W Series drivers are writing a series of columns for The Race this year, giving their verdicts on what’s going on in Formula 1. This week, Caitlin Wood reflects on the Turkish Grand Prix, where Lewis Hamilton delivered a drive worthy of his seven world titles while the younger stars on the grid lost their heads in the tricky conditions.
Lewis Hamilton’s victory at the Turkish Grand Prix redefined what is possible in a Formula 1 race. What a fitting way for the Briton, a pioneering racing driver both on and off the track, to seal a record-equalling seventh world title.
Hamilton displayed incredible patience in very tricky conditions, expertly biding his time to nurse those intermediate tyres home 50 laps after bolting them on and win by more than half a minute. Staggering.
The podium of Hamilton, 35, Sergio Perez, 30, and Sebastian Vettel, 33, have amassed more than 700 F1 grand prix starts between them and that experience proved invaluable on a day for calm heads when impetuosity cost their younger challengers.
Lance Stroll was magnificent in qualifying to take pole position and backed it up on Sunday with a near-perfect race start. Out front and in clear air, the Canadian was holding his position well in the early stages and appeared calm.
However, the moment there was uncertainty and he doubted the strategy call of his Racing Point team, Stroll lost his head.
The team’s since said that his car had damage that contributed to it falling off the pace and damaging its tyres.
But Stroll simply didn’t trust the call to pit him and, as a driver, you need to believe that the right decision is being made.
In contrast, Hamilton and Mercedes have such a fantastic understanding that Hamilton felt confident enough to tell his team to leave him out and his engineers trusted him implicitly.
He said after the race that he had ‘learned the lesson from 2007’ when his world title hopes hit the skids in the pit-lane in China. He became better for that experience and others must do the same now.
The 22-year-old Stroll is not the only one who will be ruing a missed chance. Charles Leclerc belied his 23 years with a fine drive, until the final lap when taking a shot at second place became irresistible and a failed move on Perez handed the podium place to his Ferrari team-mate Vettel, who must feel like a huge weight has been lifted.
The four-time world champion has been dominated by his young Monegasque team-mate this term but proved he can still run at the front and, on this evidence, must genuinely believe that Racing Point (or Aston Martin as it will be then) will give him a car capable of doing so regularly next season.
Vettel will have slept soundly, but I doubt the same could be said for many at his former team, Red Bull.
I feel for Alex Albon as he is under extreme pressure, but he is becoming increasingly frustrating to watch.
His talent is there for all to see but he needs a clean race and for too long, a good overtake has been followed by a silly error.
In stark contrast to Perez – a rival for his Red Bull seat next season – the 24-year-old isn’t helping himself by making a solid case to Christian Horner.
The only good news for Albon was that his team-mate, Max Verstappen, was equally scruffy at Istanbul. We think of Verstappen as a veteran already, but he is still only 23 and looked it when he spun trying to overtake Perez.
He was over-eager and when you start trying too hard you start overdriving. The calmer you are, the better decisions you make – it’s all in the mind.
Every driver has lost their head in a race, overthinking and overdriving. Our passion and will to win can take over and the ability to remain level-headed and in the moment is something I’ve been working on with a sports psychologist for about a year.
Focusing on the things I can control and not worrying about the things I can’t – the weather and track conditions, for instance – is helping me give myself the best chance to perform when I’m racing.
It was refreshing to see an F1 race which threw the drivers out of their comfort zone, placing more emphasis on driver skill and instinctive racing, and so it was a great advert for the next major rule changes which promise less downforce and grip.
Races that have you on the edge of your seat throughout and leave you open-mouthed like that one, are a reminder that Formula 1 is truly the pinnacle of motorsport.
I cannot wait for W Series – which last week announced it will stage eight F1 support races from 2021 – to be part of the show.
The new partnership is a massive breakthrough for women in motorsport. I always dreamed it would happen, but never thought it would come so quickly.
For F1 to accept the series after just one on-track season is extremely impressive, the most significant breakthrough to-date in the sport’s push for greater diversity and a ringing endorsement of W Series’ mission and the calibre of drivers in the championship.
Like all female racing drivers, I have suffered setbacks in my career just because I am a woman and so to be involved with W Series on the biggest stage of all makes me immensely proud.
Caitlin Wood finished 13th in the inaugural W Series championship in 2019 and sixth in the all-female series’ first Esports League season this summer. The 23-year-old Australian has competed in several series, including Blancpain GT, and is also a driver coach.