Formula 1 2020 Turkish Grand Prix was held at the anticlockwise circuit of Istanbul Park in Tuzla, Turkey. This was the 14th round of the 2020 F1 season and the 8th running of an F1 world championship round at the track. It was the first running of the Turkish GP since 2011 when Sebastian Vettel won the race on his way to his 3rd title.
The race organisers intended to bring in 100,000 spectators for the race weekend, but the Turkish government cancelled the plan to prevent a surge in COVID-19. The track itself was resurfaced with a fresh layer of asphalt two weeks before the race weekend, making it very difficult for the teams to get the tyres into the right temperature window.
Lewis Hamilton needed to outscore his teammate by more than 8 points to win a record-equalling 7th Drivers World Championship. Racing Point's Lance Stroll took the maiden pole position of his career on Saturday under challenging conditions with rain and greasy track surface. At the end of the race, Hamilton crossed the line in P1 to win the race with a peerless drive and clinched his 7th title to equal the record of Michael Schumacher.
Thursday Pre-Race Preparations: Rainy Weekend Looms for the F1 2020 Turkish Grand Prix
The weather outlook for the race weekend was for mixed conditions with rain predicted for Saturday and Sunday. Rain would make the race very tricky for the drivers, but very good for the viewers watching from around the world.
The Turkish race marked Alfa Romeo Sauber’s 500th Grand Prix and would become the fourth team after Ferrari, McLaren and Williams to achieve the milestone.
Friday Practice: Red Bull Speeds Ahead As the Mercs Struggle
For the first time in a long while, it looked like the Silver Arrows were in trouble on the short and long-run pace. They were just unable to get the tyres into the operating window and had no speed in any condition. The data crunching proved that the champions were indeed struggling on the single-lap pace. Red Bull was the team to beat ahead of Ferrari, with Alpha Tauri and Racing Point completing the top 4 fastest teams. McLaren was 5th on the list, but 1.2sec/lap slower than the Red Bulls. On their train were Renault 6th, Alfa Romeo 7th, Williams 8th, and Haas 9th.
Red Bull was again the team to beat on the race pace as well. Mercedes looked better but was 0.2sec/lap slower than the Bulls. Ferrari was again the surprise of the day by showing good pace on the long runs as well. Renault was 4th 1sec/lap slower, while McLaren completed the top 5 with an average lap time 1.2sec slower than the Red Bull.
Saturday Practice: Teams Sit Out Most of FP3 Due to Heavy Downpour
Heavy rains on Saturday morning made the teams sit out most of the FP3 session. Drivers did go out to test the track conditions, but water along the slippery track surface meant it was better to return to the garage rather than have a big crash before the qualifying. Red Bull did stay on the top ahead of Leclerc, Albon, Ocon and Norris.
Qualifying: Full Wet Weather Tyres & Red Flags Were the Order of the Day; Stroll Claims First Career Pole
The first session of a very enjoyable qualifying started with drivers starting on full wet weather tyres to get the early laps in with more rain predicted for the session. It was Esteban Ocon who was fastest when the red flags came out due to rain and poor visibility with only seven minutes left on the clock. Forty minutes later, session restarted and Roman Grosjean of Haas spun into the gravel and second red flag came out with 3 minutes 30 sec left on the clock. By the end of the Q1 session, both Haas racers, Williams and Alpha Tauri of Kvyat failed to reach the Q2 session.
Q2 session started with all the teams sticking with the full wet tyres apart from McLaren who made a bold call to send their drivers out on intermediate tyres. The initial signs were good, but halfway through the session, they had to pit again for full wet weather tyres. Ferrari and McLaren both failed to reach the top ten shootouts and missed the opportunity to take advantage of the mixed conditions. Pierre Gasly was the fifth driver to get knocked out of the session.
Perez and Ocon started the final part of qualifying on intermediate tyres with Perez going fastest at the end of first hot lap. This prompted the rest of the field to make a dash into the pits to bolt on a set of intermediates as well. By that stage, it looked like Perez was on course to take his first pole position with the tyres fully turned on.
Meanwhile, Stroll, who was on fresh rubber, went quickest from Red Bull's Verstappen and his teammate Perez, to claim the first pole position of his career. He became the fifth-youngest driver and first Canadian since 1996 to claim pole position. Alexander Albon made it two Red Bulls in the top 4 and Ricciardo was 5th.
Sunday Race: Treacherous Conditions Make This Race One of the Most Exciting in the F1 2020 Season
Daniel Ricciardo said before the start of the race that you could bet a lot of money that the race won't be boring and he was right. Lance Stroll made a great start from the grid under treacherous conditions and comfortably emerged in the lead ahead of Perez. Both the Red Bulls made a poor start and dropped down the order quickly, while the Renaults of Ricciardo and Ocon were 3rd and 4th heading into turn 1.
Hamilton made a good start from 6th and was 3rd behind two Racing Points and ahead of fast-starting Vettel who started from 11th. Bottas who started 9th was at the back of the field after spinning twice on the first lap. Midway through the first lap, the Briton struggled with cold tyres and was passed by Verstappen, Vettel and Albon.
Williams made a bold call and started from the pitlane with intermediate tyres. Within the first few laps, it was evident that Williams made the right call and by lap 6 Bottas and Leclerc switched to Inters, and the rest of the field promptly followed suit.
At the end of lap 13 with all the pit stops done, Stroll had calmly built a gap of 10 sec over his teammate with Verstappen in 3rd and catching up with them quickly. The Dutchman tried to overtake Perez on lap 18 by being too aggressive and paid the price by spinning around multiple times and flat-spotting his Inters. He had to box again for new Inters and dropped down the order as a result.
By lap 29, Stroll’s lead was cut to 3 seconds by Perez and most of the drivers were struggling with a track that was drying in places but never ready for slick tyres. Stroll pitted for new Inters on lap 36 and emerged behind Perez and Hamilton, who both never made a second pit stop. Lance overcooked his new Inters and was quickly passed by Vettel, Leclerc, Albon and Sainz demoting him to 8th by lap 41. Hamilton made a race-winning move on lap 37 on Perez with the help of DRS down into turn 12 and disappeared into the distance.
Leclerc passed the Red Bull of Verstappen by lap 43 to move into P3, and the latter pitted for the third time to take another set of intermediate tyres. Carlos Sainz passed him on his out-lap and was 6th by the end of lap 44. The two McLarens were the fastest cars in the last phase of the race and were lapping a second faster than everybody else. Lando Norris eventually earned the point for the quickest lap of the race and finished 8th ahead of Stroll.
Hamilton, who at one point was running in 6th place, finished the race 31 sec ahead of second-placed Sergio Perez. He crossed the line for his 94th career victory and a record 7th world title. The champion demonstrated masterclass skills on race day, proving his worth as 7-time F1 driver's world champion. Vettel snatched the P3 from his teammate on the last corner of the final lap for his first podium of 2020. Leclerc finished 4th, Sainz 5th, Verstappen 6th, Albon 7th, Norris 8th, Stroll 9th and Ricciardo 10th.
F1 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix
With the end of European rounds, F1 returns to the Middle East for the final triple header of the 2020 season starting in Sakhir. All eyes will be on who finished 3rd in the constructors ranking by the end of the season.