Hamilton, in sublime form, topped Saturday’s qualifying session but his 10-place grid penalty for a new Mercedes engine means he has a recovery mission on his hands to limit the damage in his title fight against Max Verstappen. But while the championship leader has several fast midfield cars between himself and Verstappen,
who starts second behind Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, he says he only has one thing on his mind. Hamilton, who has only claimed one of his 100 victories from lower than sixth on the grid (14th at 2018 German GP), added that he was going to be “partly cautious but also super attacking”.
“I’m just going to take it one step at a time,” he said. “It’s a long race and so, if I can be higher up early on, then great but I want to stay out of trouble. “That will probably be my priority initially, and then see if it’s possible to pick them off one by one.” Hamilton’s comeback charge comes just two weeks after Verstappen faced a similar scenario at the Russian GP, where the Dutchman incredibly came through from the very back of the grid to second behind Hamilton.
That means Hamilton has just a two-point title advantage heading into Sunday’s race, live on Sky Sports F1 from 1pm.Red Bull team boss Christian Horner admitted Hamilton, who dominated qualifying, “looked the quickest he’s looked all year” around a tricky Istanbul Park circuit the Englishman loves. But Mercedes’ Toto Wolff felt Hamilton has a “tough” task ahead in the race, with overtaking difficult. “Yesterday, in the long run we were behind the Haas and Williams at one point and it was very difficult to even come close,” said Wolff. “Strategy is going to be the thing that is going to help the most I think.
“We have to look after ourselves, Valtteri wants to win and this is the best opportunity, and it’s helping Lewis. The Red Bulls haven’t been so competitive this weekend, and over the long runs it was worse than on the single laps.”