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas do battle in the wet.Source: Getty Images

“It’s been a while. Feels good,” said Bottas who is leaving Mercedes at the end of the season to join Alfa Romeo.

“It is not easy to choose the strategy here with these conditions and when to stop and which tyre but I’m glad everything went smooth for once for me.

“When only one drying line, it doesn’t need much to go off. I definitely needed to focus all through the race. A difficult one, but feels like a well-earned victory.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, who has recruited George Russell to replace Bottas next season, was thrilled with the performance of his current number two.

“Absolute dominant drive from him from the get go,” he said. “He had it absolutely under control. Ten out of ten for me.”

Verstappen, who began the race two points behind Hamilton in the title race, made no attempt to challenge Bottas and focussed on a damage limitation exercise, content to ease home second knowing that Hamilton was three places further back.

There are six races left in the season with the United States Grand Prix in Texas on October 24 next on the schedule.

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Daniel Ricciardo position, McLaren points, Lando Norris, United States GP in Austin, power unit change

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Daniel Ricciardo’s F1 resurgence hit a roadblock in Turkey on the weekend as he suffered his worst result of the season, finishing 13th.

The result capped off a difficult weekend for the Australian who didn’t make it out of Q1 in a disastrous qualifying in drying conditions on Saturday.

McLaren then changed Ricciardo’s entire power unit in a calculated decision that forced him to start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid, but leaves his car in good health for upcoming races.

Clawing back into the points was always going to be a big ask from there and Ricciardo had to settle for 13th, having claimed three top-five finishes in his previous four races.

Ricciardo said that his car was only briefly quick in Turkey where he battled to manage his tyres.

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Bottas wins Turkish GP, Max second | 03:11

“I think we had maybe four laps in the race where we had good pace but the rest was hard,” Ricciardo said. “In the beginning we struggled a lot with front grip, so it was really hard to stay close to the others, and then we pitted for a new tyre.

“After that I didn’t have great rear grip to start and was struggling but after a while it came good. We had probably four good laps in that stint where I could feel like I could really push on the tyre, which was what I was looking for.

“Of the entire race, that was the positive. I got a bit excited because I thought maybe it will just keep getting better and better, but it lasted four laps and then the rear dropped away again, so the last 10 laps were a bit painful, just trying to hang on.

Hamilton fastest but Bottas is on pole! | 01:54

“Obviously, we were fighting for the points and that strategy was our best chance, but it was just really unpredictable. I know others went longer, with one going the entire race on one set, but at the end I saw my tyres and they were on their last legs.”

Ricciardo moved up as high as 11th during the race before his tyres hit their limit and ruined any chances of claiming a point.

Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi passed him in the closing laps.

Team principal Andreas Seidl said after the race that it was little surprise McLaren wasn’t a frontrunner in Turkey, where Lando Norris came seventh.

“As we have seen already several times this year like in Zandvoort (the Dutch Grand Prix), we struggle on these kind of tracks at the moment,” he said.

“That’s also the difference we are having on our side compared to the teams in front of us that can pull it off at every kind of racetrack.”

The next race is on October 25 (6am AEST) in Austin where Ricciardo will enjoy a new engine, turbo and Motor Generation Unit – Heat (MGU-H) in a big boost to his chances.

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Lewis Hamilton team radio to Mercedes, video, tyre strategy error gives Max Verstappen lead

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The surgical mask hid the gritted teeth but there was no escaping the frustration in the voice of Lewis Hamilton after he was forced to settle for fifth place in the Turkish Grand Prix after a bungled late pitstop.

The seven-time world champion was running third in his Mercedes but the call for him to come in eight laps from the end to change his tyres, cost him two places and the lead in the championship.

At the start of the race he led Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by two points but by the time they crossed the finish line, it was the Dutchman, who finished second, who was back in front, leading by six points with six races still to come.

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Bottas wins Turkish GP, Max second | 03:11

Mercedes argue that Hamilton’s tyres on a wet track were wearing badly and that he would have struggled to finish the race, let alone hold off the challenge of Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez and the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.

The champion, whose teammate Valtteri Bottas won the race, was not so sure, pointing out that Alpine’s Estaeban Ocon completed the race on one set of tyres.

“I don’t know what to say. If Ocon did it, I could do it,” said Hamilton who started in 11th after a 10-place engine-related grid penalty.

Hamilton had resisted calls to come in earlier and was involved in a fiery exchange with his team over team radio.

“F**k man, why’d you give up that space?” Hamilton fumed over team radio.

