Lewis Hamilton with make history this weekend by equalling the record for most world championships won by a single driver – unless Turkey’s demanding circuit, and what is expected to be a tricky surface, catch him out.
Hamilton’s seventh championship
Hamilton could well seal his seventh drivers championship title in Istanbul. In fact, he’s almost certain to do it.
There are plenty of permutations but all Hamilton needs to do is to not allow team mate Valtteri Bottas to cut his current 85-point lead by more than six. If he finishes ahead of his team mate, or even one place behind his team mate if fails to secure the fastest lap, Hamilton wins.
Bottas would need Hamilton to either retire or to finish a considerable distance behind him to keep his title hopes alive. As the season so far has shown, barring some mechanical misfortune, that is unlikely to happen.
Nine years since Formula 1 last visited Istanbul Park, its current generation of cars are predicted to tackle its signature, quadruple-apex turn eight flat out. That will make for a spectacular sight over a single flying lap, but whether drivers can afford to keep their feet planted through the corner throughout the race is another matter.
Turn eight makes up more than 10% of the whole Istanbul circuit, both in terms of distance and lap time. In the race, drivers may be unwilling to subject their tyres to the strain of tackling the corner flat-out lap after lap. But backing off could leave them vulnerable to attack on the straights which follow.
It will also be a severe test of driver fitness. The 2020 cars generate more downforce than then ever, so drivers can expect to encounter huge G forces around the corner nicknamed ‘Diabolica’. Let’s hope they’ve got the neck training in.
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Pirelli have changed their allocation of tyres for this weekend, from the usual eight soft sets, three mediums and two hard to seven soft, three medium and three hard. That gives an indication of the challenge they expect this weekend.
They brought the same tyre selection and compounds – the hardest in their range – to the Portuguese Grand Prix at Autodromo do Algarve, which they consider the track most comparable to Istanbul.
This is also the same combination which was brought to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone where the harsh demands of the circuit, especially on the front-left corner, saw several drivers suffer late-race tyre failures. Istanbul shares some similarities with Silverstone, though the highest loads are transmitted through the right-hand-side of the car, at turn eight.
Will the tyres withstand the punishment Istanbul is expected to dish out? At the last race in Imola Max Verstappen suffered a sudden tyre failure. After analysing the tyre, Pirelli did not find any indication of tyre weaknesses or imperfections, but found some cuts in the tread area indicating it may have been damaged by debris. The sport’s official tyre supplier has set minimum pressures of 23 psi for fronts and 20 psi for rears this weekend.
Stroll’s opportunity to recover
Undergoing 5G through more than 10% of a lap for a weekend might not sound like the ideal way to come back from a “physical and mental battering” but that will be what Racing Point have to hope Lance Stroll does.
Following his podium finish in Monza five races ago he’s failed to score a point. It’s been a tough run for Stroll, who had a heavy crash in Mugello, retired after early contact in Sochi, sat out the Eifel Grand Prix with Covid-19 symptoms and tangled with other drivers in Portugal (Lando Norris) and Italy (Esteban Ocon), spoiling the two races since his return.
Racing Point need him to regain his early-season form as they are locked in a very close fight with Renault and McLaren for third in the championship.
Two team bosses won’t be on the pit wall this weekend. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto will stay back at base.
“Mattia has always approached his role in an innovative way, trying to think outside the box,” said the team’s sporting director Laurent Mekies. “He has come up with a method of working that gives the flexibility to manage the priorities in the most efficient way possible. He had already adopted this approach when he was technical director and has applied it even more so now as team principal.
“At first it might seem strange not to see him physically in the briefings or on the pit wall, but he will make use of all the current communication technologies so that his voice and input will be loud and clear to everyone, both inside and outside the team.”
While Ferrari have made the change out of choice, Williams acting team principal Simon Roberts will be absent by necessity: He recently tested positive for Covid-19, and though the team say he is well, he will be in self-isolation this weekend.
Williams previously announced other changes will be made in their team this weekend due to staff members self-isolating following positive Covid-19 tests, so they may not be at full strength in Turkey.
Russell’s chance at redemption
After losing what could have been first his points finish at Imola, George Russell took the setback to heart, penning a letter of apology to his Williams team.
He said he’d used the week in between races to “reflect on what happened at Imola and learn from my mistake” and that he’d be aiming to “fight back” this weekend. But the team have only four chances left to score their first points of the season.
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Over to you
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