Max Verstappen powered back to the top of the Formula 1 Drivers’ standings with a superbly executed drive to second place in the 2021 Formula 1 Turkish Grand Prix. There was double delight for the Bulls as Sergio Pérez claimed his first podium finish since the French Grand Prix with a battling drive to third place that included an epic fight to keep Lewis Hamilton at bay.
While Max enjoyed a solid, though the slightly lonely drive to the second step of the podium behind race winner Valtteri Bottas, Checo found himself duelling with Hamilton for a fourth-place soon after half distance.
And when Hamilton attacked on lap 42 it looked like the Mexican driver might not hold him off. But while Checo was forced wide at the final corner in a furious tussle with the Mercedes driver, he stayed calm and held his line to push in front again at the start of the following lap and hold his position. And when Hamilton pitted late and dropped back to P5, Checo was able to close in and pass Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in the final laps to claim an excellent 13th career podium finish and seal the Team’s second double podium of the season.
The race was all about managing tyres, to make sure they lasted to the end which means it wasn’t the most fun race to drive as you always want to push hard. Nevertheless, I think we maximised the result today and it’s good to be leading the Drivers’ Championship again. I do wish I had a bit more pace in the car but we are still in the fight, we’ll keep pushing and we’ll see in the coming races how competitive we will be.
It has been a while since I have been up there, I think the last two or three races we should have been on the podium, but we have been so unlucky. I got a good start, I think there was some contact between Fernando and Pierre into turn one so there were three cars, including me, and I thought we weren’t going to make it but in the end, it was a good result for me. After that, I didn’t feel comfortable in the first stint with the car and I lost a lot of ground but then the second stint was all about pushing at the right time and using my experience to get a podium for the Team.
Lewis was closing in really fast and at that time I was struggling quite a lot with my tyres, he had a good pace and I thought he might get past me but it turned into a good fight and I came out on top. Lewis is a top driver and it was enjoyable racing with him. When I was standing on the podium I saw a lot of Mexican flags in the grandstands, we are so far from home here in Turkey so it was lovely to see. I think there is a lot we can learn from this race, it is a good result for the Team and now we’re looking forward to Austin.
Christian Horner – Team Principal
Max has regained the lead in the drivers’ championship at a track that has traditionally been strong for Mercedes, we limited the damage and it was a great team job with lots of constructor points, so we’ll keep fighting. The lead for the championship keeps changing hands and the rest of the year is going to be incredibly tight, we have some big races coming up and it’s good to be putting Mercedes under pressure. For us the crucial moment today was when to pit Checo, we could have kept him out to keep holding up Lewis, but we decided to pit him because we didn’t believe Hamilton’s tyres were going to make it to the end of the race.
Checo did an amazing job today, he raced Lewis just as hard as Max does. He went wheel to wheel with him and he actually ended up in the pit lane when Lewis ran him out there, and then it was a drag race down the start-finish straight and he just stuck with it. The next race in Austin has been a Hamilton stronghold so we are going to have to be at the very top of our game, it’s great to be in this fight and the whole team is really enjoying it.