As he struggled to hold off Pierre Gasly in the AlphaTauri, he said: “We shouldn’t have come in. Massive graining man. I told you.”

Hamilton later said that he either should have pitted “much earlier”, or stayed out until the end.

“When you come in with eight laps to go you don’t have time to go through the graining of that medium tyre on a drying track. So I went through this sliding phase where I nearly lost almost lost more positions,” he said.

Hamilton lost his championship lead in Turkey.
Hamilton lost his championship lead in Turkey.Source: AFP

“I feel like I should have stayed out. My gut feeling was to stay out, and I feel like that’s what I should have done. So I’m frustrated in myself for not following my gut.”

In the end, Hamilton had to use all his experience to hold off the charge of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly.

“Very frustrating but it is what it is. It felt good to be in third. If I can just hold onto this, it is a great result from 11th,” Hamilton said.

“This is worse but it could be (even) worse.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff played down the disagreement as something to “debate on the flight” home but insisted that the team orders had been correct.

“He (Hamilton) didn’t see how much he was dropping off in lap time and he didn’t see (Charles) Leclerc dropping off,” he said.

“It was clear if he had stayed out he would have lost to Gasly anyway.

“The correct call would have probably been to take it very conservative and pitting when everyone pitted for the intermediates but that is in hindsight after the race.

“The relative point of view is that in the last race Red Bull was very happy only losing seven points from a grid penalty and we lost eight points today.

“So it is not the end of the world. The absolute point of view is that we could probably have scored anther three, four, five points more.

“Overall that’s okay. Its wide open the championship.”

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F1 2021, Turkish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton, power units, Daniel Ricciardo, grid penalties, Max Verstappen, engine rules, news, latest, results, video

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After just 17 races in the Covid-hampered 2020 F1 season, the 2021 season has now seen 16 races completed of a gruelling, record breaking 22-Grands-Prix campaign.

For Formula One fans the extra races are a boon, especially with the championship battles going down to the wire. But for drivers and teams, the extended season presents massive challenges including one key factor that is already defining the campaign.

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Despite the season being stretched out to unprecedented lengths, the teams have not been allowed to use more Power Unit (V6 turbo-hybrid engine) components than in prior seasons.

That means five additional races compared to last year – and five more races of performance degradation, reliability issues, and potential engine failures to contend with.

For many teams, crashes or reliability problems have forced them to take penalties by using extra power units. But choosing when to use extra power unit components – and cop penalties – has become a massive strategic gamble. It might just decide who wins the driver’s championship.

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THE RULES

Under F1 rules, each driver has a strict allocation of the number of Power Unit components they can use through the season.

The six components which make up the Power Unit – the F1’s hybrid engine – are the internal combustion engine (ICE); turbocharger (TC); Motor Generator Unit-Kinetic (MGU-K), which harvests energy during braking; Motor Generator Unit-Heat (MGU-H), which harvests energy from heat captured in the exhaust; Energy Store (ES), the batteries which store and distribute energy; and the Control Electronics (CE), which manages the entire power unit.

Drivers can use three each of the first four components (ICE, TC, MGU-K, MGU-H) and two each of the Energy Store and Control Electronics.

But usually, the first components of the power unit are built together and simply called the engine, and drivers can use three of those in a season.

If a driver needs to use more replacements than allowed, they cop big grid penalties – like Daniel Ricciardo, Lewis Hamilton, and Carlos Sainz did at this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix.

But to stay within the regulations, teams must stretch the lifespan of the components further than in previous years. And that is a massive risk as the components degrade over time – costing speed, reliability, and most importantly of all increasing the risk the power unit will fail and end a driver’s race.

In short, teams are facing one of the greatest technical and tactical juggling acts we’ve ever seen in F1 – and it’ll define who wins and who falls apart this season.

It’s not pretty when an F1 engine fails – like Daniel Ricciardo (R) found out in his 2019 Renault.Source: Getty Images

THE CURRENT SITUATION

We’ve still got six races to go this season, but already every single driver is on their third and final (or even their fourth or fifth) engine of the season.

By the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa (the 12th race of the season), a full 16 of the 20 drivers were onto their third and final power unit – only the Alfa Romeos and Haas drivers had not reached the limit.

For those 16 drivers, that meant they would have to complete the final 11 races of the season without bringing in a new power unit. It would be a massive – if not impossible – challenge. The risk of engine failure and a forced retirement goes up with every kilometre on the track, while the power unit’s performance also drops over time.

