RACE DEBRIEF

    Valtteri Bottas secured his first victory of the 2021 season in a damp Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul Park. But was he the driver who impressed our Aramco F1 Power Rankings judges the most? Read on to find out how we scored the field this week...

    HOW IT WORKS

    • Our six-judge panel assesses each driver after every Grand Prix and scores them out of 10 according to their performance across the weekend – taking machinery out of the equation

    • Our experts’ scores are then averaged out across the season to create an overall Power Rankings Leaderboard (at the bottom of the page)

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    This has not been Valtteri Bottas’ finest season in the sport, either from a race results point of view or a Power Rankings one. But Bottas showed his class in Istanbul, using his inherited pole position – after team mate Lewis Hamilton’s engine change penalty – to great effect, holding off Max Verstappen in a faultless 58-lap display that he called one of his best races ever.

    Considering he put in what he also deemed one of his worst ever races here last year, the achievement was all the more commendable.

    PALMER: The Turkish GP showed how crucial Bottas and Perez could be in this super tight title battle

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    There were moments in the Turkish Grand Prix when it looked like Charles Leclerc might end up winning the race. That he didn’t doesn’t detract from an excellent weekend from the Ferrari driver, who converted Ferrari’s strong pace in Turkey into a P3 grid slot (post Hamilton penalty), before running the whole race in the top four and coming home fourth – a failed attempt to make it to the end on one set of inters backfiring slightly.

    READ MORE: Leclerc says no regrets after late stop rules out Ferrari podium

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    Carlos Sainz admitted that seeing Leclerc’s performance on Saturday had left him envious of his team mate’s opportunities in the race. But Sainz made the most of his own chances starting from the back after his power unit change, marauding through the field and making it into the points by as early as Lap 13. Progress was harder after that, but Sainz nonetheless rated Turkey as his best race so far for Ferrari.

    READ MORE: ‘It was a pleasure’ – Sainz hails Istanbul recovery drive to P8 as ‘one of my most enjoyable races’

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    This was a bit more of a 2020-spec performance from Verstappen, doing the best he could in the face of what was a clearly superior Mercedes package in Istanbul. Claiming what became P2 on the grid and holding onto that position in the race was realistically the best Verstappen could hope for once Bottas had scurried away on the opening lap, with Verstappen at least moving back to the head of the drivers’ standings by six points over Hamilton.

    READ MORE: Verstappen calls Red Bull double-podium in Turkey 'a very good result' as Perez revels in Hamilton battle

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    A poor run of results for Pierre Gasly came to an end in Istanbul thanks to a superb performance from the young Frenchman. Starting P4 in tricky conditions, Gasly’s race got off to a sub-optimal start when he spun Fernando Alonso around at Turn 1 and copped a five-second penalty.

    To race through that and finish just 10s adrift of the podium places, and three seconds off Hamilton’s rear wing, was a great performance from Gasly – while he sent yet another message to his Red Bull paymasters by outqualifying Sergio Perez in a straight fight (not counting F1 Sprints) for the fifth time this season.

    READ MORE: Gasly says ‘very tricky’ start led to first lap contact with Alonso in Turkey as he ends point-less run

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    Perez’s aforementioned qualifying performance – which saw him start the Turkish Grand Prix in P6 – wasn’t great. But thereafter, he redeemed himself with the sort of battling rear gunner drive that backed up Red Bull’s decision to slot him into the second seat at the team.

    His elbows-out driving to hold up a charging Hamilton was beautifully judged, and he did a proper job of frustrating the Mercedes driver’s move up the order, allowing Verstappen to race unperturbed to P2. As Perez told Verstappen after the race, the Dutchman owes him some tequilas…

    READ MORE: 'He raced Lewis just as hard as Max does' – Horner thrilled with Perez’s defence from Hamilton in Turkey

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    Fresh off his 100th Grand Prix win in Russia, Hamilton knew he’d need a big weekend to make it 101 victories here, after taking on a new engine. A perfectly executed qualifying performance to ensure he started as high as he possibly could (P11) was followed by a strong start to the race, as he cut his way up the order as high as P4.

    But Hamilton then overruling Mercedes’ call to pit for inters around Lap 40 probably cost him a P3 finish, as he came home a frustrated P5 after locking himself into a no-man’s land strategy.

    READ MORE: Wolff admits hopes of Hamilton win cost Mercedes in Turkish GP – but seven-time champ says ‘any angst is forgotten’

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    Lance Stroll appears to have an affinity with the Istanbul Park track. But although he couldn’t repeat his stunning pole position from 11 months ago here, there were plenty of positives from the Canadian’s weekend, as he outgunned his four-time champion team mate Sebastian Vettel in qualifying – making Q3 as Vettel dropped out in Q2 – while he was then able to race to P9 for his second top-10 finish in three races. Vettel, meanwhile, now hasn’t scored since Spa.

    READ MORE: ‘As soon as I left the pits, I knew it was the wrong decision’ – Vettel on his disastrous mid-race switch to slicks

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    Okay, Mick Schumacher’s race day performance didn’t go to plan, the young German getting spun around by Fernando Alonso early on and falling to P20, while he would only recover one place higher to P19 after overcutting team mate Nikita Mazepin in the pits.

    But Schumacher’s fantastic qualifying performance to make Q2 in tough conditions made his weekend worthy of a place in our top 10 – while despite his spin, he would also wind up finishing 24s to the good over Mazepin by the chequered flag on race day.

    READ MORE: Alonso apologises to Schumacher for Turkish GP contact and says ‘luck is avoiding us’ after Lap 1 spin

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    After his Sochi heroics, taking pole there and competing for the win, Norris’ Istanbul showing was definitely more on the Zandvoort scale of the McLaren performance spectrum. But given the lack of speed in the MCL35M this weekend, Norris actually did well to take P7 on the grid as team mate Daniel Ricciardo failed to even make it out of Q1, while a quiet run to seventh in the race was a decent salvage operation on a weekend where rivals Ferrari where simply quicker.

    READ MORE: Sochi hero Norris says P7 finish in Turkey ‘the best McLaren could do’

    MISSING OUT

    If we were handing out points for effort, Esteban Ocon might have come out near the top this week, the Frenchman doing an exceptional job to nurse his intermediate tyres for the full 58 laps, and being rewarded with a P10 finish for his troubles. Unfortunately, he just misses out this week, ending up just outside our top 10.

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    Ocon's full-race stint ensured he scored a solitary point

    THE OVERALL STANDINGS

    Verstappen continues to reign at the top of the leaderboard, albeit that his average has now dipped below 9.0 for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix in May. P5 is the place to be currently, with George Russell, Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly all tied there, while Ricciardo slips from joint-ninth to 10th after a poor-scoring weekend in Turkey.

    READ MORE: Ricciardo happy to move on from ‘pretty painful’ Turkish GP after early stop costs him in Istanbul

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