Christian Horner fears Lewis Hamilton will make rapid progress through the Turkish Grand Prix field, due to being “probably the quickest he’s looked all year”.
Hamilton will start 11th on the grid at Istanbul Park because of a penalty – the highest position possible having taken selected new components in his power unit for the fourth time this season.
Normally he would have been on pole, for the seven-time World Champion was fastest by 0.13sec in the decisive part of qualifying with the Mercedes cars having had the edge on Red Bull in dry conditions throughout the weekend.
Max Verstappen will start alongside Bottas on the front row, hoping to keep as much time, and as many cars, as possible between himself and Hamilton in order to boost his chances of overturning his current two-point deficit in the Drivers’ standings.
But just as the Dutchman did in Russia a fortnight ago, Red Bull team principal Horner suspects Hamilton will scythe through the pack and not be in the thick of the midfield battle for long.
“It will be interesting. Lewis has looked probably the quickest he’s looked all year at this circuit so far,” Horner told Sky Sports F1.
“The Mercedes is hooked up around here, it’s working well on this asphalt and he will be coming through pretty quick. So we’ve just got to focus on our own race, get the strategy right, reliability, all those factors and see how we pan out.”
Step one complete! Lewis Hamilton minimises the damage of his 10-place grid drop with a P1 finish.
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) October 9, 2021
One aspect to give Horner slight comfort is that three of the eight cars in between Verstappen and Hamilton will belong to Red Bull and their ‘sister’ team AlphaTauri with Pierre Gasly starting fourth, Sergio Perez sixth and Yuki Tsunoda ninth.
While insisting that trio will all look after themselves first and foremost rather than trying to hold up Hamilton, Horner hopes they may be able to give Verstappen some kind of helping hand.
“It’s great for Honda to have those four, Yuki making Q3, so that’s good news for Honda to have four cars in the top 10,” said Horner about a weekend when Red Bull are displaying a special white and red livery which would have been used at the cancelled Japanese Grand Prix.
“The strategy we’ve picked for tomorrow with [Perez] should see him hopefully be able to make progress.
“The best route to beat them [Mercedes] is to finish ahead of them, so we’ll focus very much on our race and try to make sure we capitalise with the maximum points from both drivers.
“I think we can hopefully be closer to them in the race than we were in qualy today. We’ve seen they are very quick over a single lap, whether that’s sustainable over a whole race we’ll see tomorrow.”
About the latest in a series of excellent qualifying results for Gasly, he added: “It’s impressive. On a Saturday he’s doing a great job, so hopefully he can score some good points tomorrow.
“If he can keep at least one Mercedes behind him for the whole afternoon it would be very welcome.”
Planet F1 verdict
Step one complete for Lewis Hamilton in Turkey
With a penalty coming, Lewis Hamilton knew he needed to qualify fastest in Turkey - and he did so.