For drivers and teams, the predicament was clear: when to take a fourth engine and incur a grid penalty, which meant the risk losing out on valuable points come the race.

As of the just-completed Turkish Grand Prix – just four races since Belgium – NINE of the 20 drivers have taken penalties by using their fourth engine (or five, in the case of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas). The other 11 are all on their third power unit.

The power unit conundrum has already had a huge impact on the title race – not to mention the seasons of every other driver and team scrapping for positions, like Daniel Ricciardo and his McLaren squad.

Red Bull’s Mexican driver Sergio Perez in action this weekend. He was the first to cop a penalty for exceeding engine component limits.Source: AFP

THE MERCEDES/RED BULL BATTLE

At the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, a first-lap crash between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen effectively ruined Verstappen’s second power unit. He was forced to move to his third and final allowed engine at the Hungarian Grand Prix on August 1 – just the 12th race of the season.

There was no way the final engine would safely make it through the remainder of the 22-race season, so Red Bull already knew two months ago that they would have to take a grid penalty at some point to allow their Dutch star to finish the season.

But the other three drivers in the battle between Red Bull and Mercedes weren’t far behind Verstappen in running out of engines.

By the following race at Spa – the Belgian Grand Prix – Hamilton, Bottas, and Perez were among 11 drivers to drop in their third and final power unit.

Mercedes, which had always had the most reliable power unit since the turbo-hybrid era began in 2014, now are on almost even footing with Red Bull’s Honda-powered engine. They might just have lost their great advantage.

So in the battle for Constructor’s Championship, as well as Driver’s Championship, the two superstar teams started pulling the trigger on engine changes.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was the first to bite the bullet, having had an engine damaged in a crash at the Hungarian Grand Prix. An underperforming power unit meant he qualified just 16th at the Dutch Grand Prix in early September.

On a high-speed track where engine power was all-important he chose to take a fresh power unit after qualifying and start from pit lane. Remarkably, in a chaotic race he managed to surge up to eighth and claim valuable points. Max Verstappen beat Hamilton and Bottas on the podium – meaning Red Bull picked up a combined 29 points to Mercedes’ 34. But there was another problem for Mercedes – one of Hamilton’s older engines blew up in practice, meaning he had to take it out of the engine rotation for the rest of the season. His resources were stretched even thinner.

A week later, Valtteri Bottas – who had already ruined one of his power units in a nasty crash in the second race of the season – was next to change his power unit. He qualified first at the Italian Grand Prix and won the sprint race, but started from last place after taking his fourth engine.

Hamilton and Verstappen crashed out in that memorable shunt, as Bottas fought his way back to a brilliant third place. Perez only managed fifth. Mercedes’ gamble had paid off – if only because of the chaos between the two title contenders.

Next it was the Russian GP. Verstappen – at that point the championship leader – was already facing a three-place grid penalty for causing the crash with Hamilton in Italy. On a Sochi track that had been utterly dominated by Mercedes in the past, he opted to take his fourth power unit and attempt to minimise the damage, knowing a win was unlikely even without a penalty.

But Mercedes’ were struggling with their own problems. Bottas took a fresh power unit for the second straight race, his FIFTH of the year. There had been a ‘batch problem’ with the internal combustion engine, something that would soon trouble Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton this weekend.Source: Getty Images

Bottas started in 16th, although the choice to take on the new components looked like a brilliant tactical decision. It was hoped he could up Verstappen near the back of the pack and help his Mercedes teammate Hamilton in the driver’s championship. Even if Bottas didn’t make the points himself, simply holding back Verstappen from getting points would be a huge boost to his teammate.

It didn’t work. In a wet and wild finish, Hamilton won after Lando Norris botched a pit call. But Verstappen managed to breeze his way past Bottas and surge all the way up to second – a result that felt as good as a win given his last-place start on the grid. Bottas finished just fifth – still a good comeback from 16th, but overshadowed by Verstappen’s surge. Meanwhile Sergio Perez, who started eight, only managed ninth.

For Verstappen to leap up to second – and lose just minimal points to Hamilton – was a brilliant result, since Red Bull knew that Hamilton would have to take an engine penalty at some point before the end of the season. It was just a matter of when – and whether Hamilton could mirror Verstappen’s miracle comeback.

We didn’t have to wait long to find out. This weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix saw them take the risk – hoping Hamilton could continue his exceptional form on a track that favoured the Mercedes car over the Red Bull.

