The Turkish Grand Prix returned to the F1 calendar in 2020 for the first time in nine years and was a fantastic spectacle with qualifying throwing up all sorts of drama.

Mercedes looked more than a few tenths of a second off the pace while the addition of rain made it even more difficult for the drivers. The session ended with Lance Stroll picking up his first Formula 1 podium while Lewis Hamilton was down in sixth. However, the Brit battled back in the race, taking the chequered flag in first position and securing the World Drivers’ Championship in the process to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles.

Back in Turkey this weekend for this season’s running of the Grand Prix, motorsport fans will be hoping for yet another exciting weekend similar to last year’s. In this blog, we take a look at the market leaders, who will be battling near the front and the ones to watch.

Verstappen aiming to be back on top

This season has produced a thrilling battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Verstappen currently sits two points behind Hamilton but will be looking to regain a title advantage after this weekend. Red Bull have still got a slight edge on Mercedes in the pace department, with Verstappen taking eight pole positions this year to Hamilton’s three. The Dutchman is 5/4 to be the fastest qualifier and if he could start the race on the front row it will boost his chances of a win on Sunday.

Red Bull have historically been strong in Istanbul, taking pole position at all three of the Grand Prix before its hiatus. Both cars have also managed to qualify in the top 10 in every race since 2008 so the omens bode well. Their last victory here was back in 2011 and Verstappen is currently the 8/13 favourite to help the team get back onto the top step of the podium. After his sensational last to second drive at Sochi, his confidence will be sky-high.

Hamilton searching for consecutive wins at Istanbul

Last year was far from straightforward for Hamilton and Mercedes, but they ended the weekend on top. They’ll be hoping for a much smoother weekend this time around. Hamilton knows the track well and another win will have him equal Felipe Massa’s tally of three wins here, with the Brit also winning here for McLaren in 2010.

Hamilton became the first driver in history to reach 100 Formula 1 victories in Sochi and will be still riding that high coming into this weekend. Despite only winning the race once out of the three times Mercedes has lined up on the grid here, the team’s power cars have won four of the eight races held at the track. With seven-time world champion Hamilton 11/4 to be on the top step of the podium come Sunday, expect this to be a close battle between the Brit and his rival. However, it’s been confirmed that Hamilton will have to take a 10-place grid penalty after moving onto his fourth engine.

Ones to watch in Istanbul

If McLaren could have held on in Sochi, they’d be coming into this as back-to-back Grand Prix winners. They’ve made a massive step forward towards Red Bull and Mercedes this season and with the rule change coming into effect next year, they could close that gap further. If they are unable to challenge for the victory on this occasion, they will be more than capable of aiming for a podium position, with Lando Norris 11/4 and Daniel Ricciardo 5/1 to finish inside the top three.

Ferrari are another team with fond memories of the Turkish Grand Prix, having won the race three times (Massa in 2006, 2007 and 2008). However, they’ve been lacking the pace in the past two seasons but have been slowly working their way back into a competitive position. They’ve managed four podiums this season, with their highest finish being second at Silverstone. With Carlos Sainz confirmed to be starting at the back of the grid thanks to a power unit upgrade, the task for silverware will be on Charles Leclerc’s shoulders, who is 7/2 for a podium finish.

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