Turkish GP 2020
The weekend that gave us a 7x world champion but eyes were elsewhere on the grid
What a race weekend that was. Despite the nail biting final round of the BTCC at Brands Hatch where ultimately Sutton prevailed, eyes of the motorsport community were looking at the crowning of the 7x world champion Lewis Hamilton after his surprising win at Istanbul Park.
This is one of the weekends that die hard F1 fans have been waiting for. The return of Istanbul Park with it's infamous 4 apex turn 8, with cars producing record levels of downforce. The track was bringing the promise of some excitement and entertainment to the closing rounds of this season. And we must admit, it did not disappoint in any department from practice to race day, no one knew what the result the weekend was going to be. Which let's be honest, that is how every weekend should be, but we take what we can get. As we went into Sunday Stroll was on pole and the Mercs were no where to be seen in the top 5 of the grid, the farthest thing from our minds was Lewis wrapping up the championship this weekend and we were just strapped in for the fun. However, through perseverance, stellar driving, and having the best car on the grid Hamilton managed to pull out the win and wrap up the championship. While Mercedes began the jubilation and pomp and circumstance, the feeling (at least from my perspective) was very much either not that surprised of the inevitable and/or somewhat disappointed that we didn't see another first time race winner. Now there is nothing to knock by Hamilton's achievements, he is now on par with, statistically, the best driver the sport has ever seen. For our generation to see this domination and talent coming from one driver, one team, is the very definition of historical. However, there are some other extraordinary takeaways from this weekend as well and I think it is best to address them one at a time.
This season has been nothing but painful for Sebastian Vettel, starting with Ferrari letting him go, for some spineless reason, to his relationship with the car itself breaking down looking as if it is undriveable in his hands. You can draw many conclusions from this but I think we all can see the glaring coincidence with him starting to struggle with the car and Ferrari giving him the boot, and the history of relationships going sour with Ferrari when things like this happen, I digress. However, coming into this weekend with the new track surface and the extremely wet weather the differences between the cars, throughout the grid, seemed to have been neutralized. Leaving the performance of the car down to the talent of the man sitting in it. Which proved to be where Vettel showed that he still has the goods to deliver. For the whole season, critics have been nothing but harsh on Vettel. Saying that he had lost his "mojo" or that he had given up or that these were the classic signs of a driver overstaying their welcome in the sport. But on this weekend, where it was nothing if not all about the capabilities of the driver to keep the car on the track and competitive, Vettel proved himself and his worth. Out qualifying LeClerc by over a second and keeping his cool to the chequered flag and nabbing a podium (his first since Mexico 2019). So is this season really the death of Vettel's career or is this the showing of how a relationship with Ferrari can be where a driver's career goes to die. Lastly, if Vettel is still performing as well as he has been over the years should Merc and other top teams be concerned with his move to Aston Martin (now Racing Point) where he will no doubt be driver #1 and in a more competitive car?
Call him what you want, "daddy's boy", "only there because daddy owns the team" etc. But he drove the wheels off that Racing Point to give them their first ever front row lock out on a Saturday afternoon. Conditions like that are where the ability of the driver shines and the car becomes an animal to wrangle. Stroll shined, Stroll was brilliant, Stroll was the best, out of a grid that contains two multiple world championship winning drivers, at extracting every ounce of performance out of that car on Saturday and that is unarguable. Imagine what he could achieve next year with a 4x world champion as his teammate to mentor him and being in an extremely competitive car.
There were many other outstanding performances in the wet conditions that presented themselves on Saturday and Sunday. But at the end of the weekend the motorsport community was drawn to the extraordinary feat of Lewis Hamilton winning his 7th world title. But what I ask you is, was that really your highlight of the weekend? Or had the "inevitability" of Lewis nabbing his 7th title that weekend opened your eyes to other extraordinary points of the weekend?