Hamilton didn’t even take a full power unit either, just the internal combustion engine. That meant that it was just a 10-place grid penalty, not starting from the back of the grid.

But there was more to the tactical decision than just Mercedes’ car being more suited to the track. It also had to do with one of Hamilton’s greatest-ever drives, which took place in 2006 in GP2 (then the second division behind F1). On that day, on the same Istanbul track, Hamilton spun early and dropped to 17th. He scythed through the field to finish second – and went on to win the championship. It earned him a place in F1 in 2007, where he finished second in the driver’s championship by just one point to Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Before the race this weekend one of Mercedes’ key figures in Andrew Shovlin explained the decision to take the penalty this time around, saying “this is a circuit where he felt there’s a lot of opportunity. You remember Lewis and that GP2 race? It should make for an exciting Sunday.”

He opened up on how the team approached the juggling act between extending a power unit’s lifespan and taking the penalty for a fresh engine.

“There’s a balance to the sort of risk of a reliability issue,” he said.

“Obviously the thing that you definitely don’t want to do is fail during a race and then have to take a penalty anyway and then there’s also a performance element because the power units do lose a bit of horsepower over their life.

“Really the bit that most contributes to that reliability element and the performance is the ICE itself, and it’s better to take 10 places than start from the back.”

The gamble was not just that Hamilton could fight through the pack – but also that his teammate could reduce Hamilton’s points loss compared to Verstappen by overtaking the Red Bull.

Bottas, starting second on the grid behind Verstappen, beat him on the track to finish first. Hamilton gained six places to finish fifth – just eight points less than Verstappen’s haul. Mercedes’ team approach meant that, despite Hamilton losing the lead in the driver’s championship, he had lost the battle but not the war.

As team boss Toto Wolff said, “The relative point of view is that in the last race Red Bull was very happy only losing seven points from a grid penalty and we lost eight points today.

“So it is not the end of the world … The championship is wide open.”

Bottas claimed his first win of the season – and he’s already used a full FIVE power units.Source: Getty Images

Verstappen’s second place behind Bottas means he now leads the championship by six points – gaining the lead back after losing it just one race ago. It is the fourth change of lead in the last six Grands Prix, and no-one has led the championship by more than eight points for seven races in a row.

Behind this incredibly close title battle is two teams with cars that suit different tracks, two title-contending drivers at the peak of their powers, and a stunning gamble over engines.

And it might not be done yet, since crashes or reliability issues – like those that forced Bottas to swap out his fourth engine after just one race – could wreak havoc in the final races.

Hamilton, in particular, could need to replace the rest of his engine, not just the ICE he swapped out this weekend. It could be a crucial blow in his title battle.

Daniel Ricciardo in action.Source: Getty Images

RICCIARDO’S NIGHTMARE ISN’T SO BAD

The headlines might read that Ricciardo finished the Turkish Grand Prix in 13th, his worst result of the season. But don’t worry. Ricciardo opted to take a penalty for bringing in his fourth power unit of the season, after the McLaren had struggled all weekend on the Istanbul track.

The Australian was one of 11 drivers to use his third power unit of the season from the Belgian GP onwards, and was always going to need to take a penalty for another change. Using it at the Turkish Grand Prix was something of a no-brainer.

He had been well off the pace on a track that has never been a McLaren stronghold, qualified 16th, and was never likely to pick up too many points.

Listen to the way teammate Lando Norris (seventh) and team Principal Andreas Seidl spoke about the weekend after the race, and there’s plenty of perspective.

Norris said: “It was damage limitation for us at this track, but we came away with the best result that we could.”

Seidl said: “We leave Istanbul with six more points in our constructors’ championship battle, after finishing P7 and P13. We achieved everything that was on the table for us today.”

The Aussie wasn’t the only one to take a penalty this weekend. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz did too, and pulled off a brilliant drive to finish eighth from a starting spot of 19th. With Norris finishing seventh and the other Ferrari of Charles Leclerc fourth, it meant that the Prancing Horse team helped reduce the gap to McLaren in the all-important fight for third in the Constructor’s Championship.

McLaren still hold a 7.5-point lead in that battle. Norris is the only driver from the two teams to still be on his third engine. He is almost certain to have to take a penalty at some point. For Ricciardo, Sainz and Leclerc, a crash – or a component failing – might just force them to take another penalty and a fifth engine this year.

For now, one thing is certain: every team is struggling with their power units. It has played a huge role in the past four races – and it might just decide the outcome of the final few races of the season.

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