Lewis Hamilton won the Turkish Grand Prix, his first victory of the season with Jenson Button second and Mark Webber third. It is McLaren’s second one-two finish of the season. Webber leads the drivers championship, McLaren take over the constructors’ championship lead.
Horner’s immediate reaction was not to blame either driver but to say that the team was disappointed with both drivers for not giving each other room. Lip-reading what he was saying in real time as he watched the two racing was “Move, move!” and one wonders which of his two drivers he wanted to “move”.
It is reminiscent of the Senna vs Prost feud in the late 1980s, when Ron Dennis has admitted he was too close in age to the drivers to keep order. Horner is only five years older than Webber.
He got his nose ahead but not by enough to then seal the move by closing the door. But that is what he tried to do. A generous interpretation would say it was youthful impetuousness. A less generous one would call it ruthless.
The result was he eased into the side of Webber, Vettel’s right rear wheel into the sidepod of Webber’s car. As he walked away he made a hand gesture that implied that Webber was crazy, but the replays of the incident appeared to confirm that Vettel moved into Webber before he had made the pass stick.
Vettel was eliminated, while Webber needed to pit for damage to his front wing.
“Seb had a big top speed advantage and he went down the inside, ” said Webber. “I obviously wasn’t totally happy with the situation because obviously he was coming down the inside, and I thought that at that stage I was pretty much not giving the lead up but it was pretty much his corner, well, not his corner but his situation because he was on the inside, but I just stayed on the inside, tight, to make sure that he was still staying on the dirty stuff and then on the run over the crest, obviously after the crest, he started to come back my way and that’s when we touched.”
Vettel saw it differently and refused to accept the blame, although he did admit losing control of the car. He received a warm reception from the management on the Red Bull timing wall.
“We were all pretty much the same pace and I felt I was able to go quicker, “ said Vettel. “I dived down the inside, had the corner and was on the left. I was trying to focus on the braking point. All of a sudden I lost the car and we touched. I’m not the kind of guy who pushes all the fault to one guy. We are a team.”
As the two Red Bull cars flew off the road, Hamilton took the lead, Button second place.
There has been a growing tension between the two Red Bull drivers, so intense has been the competition between them. Vettel has been struggling to deal with Webber’s rich run of form since China and it seemed that when he spotted that Webber was losing a little pace, he felt that it was essential to press his advantage immediately.
At the start Webber got away well while Vettel jumped Hamilton for second place. Hamilton came back at him and re-passed him.
Button fell behind Schumacher at the start, but passed him later in the lap, a critical move given the way he got stuck behind the Mercedes in Barcelona. He pulled away at a second per lap, showing how vital it was for him to make that pass. After seven seconds there were only 3.5 seconds covering the top four cars, Webber, Hamilton, Vettel and Button.
The rest of the top ten held position in the opening phase. Massa brushed tyres with Kubica, but the positions remained the same and an accident was avoided.
Hamilton was right with Webber from the end of the first lap, the straight line speed advantage of the McLaren very evident. Every lap Hamilton would be 3/10ths faster in sector 1, then the Red Bull would open up a gap thanks to its speed through Turn 8, then the McLaren would come back at him down the straight. The McLaren looked the faster car.
The stop four cars stayed together, with Webber, Hamilton, Vettel and Button close together.
Vettel was the first to put on lap 15. A lap later the two leaders came in and a slow stop by McLaren meant that Hamilton came out behind Vettel. He was held up by a sticking rear wheel, but also by the mechanic not being able to release him from his pit box as Webber drove past.
Button stayed out the longest of the top four, leading lap 16. He pitted on lap 18 and rejoined fourth, so the tactic didn’t work for McLaren. Red Bull had done the better job on strategy.
Hamilton attacked Vettel on lap 19, but couldn’t make it stick. The leading three drivers were separated by a second, while Button sat back a little in fourth.
Then came the turning point moment of the race on lap 40 when the Red Bulls indulged in fratricide.
The Mercedes cars didn’t have the pace on the hard tyre. Schumacher fell away at around 1.2 seconds per lap from Button, while Rosberg’s problems with the tyre meant that a train formed behind him with Kubica, Massa, Petrov and Alonso in it.
On lap 49 the McLaren drivers staged their own replay of the Red Bull inter team battle, but they showed how it should be done, giving each other room and passing beautifully. Button passed Hamilton in the final corner, but Hamilton came back at him and repassed into Turn 1, albeit with Hamilton understeering into the side of Button. It was brilliant stuff and a rather pointed lesson to Vettel and Webber on how to race a team mate. After that Button backed off and settled for second place.
Shortly before this battle Hamilton had been told to “save fuel” and was informed that Button was doing likewise.
Alonso passed Petrov for 8th place on lap 53, making contact with the Renault and giving him a puncture. It was a tough end to the race for the Russian who had a strong weekend and looked set for a strong points finish. He had the small consolation of setting fastest lap.
There will now be a painful debrief at Red Bull with both drivers reminded of their responsibilities to the team, especially in the face of a resurgent McLaren team. The chummy scenes of celebration after the Monaco 1-2 are long forgotten. The gloves are off and as the pair are likely to be fighting for the same piece of tarmac for the rest of the season, it’s going to be fascinating to see how it evolves.
TURKISH GRAND PRIX, Istanbul, 58 laps
1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1h28:47.620
2. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 2.645
3. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 24.285
4. Schumacher Mercedes + 31.110
5. Rosberg Mercedes + 32.266
6. Kubica Renault + 32.824
7. Massa Ferrari + 36.635
8. Alonso Ferrari + 46.544
9. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 49.029
10. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1:05.650
11. De la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari + 1:05.944
12. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:07.800
13. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
14. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth + 1 lap
15. Petrov Renault + 1 lap
16. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
17. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth + 1 lap
18. Glock Virgin-Cosworth + 2 laps
19. Di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth + 3 laps