Lewis Hamilton returned to the scene of a memorable victory this weekend in pursuit of a record-breaking third Turkish Grand Prix victory, but was wary of multiple risks to his World Championship crown.
Eleven months after the spectacular victory of Mercedes in rain-affected conditions that earned him the seventh driver’s title with three races, the 36-year-old British is just two points ahead of the Red Bull’s Max Verstappen this year.
The advantage of the knife gives him some protection and he also knows that if he is forced to buy a new power unit, he could face grid fines, as the Dutchman did two weeks ago. What happened in Russia at the end, as well as for the competition in wet weather.
Last year’s event was the first in Istanbul Park for nine years and was run on a fresh and very slippery track, as Sochi plotted last month to give a high degree of danger and drama.
On both occasions, Hamilton rewarded his experience and racecraft for overcoming adversity and drawing levels and posting unprecedented 100th F1 wins with Michael Schumacher’s title tail.
His goals this Sunday will be happier as he seeks to defeat Verstappen and save his advantage in his interesting title scrap, or avoid a third clash between them.
Verstappen, by contrast, tries to erase the memory of a disappointing race last year when, after qualifying in the front row, he cut his tires and flattened his way to sixth, the worst end of the season. Was
“It wasn’t the best weekend for us as a team,” he said. “But I think it’s going to be a very different situation this year – the track has to be more ‘sad’ and we all have a lot to learn.”
Mercedes boss Tutu Wolf acknowledged that Hamilton may have a new fourth-engine of the season and a grid penalty for Sunday’s race, but stressed that his team is in a very positive mood.
“There’s been a great resonance in the team over the last week or so,” he said. Coming back to the podium was an incredible feeling, especially after such a dramatic race.
“And it was clearly made more special than Lewis’ 100th race win. At the moment, such milestones are extraordinary, but I think it will take time for us to understand how capable this era is.” Mention and how privileged we are.
“The last moments of the last race in Russia proved that anything can happen in F1 and luck can change in the blink of an eye.”
After regaining momentum, Mercedes will try to maintain it, but Red Bull would like to snatch it as a tribute to its engine suppliers Honda, which is dropping the F1 at the end of the year.