There was no ‘Turkish Delight’ for Williams Racing in Sunday’s Grand Prix at the Istanbul Park Circuit, despite early signs of ‘Eastern promise’
Top punnage, no?? There’s more where that came from!
A newly resurfaced track led to much consternation amongst the drivers, as the slippery surface offered up little purchase even for Pirelli’s softest, grippiest tyre, testing the skill and the mettle of drivers not used to anything but optimum conditions.
Friday’s FP1 and FP2 practice sessions for the Turkish Grand Prix remained dry, despite the threat of rain that was likely on Saturday and Sunday – not something that would help a shortage of grip, but that would likely add an element of unpredictability to the weekend that so often is missing from an F1 season relatively short on surprises (prior to the Turkish Grand Prix Mercedes had won all but two races and secured pole position at every single Grand Prix in 2020).
And rain duly arrived on Friday night, and the ‘fowl’ weather (yes!) continued all through Saturday practice and into qualifying, threatening to derail the whole thing, for as we are all aware, the ever safety-conscious bods at F1 don’t like to see cars spinning off – something that F1 cars are prone to doing at the merest sight of standing water.
George Russell – Williams’ #1 driver – headed into the weekend knowing he’d take a grid penalty for using a fourth PU of the season, one more than he’s allowed for the season, and that as a consequence was likely be starting at the back of the grid.
Qualifying got underway on time but stuttered to a halt after weather/track conditions worsened. After a brief delay we were back underway, but neither George nor team-mate Nicholas Latifi were able to capitalise on the struggles of those around them (in George’s case, perhaps knowing that it would all be for nought anyway), posting the 18th and 20th quickest times in Q1, meaning they’d have to sit out the rest of qualifying.
Incredibly (largely as a result of changing weather conditions) Latifi’s 20th position was a whopping 25 seconds off Lance Stroll’s pole-position time!
After a brief contretemps with wall on his way into the pits, it was decided George Russell would give up his lowly grid spot and instead start from the pitlane, with Latifi doing likewise – Williams opting to go bold on tyre choice, fitting both cars with hot (straight out of their blankets unlike those cars on the grid whose tyres had been allowed to cool) intermediate tyres – with everyone else on wets.
The thinking behind this was that if the track dried quickly then everyone bar Williams would have to pit, thus giving GR & NL a 25 second jump on the field. This would only work if the track dried quickly though, and was doomed to failure if there was any more rain, so it was a bit of a punt. But sometimes gambles pay off, so it was exciting to see Williams at least have a go!
And it seemed to be an excellent strategy (at least for one side of the Williams garage), as George managed to [cough] ‘GOBBLE’ up the gap to the back of the pack and up to 11th by lap twelve, and – with no further rain on the horizon – ideally placed on tyres.
Sadly though, that was as good as it got for Williams. With the track not drying as quickly as hoped, everyone else could wait until their scheduled pitstop to switch, as George’s inters dropped off dramatically (particularly frustrating since race winner Lewis Hamilton made his last 50 laps, setting his quickest time 48 laps into that stint!). After pitting for fresh rubber on lap 32, and again ten laps later George found himself scrabbling around in the high teens.
Meanwhile, Latifi had a race to forget, finding himself almost a minute off the lead by the end of lap two – the closest he’d get from then on, eventually retiring late into the race after suffering damage in a collision with Romain Grosean’s Haas.
A 16th place wasn’t quite what Williams deserved for their efforts in Turkey, however it just didn’t quite come together and so it’s far from a travesty.
What pleased me most about the Turkish Grand Prix was Williams willingness to go against the grain and to try something different – something they’ve seemed reluctant to do in recent years. It could have been a masterstroke, but it just didn’t quite come off. Keep trying and it will one day though!
Up at the front, Lewis Hamilton put in a stunning drive to take the win and seal his 7th Formula 1 World Championship, becoming the most successful F1 driver of all time in the process.
Next up, Bahrain.