Hamilton discusses P6 -> P1 drive at wet Istanbul Park
The Brit noted his battle with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, and his prolonged stint on intermediate tyres.
After starting sixth, Hamilton put in a herculean effort to claim a victory in the wet at a low-grip Istanbul Park. He ran a race without incidence, as the decorated Mercedes driver avoided the adversity that plagued the race's of his adversaries, many of whom incurred damage, spun, or were otherwise inhibited.
After a start largely unmatched in quality by his company, Hamilton would run third for much of the first lap, until a mistake at turn ten compromised him, and he subsequently fell behind Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and the Red Bull pairing.
After eight more laps, Hamilton pitted for intermediate tyres, as did much of the grid. What set the newly-crowned champion's strategy apart, though, was the lack of another pit stop, as he ran the remainder of the race on that same set of intermediates - tyres which had, notably, been used previously in the weekend as well.
"Obviously I got a really good start and then I lost position," said Hamilton. "I avoided getting a penalty going around the bollard. I struggled behind everybody. I know everyone was struggling but I was struggling behind that group of cars that was ahead of me. Then, we saw people even like Max, who is great in the wet, spin and lose control and have to do extra stops."
He spent much of the race looking at the rear wing of Vettel, at times well within a second of the German. However, he was unable to dispatch the Ferrari, only finally making his way past when his adversary dove for the pits. Though a hinderance to his own race, Hamilton commended Vettel's unrelenting defense afterwards. He adds that at one point when he began to fall further behind the 33-year-old, he felt he was losing his chance at a victory.
"I was behind Seb and for a moment I was thinking I might get past him but then me and him were having this battle and it was so frustrating not to be able to get past him," said Hamilton. "But also I was thinking, 'you know what, Seb has had the toughest year, I would say arguably perhaps in his whole career' and I just thought he was driving so well.
"But at the same time I was like, 'he’s doing so good, but dammit, he’s in the way, the guys up ahead are getting away! And then he started pulling away from me and I think at that point I could definitely see the win seeping away," Hamilton confessed. "I looked at my dash and I was on lap 30 or something like that and then I was like, 'no, there’s a long, long way to go and anything can happen, so just keep your head down, keep pushing'.
"All of a sudden I found a few things that improved the handling of the car and I started getting around in much quicker laps and I started to close on Seb, and then he pitted. And I knew, for me, I was like: 'There’s no way you guys are pulling me in. These tyres aren’t done and the track is in this progressive state and it’s not going to dry up fully by the end of the race'.
"So I knew all these things from all these experiences I’ve ever had so I was able to use history, to use past experience to deliver those laps I was doing afterwards. And as soon as I could see the [Racing Point]'s ahead I knew that it’s game time. You’ve just got to keep your head, keep your cool and don’t make mistakes,” summed up Hamilton.
Hamilton received accolades for his win, which also saw him secure a seventh championship. It was considered one of his best performances in F1, being lauded by some as one equivalent to that which he delivered in Britain in 2008.
When asked if this was a fair characterization, Hamilton said: "I don’t compare any race to any other race. I’m always in a different place in life, so I like to say they are all unique in their own way. I think for sure, this one felt like a very, very complete day on track, under the toughest circumstances. With this track and the new surface here, you see people who are professional drives, incredible drivers, you saw them losing control today, that’s how slippery and difficult the conditions were.
"This was a big test for me because you know, in the rain, you know what you normally do in the rain, but this is different, in the sense that this is ice! I don’t remember having an ice race before. I feel like I achieved something different. For sure I know that not everyone expected that. I definitely didn’t expect that, but I was hopeful that I was going to move forwards. I got a good start, lost position on the first lap with those new tyres, but the more I race, the more I feel like I’m getting better.
"I think I’m understanding myself more. I know what I want from the car. I know what buttons to push. During a race I’m constantly tweaking my driving style. It’s like trying to find the right numbers to put together to be able to get you through the corners in a way that is faster than everyone else. That mathematics, that algorithm never seems to stop. It’s always a challenge from lap to lap and I think I was really mastering it, at least from half way in the race," Hamilton said.
[This story was written by me for FormulaRapida and edited by Darshan Chokhani]