Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are looking quicker at the Turkish Grand Prix than they have been all season, according to Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.
Mercedes would have had a front row lockout at Istanbul Park after Saturday’s qualifying, but for Hamilton collecting a 10 place grid penalty for an engine change that exceeded his allocation.
Instead team mate Valtteri Bottas will start on pole with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, two points adrift of Hamilton in the standings with seven races remaining, alongside on the front row.
Horner told Sky Sports television he expected Hamilton to make swift progress from 11th.
“Lewis has looked probably the quickest he’s looked all year here,” he said.
“The Mercedes is hooked up around here, it’s working well on this asphalt and this circuit and he’s going to 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.”
Hamilton won on a slippery surface in Turkey last year from sixth on the grid, with Verstappen starting second but finishing sixth.
Verstappen will start Sunday’s race on the ‘dirty’ side of the track, with less grip. Asked whether he had the pace to beat the Mercedes, the driver’s answer was blunt: “No. But we will of course just try to follow and see what we can do and see what happens in the race in general.”
The Dutch 24-year-old started the previous race in Russia at the back due to a similar penalty, ending up second, and indicated Hamilton could not expect an easy passage from other drivers fighting for position and points.
“It was fun, to be honest, seeing other guys battle in front of you, almost getting taken out, all these kind of things… you just have to be very alert but I mean I think we have all faced these kind of things,” he said.
“Some were fighting for their positions as well and then you get caught up in the fight they are in with other cars. Of course they are also trying to race for their best result. I had a good time in Russia.”