After Ferrari confirmed Carlos Sainz would be starting from the back of the grid after an engine change, all eyes were on the Spaniard to come through the field, while Charles Leclerc qualified a brilliant third and was looking for a strong result in a very wet Istanbul.
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Photos: Scuderia Ferrari.
As the lights went out, Charles managed to hold onto third position, while Carlos was unable to make up any positions. Fernando Alonso, who started in fifth position, spun off at the first corner after a coming together with Pierre Gasly. Carlos set about moving up the order, and was 17th by the end of the first lap. Lewis Hamilton started 11th thanks to an engine change and penalty, and was up to ninth by lap two. Mick Schumacher and Nicholas Latifi also suffered spins in the early laps.
By lap five, second-placed Max Verstappen was complaining of gear change issues, as Carlos was now up to 15th and was challenging the Williams of George Russell. The Ferrari moved up another place and now set after the two Alfa Romeos of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi ahead. Pierre Gasly was handed a five-second penalty for his contact with Alonso at the start, as Hamilton edged by Yuki Tsunoda to take seventh place on lap eight.
As Hamilton moved by seventh-placed Lance Stroll, Carlos continued to storm through the field, and moved past Esteban Ocon for 11th. Alonso himself also received a five-second penalty for his coming together with Schumacher on the opening lap, which resulted in the spin for the Haas.
Passing Sebastian Vettel for tenth on lap 13, a brief slide resulted in contact between Carlos and Sebastian at turn 12, however both cars were able to continue with no damage. By lap 22, Carlos was as high as ninth, Charles remained in third and Verstappen was starting to edge closer to the leading Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.
By Lap 30, the majority of drivers, including Carlos, were now opting for a one-stop strategy in the tricky conditions. Charles, still holding third, now also had the fastest lap so far in the race. Charles was now starting to close the gap to Verstappen in second, as Hamilton now was coming up to challenge Sergio Pérez for fourth position. Only two drivers, Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo, had opted to pit so far.
After an astonishing battle in the final few corners between Pérez and Hamilton on lap 34, the Red Bull refused to yield and the Mercedes ultimately remained in fourth. Multiple drivers pitted on lap 37, Carlos being the first of the two Ferraris to pit, while Vettel opted to try the medium compound tyre, which backfired badly for the team due to the conditions and forced a second stop for the Aston Martin.
Charles now led the race thanks to stops for Bottas and Verstappen, but he was beginning to struggle on the now worn Intermediate compound tyres. However, Leclerc was happy to try and run the entire race on the same set, which would be within the rules as different compounds do not have to be used in wet conditions. Charles now led Bottas by 5.8 seconds. Hamilton was also confident that a new set of Intermediates was not the right decision.
Carlos had re-joined the race after his stop in ninth and was now chasing down Ocon for eight position.
Unfortunately for Charles, Bottas quickly began to catch the Ferrari as he struggled once again at turn 12, but Charles was still hopeful of keeping the Mercedes behind. Further back, Carlos moved past the Alpine of Ocon for eighth, while Bottas reclaimed the lead from Charles on lap 47.
Ferrari opted for a stop for fresh tyres on lap 48 for Charles, now hoping to push for the remaining ten laps. Charles re-joined in fourth but was now after the Mercedes of Hamilton on much fresher tyres. Carlos was now beginning to set the pace in the final laps, pulling off three fastest laps in a row.
Mercedes opted to pit Hamilton with eight laps to go on lap 50, dropping him to fifth position. Charles now had the Red Bull of Pérez behind him, eventually losing the final podium place to the Mexican on lap 52. Charles was still struggling despite being on a fresh set of tyres, and now had Hamilton closing on him from fifth. However, just like Charles, Lewis began to struggle on the new set of tyres and could not close up enough to the Ferrari, as Pierre Gasly now was catching the Mercedes.
As the chequered flag ended the race on lap 58, Bottas took his first victory of the season as well as the fastest lap ahead of the two Red Bulls of Verstappen and Pérez, as Charles came home in fourth, a great result despite just missing a podium finish. Carlos’ strong race awarded him with eighth and the Driver of the Day award. A strong points finish for the team that will continue to help in their battle with McLaren in the constructors’ championship.
Written by Cóilín Higgins.