On paper, Lewis Hamilton’s recovery from P11 to P5 in the Turkish Grand Prix represented decent progress up the order. But Hamilton admitted to being left frustrated after a late decision to stop dropped him from the podium positions down to fifth.
Despite going fastest in qualifying, an engine penalty had left Hamilton P11 on the grid, with the Mercedes driver doing an excellent job in the opening part of the race to climb into the top five within the first 20 laps.
By the latter stages of the Grand Prix, Hamilton would make it as high as P3, behind eventual winner and team mate Valtteri Bottas and title rival Max Verstappen – but tense conversations were going on over the team radio, as several drivers around Hamilton opted to pit for new intermediate tyres in the semi-damp conditions.
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Hamilton was in favour of staying out but was called in on Lap 50 of 58, dropping him to fifth – with the reigning world champion left unimpressed by the call, as he failed to make progress on his new tyres, coming home in that P5 behind Charles Leclerc and telling engineer Pete Bonnington over team radio: “We shouldn’t have come in… I told you!”
“It felt good to be in third, and I was like, ‘If I can just hold on for this, this is a great result from 11th,’” said Hamilton after climbing out of the cockpit of his Mercedes W12. “This is worse – but it could be worse.
2021 Turkish Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton vents frustration at pit decision
“I think probably in hindsight, I should have either stayed out or come in much earlier, because when you come in with eight laps to go you don’t have time to go through the graining phase of that medium tyre on a drying track. So then I went through this whole sliding phase where I nearly lost more positions. So yes, a bit frustrating, but it is what it is.”
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Adding to Hamilton’s pain, Esteban Ocon was able to make it through the whole race on his starting set of intermediate tyres to claim P10. And Hamilton admitted to also being frustrated with himself at not having followed his own intuition.
“I’ve just got out of the car and I don’t have all the information,” said Hamilton, “but I feel like I should have stayed out. My gut feeling was to stay out and I feel that’s what I should have done. So I’m frustrated in myself for not following my gut. But I work as a team, so I did the best I could with the advice I was getting.”
The upshot to Hamilton finishing fifth to Verstappen’s second was that the Dutchman retook the lead in the drivers’ standings, now heading it by six points with six races still to go.