Lewis Hamilton’s F1 Turkish Grand Prix Drive Is One for the Ages

Lewis Hamilton’s F1 Turkish Grand Prix Drive Is One for the Ages

11/15/2020

Lewis Hamilton’s win in the Formula 1 Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul Park was not just another win in the career of a driver who has found his way to the top of the podium 94 times.

This was a classic, one of the really great performances in the history of the sport. It was right up there with Ayrton Senna’s win at Donington Park in 1993.

The Turkish Grand Prix of 2020 will be remembered as an astonishing achievement, and it was perfect that this virtuoso performance brought Hamilton his seventh World Championship, to equal the all-time record set by Michael Schumacher 16 years ago.

But it was more than that.

Hamilton is an extraordinary individual in so many ways, not just as a driver but also as a role model and as an inspirational force. One might not always agree with his opinions, but his motivations are always honest and there is no hint of pretense.

Even as Hamilton was driving around celebrating his victory in Istanbul, and shedding a few tears by the sound of it, he talked over the radio of how ambitious youngsters should not give up aspirations in the face of negativity or adversity.

“This is for all the kids out there who dream the impossible,” he said. “You can do it too, I believe in you all. Thank you so much for your support.”

Many drivers offered their congratulations. Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel sat with him for a while as Hamilton stayed in his car, enjoying the moment in parc ferme.

“I told him it’s very special for us because we can witness history being made today,” Vettel said later. “I think he is greatest of our era for sure. I think it’s always difficult to compare. How can you possibly compare Fangio, Stirling Moss to our generation? You can’t. Maybe we would be useless because we would all be shitting ourselves in those cars. Maybe they would be useless in our cars because they’re way too fast. Who knows?

“But it doesn’t matter, I think every era has its driver or its drivers and Lewis is certainly the greatest of our era. To me, certainly emotionally, Michael will always be the most, the greatest driver but there’s no doubt that Lewis is the greatest in terms of what he has achieved. He’s equaled the championships, he’s won more races, he has a lot more pole positions so I think he’s done everything you can ask for. I think today is the best proof. It’s a difficult race, a very difficult race to stay on track and two hours long and probably, if we’re honest, it wasn’t his race to win and he still won it, so I think, once again, he managed to pull out something special out of that bag and therefore I think he deserves everything he has achieved.”

Sergio Perez, who drove a mighty race to finish second, holding off the two Ferraris in a wild battle on the last lap and yet faces a future without an F1 drive, summed it up with grace and style.

“I am very happy to share a podium with Lewis,” Perez said. “He is definitely the best driver of our era, in this historic moment in our sport.”

It was Hamilton’s 94th F1 race victory and his 10th this year, but this was a race that could have been won by several different drivers. Hamilton always seems a little bemused by all his own success, but resolutely encourages others to believe in themselves and to follow their dreams. He has also achieved all his success in a fair and noble way, unlike some of his rivals over time who have played dirty when they felt they had to.

Hamilton is an outstanding sportsman and a good sport. The world of motorsport, and F1 in particular, should appreciate what they have.

Hamilton certainly didn’t look like a Turkish GP winner early on when Lance Stroll and drove away from their rivals in their Racing Points. Hamilton was stuck behind Vettel, and that is a rare thing this year. Max Verstappen looked like a potential winner early on as he closed in on the Racing Points, but then he spun away his chances.

Alex Albon took over the fight and for a while it looked like the Anglo Thai driver was going to make his big breakthrough but then the tires began to fade, as did Stroll’s and suddenly Perez looked like the man who would win. He has always been good on his tires and as he worked his magic on more time Stroll’s race fell apart and he tumbled back through the order. But it was Hamilton who managed the tires and the conditions best.

“Lewis was on another level today and, once he got by me, he controlled the race.”

“It was about keeping it on the track and making the right calls, which we did,” said Perez. “The key was managing the intermediates. Lewis was on another level today and, once he got by me, he controlled the race. So, second was the best we could achieve and we did a great job to keep the Red Bulls and Ferraris behind.”

Bit by bit, Hamilton pulled comfortably away, driving beautifully and making no further mistakes. His final margin of victory was a comfortable 31.6 seconds.

“I feel so proud of this race,” Hamilton said afterward. “I was thinking about moments when it went wrong before, like China 2007 when I lost the championship on worn tires in the pit lane. All these things I’ve learned along the way, I was able to apply today, and that’s why you saw the result and the gap you did.

“In the last few laps I was having to challenge the emotions, and the championship was becoming a realization on the last one. I was telling myself ‘Don’t drop the ball!’ I lost control of the emotions on the slowing-down lap, but I try not to cry on camera.

“I know often we, or I, say it’s beyond my wildest dreams, I think my whole life I secretly have dreamt as high as this. But it always felt so far-fetched. All of us drivers here are doing the best job we can, and just to get one, two or three titles is so hard. So, to get seven, is just unimaginable.”

It has been a year of sacrifice as well.

“I haven’t gone out, I haven’t gone for dinner, I’ve just stayed in my bubble,” Hamilton said. “Getting room service every day, and not really doing anything exciting, and that’s naturally because I’d got a championship to fight for. But I think this year I’ve sacrificed more than eve

r before in my whole life.”

By the end of the race, Hamilton’s tires has effectively turned into slicks. Some of the drivers were thinking about switching to slick tires but it was such a risk that no-one did.

To put this all into perspective, one must consider the day that Valtteri Bottas had. We know that some days the Finn is a match for Hamilton but in the conditions in Istanbul he just couldn’t cope. He had four spins, was lapped by Hamilton late, and ended the day in in 14th place.

“Today once again showed how Lewis is capable to cope with a situation that went against him in the beginning,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, who finally joined Hamilton on a victory podium, after consistently sending other team members for years. “He was the one who kept it on the road, looked after the tires and let the race come to him. And that made the difference today, he was hungry as a lion.

“Driving a car on slicks at the end, with the risk of rain, he just brought it home for a 94th win and to take the seventh title. It’s such an impressive achievement. This year has been very special because it was so difficult for everybody in the world. I hope we have been able to bring people some joy, some entertainment, and coming out on top after a race like this feels incredible, against all odds.

“We simply need to say congratulations to Lewis and to recognize the amazing job he is doing, setting new benchmarks in this sport.”

Was this Hamilton’s greatest drive? Hamilton is having arguably his greatest season. He’s completed 100% of the laps and won 10 of 14 races. Will he go down in F1 history as a popular champion? Time to tell Hamilton stories in the comments section below.

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