The start of the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix

Ben's Turkish GP preview

By Ben Edwards
C4F1 commentator

In 2010 the Istanbul Park circuit in Turkey saw Lewis Hamilton engage in wheel-to-wheel action with his teammate and they ended up finishing first and second. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

In reality the story was very different from the one we have been watching between Mercedes duo Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas this season, a championship battle which could be fully resolved this weekend.

A decade ago Hamilton and Jenson Button were together at McLaren in a fascinating title-chasing campaign that included the two Red Bulls and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso. 

Button, as reigning world champion, had already enjoyed two victories in his first six races with the team while Hamilton had failed to win any that season.

Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Alonso were also on the winners' register and it was the Red Bull car that delivered fantastic pace in qualifying, particularly at the corner that characterises the Istanbul track more than any other - Turn 8.

It is a left-hander that goes on and on, with four apexes and an ever-increasing load on the driver’s neck. When F1 was last here, only the best cars could be flat out through the entire curve but the current crop should deal with it without any backing-off.

Just watch out for the cockpit headrests being utilised more frequently than normal.

Clash of the Red Bulls

Back in 2010, Vettel set the pace in the first two parts of qualifying but a problem with the car in the final run meant that Webber snatched pole position.

Hamilton lined up on the front row while Vettel started third. And that’s how they ran in the initial stages of the race until a slow stop for Hamilton promoted Vettel into second place, determined to chase down his Australian colleague.

To complicate matters, Webber had been told to ease the pace in order to save fuel. Vettel on the other hand had been running in Hamilton’s slipstream and had used less fuel so he was still able to run the car flat out. 

On lap 40, Vettel picked up the tow from Webber's car and drew alongside as they approached Turn 12.

Drama ensued; instead of holding his line, Vettel veered to the outer edge of the track before he had completely passed Webber’s car.

The resulting impact threw Vettel’s car off the road with suspension damage while Webber was able to make a pitstop to get his damaged front wing replaced and continued to finish on the podium.

They did not see eye to eye for a long time after that...

Hard and fair fight

The big gain was for Hamilton, who saw it all happening in front of him and swept into the lead followed by Button. 

Hamilton was also tight on fuel which allowed Button to close in and, when a brief shower of rain fell, Button took advantage to run around the outside of his teammate in the tighter corners at the end of the lap.

Hamilton, however, wasn’t about to miss out on his first win of the year. By holding the inside line into the downhill first corner, he squeezed Button out again, proving that teammates could indeed fight hard and fair, and went on to take victory.

It was McLaren’s second win at Hermann Tilke's purpose-built modern track which came into play in 2005.

It's one that drivers thoroughly enjoy. Especially after the Drag Reduction System (DRS) was introduced in 2011 which led to no less than 88 overtakes in Istanbul, a record at the time.

Sadly it wasn’t enough to encourage high numbers of spectators and that is why the venue was dropped from the calendar the subsequent season. Not that it makes much difference this year on F1’s return, as no spectators can attend due to Covid.

Bearing in mind that only two of the 13 races this season have been won by a team other than Mercedes, it is a fair bet that Hamilton and Bottas are likely to be the pacesetters once again. 

That means we could be on for a repeat of the latter stages of the 2010 race, without the gift from Red Bull.

Title delight?

Should Bottas take victory over Hamilton on Sunday then he will also need fastest lap if Hamilton finishes second to keep the title race alive. 

Funnily enough, on the two occasions that Bottas has won races this year, Hamilton has not managed to finish as high as second, and if that were the case in Istanbul then it would definitely carry us through to Bahrain.

But if Hamilton wins on his return to a track where he beat his world champion teammate in 2010, then he will have achieved that remarkable feat of becoming a seven-time world champion himself, matching the all-time record of Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton could be on for a taste of Turkish delight.

Join the C4F1 team for highlights of qualifying from the Turkish Grand Prix at 4:30pm on Saturday 14th November with race highlights and analysis from 4:00pm on Sunday.