Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappens biggest Turkish GP challenge clear as past races show

F1: Hamilton v Verstappen in numbers

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With just seven races to go, and only two points separating the title-chasing pair at the top of the standings, every point really does matter for Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. The seven-time world champion is hoping to add one more to that tally and eclipse the record he currently holds with Michael Schumacher, while the Red Bull ace is bidding to win his maiden F1 crown.

The championship lead has changed hands four times already in this high-speed game of cat and mouse, with Hamilton currently holding a very slender advantage after his win last time out in Sochi.

Their next battleground is the Istanbul Park circuit, which has witnessed some dramatic scenes in recent F1 races.

Hamilton won last year in the first Grand Prix held in Turkey for nine years, though the race victory may well have gone to pole-sitter Lance Stroll that day, had the Canadian not needed a second pitstop after sustaining damage to his front wing in low-grip conditions.

In 2011, the previous race held in Istanbul, Sebastian Vettel claimed victory for Red Bull in a race which, at the time, set a record for the highest number of pit stops and overtakes for a dry race in history.

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And the year before, Hamilton was the beneficiary when Vettel and team-mate Mark Webber conspired to collide, taking the German out of the race and causing the Australian to lose his lead and finish third.

Drama is guaranteed at the Turkish Grand Prix, but that’s not the only trend the teams may be expecting to continue this weekend.

Hamilton and Verstappen will likely be aware that seven of the eight Turkish Grand Prix to date have been won by a driver starting on the front row. The exception was last year, when Hamilton started sixth.

In total, the pole-sitter has won the race five times out of eight. Jenson Button, who won racing for Brawn in 2009, started second behind Vettel, while Hamilton was behind Webber at the start of the 2010 race before going on to win.

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While qualifying on pole or the front row is always the aim for drivers looking to win races and championships, recent history shows a good performance on the Saturday has an extra special importance here.

Hamilton and Verstappen have shown a similar level of consistency over the course of the season when it comes to qualifying, with the Mercedes man starting on the front row 10 times and the Dutchman managing it on nine occasions.

That might have been 10 had he bothered to take part in qualifying in Sochi last time out, though grid penalties accrued for installing a fourth power unit of the season made it pointless as he was starting from the back of the grid regardless.

To give themselves the best chance of victory in the Turkish capital, both will be hoping their strong qualifying form continues.

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