Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain celebrates on the podium after winning the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at the Istanbul Park circuit racetrack in Istanbul, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. (Murad Sezer/Pool via AP)
ISTANBUL (AP) — Lewis Hamilton clinched a record-equaling seventh Formula One title after winning a wet and gloomy Turkish Grand Prix for a record-extending 94th victory on Sunday. Hamilton now stands alongside F1 great Michael Schumacher on seven titles, having replaced the German driver at Mercedes in 2013.
Hamilton only needed to finish ahead of his teammate Valtteri Bottas to seal his sixth title for Mercedes, and Bottas placed a lowly 14th after making a poor start. Hamilton’s other title was with McLaren in 2008. He seemed to be in tears when he spoke on the team radio moments after crossing the line in Istanbul.
“That’s for all the kids out there who dream the impossible,” Hamilton said. “You can do it.”Then, speaking a short time later, he wiped away tears. “I’m definitely a bit lost for words,” Hamilton said, thanking his family. “I dreamed of this as a kid. This is way, way beyond our dreams.” The British driver started from sixth place but took advantage of errors and poor tire strategies from other teams to win a fourth straight race and 10th of another hugely dominant season.
“I know I often I say it is beyond wildest dreams but my whole life secretly I have dreamt as high as this,” said Hamilton. “It felt so far-fetched. I remember watching Michael win those world championships. To get one or two or even three is so hard.
“Seven is unimaginable. There is no end to what we can do together, me and this team.” Hamilton placed about 30 seconds ahead of Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who overtook teammate Charles Leclerc for his first podium of a difficult season. “It is a bit of a surprise to snatch the podium, but I am certainly very happy,” Vettel said. “It was quite intense but good fun.”
It was also Perez’s first podium of the campaign, while teammate Lance Stroll finished only ninth despite leading from pole position for much of the 58-lap race. Vettel, a four-time F1 champion, was quick to congratulate his longtime rival, crouching by his cockpit and shaking his hand as he spoke. Stroll started from pole ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on a resurfaced and skiddy circuit not used in F1 since 2011, compared to an “ice rink” by Hamilton.
A chaotic start saw Verstappen stall while Hamilton moved up to third only to lose grip and get overtaken by Red Bull’s Alexander Albon and Verstappen. Vettel made a great move from 11th to third, but Bottas spun and dropped right down. Vettel and Hamilton pitted for new tires on Lap 9, followed by Stroll, Perez and Verstappen three laps later.
The virtual safety car was activated on Lap 13 after Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi pulled over on the side of the track. At the restart Hamilton tried to overtake Vettel but locked his tires, while Albon passed Hamilton and Vettel to move into fourth spot. “Brakes aren’t working,” Hamilton said on team radio. The impatient Verstappen pushed too hard behind second-place Perez and lost control to spin twice on the track.
He boxed for new tires again on Lap 19. Halfway through the race, Stroll and Perez were ahead of Hamilton but losing ground. Stroll came in for new tires on Lap 37 and Hamilton used DRS to get past Perez one lap later and take the lead.
Stroll’s tire change backfired and he was soon passed by both Ferraris, while Bottas spun for the fourth time at the back of the pack. On a humiliating day for the Finnish driver, he was lapped by Hamilton near the end. Perez is being replaced by Vettel at the end of the season, with Racing Point changing its name to Aston Martin. That leaves Perez currently without a seat, despite being at his peak at 30 years old and with nine podiums to his name.
“You have to be delivering weekend after weekend, you are only as good as your last race,” he said. “So it’s important to end on a high but the rest is not in my hands.”
Source: Associated Press