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Hamilton promises to fight with one hand behind his back

Lewis Hamilton, on the Istanbul circuit. / AFP

Turkish GP

The Briton dominated the two free practice sessions of the Turkish Grand Prix, in which he will start with ten penalty positions after mounting a new combustion engine

After the victory in Russia, Lewis Hamilton thinks of nothing other than repeating at the Turkish Grand Prix this weekend. But if it was difficult to achieve it in Sochi, it will be much more difficult here. As above, he will start eleventh, after Mercedes decided to sacrifice an eventual first place on the grid to give him a more reliable engine.

The German team, unlike what Red Bull did two weeks ago with Max Verstappen, decided to minimize the punishment. They only put the new ICE (the internal combustion engine) to Hamilton, with what will be ten punishment posts unless this Saturday they replace something else. Unless before the free third parties find a problem, it does not seem that they are going to do it.

And it is that the performance of Hamilton in the free practice this Friday was lethal. With Red Bull covered, the Briton set a very high pace from the first round, when he already set a fast lap better than the pole of 2020, in a race in which he claimed his seventh world title. Although Friday is not usually significant, it was quite a declaration of intentions: Hamilton will try to fight for the first place in the classification, although for practical purposes it does not mean a pole, to start eleventh at most. It is not the same to come back in the dry (although there is a slight possibility of rain) on a wide track like the one in Turkey than in the wet with one like the one in Sochi, where the error penalizes much more.

Despite the optimism in Hamilton, who said before getting into the car that his objective was victory (with a good crutch, it is good to fight), this weekend is presented as a golden opportunity to see alternation. Max Verstappen is the first candidate but not the only one, far from it, who wants to take advantage of that sanction, caused by the conservatism of the teams (he suffered it himself) before a technical regulation that collides head-on with the gargantuan calendar designed. All drivers who have not penalized will already do so in future races, forcing de facto to throw a good result on the ground in the (theoretically) worst circuit that they are given. Thus, at Ferrari the victim was Charles Leclerc in Russia and here it is Carlos Sainz’s turn.

The Scuderia cars showed their best side in free practice. The Monegasque was the only one able to keep up with Hamilton in the second free practice session, although everything indicates that he will not be so high in the standings. Sainz, meanwhile, dedicated the day to pure race tests, since it will be his fundamental task for the remainder of the weekend. Whatever you do this Saturday, it will be last.

The track limits and the comb from Alonso to Bottas

One of the constants this Friday was seeing drivers with laps eliminated in the times table. The happy track limits, especially at Turn 9 and 14, caused real headaches for many both on the lap and in preparation for it.

The need to get a clean track led to an image in free practice that unhinged more than one. Lance Stroll slowed down as he had four cars behind him, right on a blind curve where no one could safely pass him. Behind came a Red Bull and a Mercedes, the one from Hamilton, which had to escape to avoid an Esteban Ocon who leaned out to try to overtake the one from Aston Martin. “This is a disaster,” complained the last of that platoon, Fernando Alonso. Moments later, in an image that was not seen in the broadcast but was seen in the interior cameras, the Asturian dedicated his extended middle finger (what is known as a comb) to Valtteri Bottas when he overtook him. Did you mistake him for Stroll or was that gesture really going to the Finn? Be it one or the other, the truth is that the tension with which Alonso arrives at this grand prize is well demonstrated. Already the day before he had left a press conference to remember, hitting the British press right and especially left.

The final seventh place for the Asturian is not enough, especially after the good race he starred in Sochi. Anything that equals or improves that position will be well received, as long as no ‘hindrance’ is found in its way.

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