• Turkish Grand Prix - Preview

Red Bulls on a charge

Laurence Edmondson May 27, 2010
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Istanbul Park is everything that Monaco is not and vice-a-versa. This weekend we can expect overtaking, maximum G-forces and speeds in excess of 200 mph, while on the downside, the grandstands will be half full, the celebrities B-list and the atmosphere lacking. However, one thing that almost certainly won't change will be Red Bull's dominance. The question will be whether the chasing pack has made any inroads into the 0.8 second per lap advantage it held in Spain.

In Form

Although Mark Webber took the headlines in Monaco, Robert Kubica's performance was equally impressive. Rather tellingly he looked downbeat standing on the third step of the podium, suggesting he felt a slightly better start from the grid would have resulted in a dramatically different result. Flogging his Renault within inches of the crash barriers, he was able to make up for its deficiencies and knew it was his big (possibly only) chance to challenge for a win this season. Sadly the same won't be true in Turkey where high-speed stability and downforce are crucial for a quick lap time, meaning he is likely to resume his place just outside the top six. But that's not to say he won't be trying as hard, it's just that his quite remarkable efforts will be much more difficult to spot.

Out of Form

It may seem a little harsh to include Jenson Button in this section but, after winning in China, fifth in Spain and a retirement in Monaco were hugely disappointing results. Such is the fickle world of F1 that he was being touted to secure back-to-back titles three weeks ago while the same voices are now championing Webber for the crown. Button claims he is not yet driving at 100% this year and the fact that he has been 0.2 seconds or more off team-mate Lewis Hamilton in dry qualifying bears that out. However, he won't be able to ride on the results of Australia and China for much longer, and fulfilling his full potential is a must starting at this weekend's race in Turkey.

Felipe Massa is an Istanbul specialist © Getty Images
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One to watch

Every time Felipe Massa has been in a car capable of winning the Turkish Grand Prix he has done so. He has an affinity with some circuits and openly admits Istanbul Park is a place where he can get more from the car for no obvious reason. Now more than ever he needs a good performance as he has quite clearly been outperformed by Fernando Alonso, despite the Spaniard's numerous mistakes in recent races. A fourth win in five years at Turkey is a little bit too much to ask, but beating his team-mate will be crucial for his season.

Talking points

Turn eight This corner receives more attention from the drivers than almost any other on the calendar. All four of its apices have to be hit to ensure the fastest line, meaning the driver has to perform a balancing act between throttle and steering to keep the car on line. This is done at roughly 170mph while 5 Gs wrench the driver's neck to the right - the opposite of what they are used to. The whole experience lasts for about 8 seconds - 10% of the total lap time - and is crucial for pole position. If a car looks fast and settled through there on Friday it will likely be challenging for a podium on Sunday.

Empty grandstands Turkey is another of the 'New World' grand prix venues that has struggled to inspire its local population. However, when a ticket costs as much as the average blue-collar worker's weekly wage it's hardly surprising. It's a shame because it's one of the best circuits F1 visits and if it continues to fail to draw the masses it may well be forced off the calendar.

F-ducts The already dominant Red Bull team is expected to debut its version of the F-duct in Istanbul, which will be something of a concern for the chasing pack. At the Spanish Grand Prix the RB6s of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were two of the slowest cars through the speed trap but made up for it by being devastatingly fast in the corners. If Adrian Newey's design team can perfect the system - a difficult feat with a homologated chassis as proven by Sauber, Mercedes and Ferrari - then the car will be even tougher to beat. Ferrari is also expected to bring a revised version of its system so the driver can keep both hands on the steering wheel.

Hard tyres As well as the driver's necks, turn eight takes its toll on the tyres. Bridgestone is bringing the two hardest compounds in its range to cope with it this weekend. This will play into the hands of Red Bull, whose car works its tyres quite hard but could cause problems for the likes of Force India and Ferrari.

Weekend Timings

  • Free practice 1 0700 GMT / 1000 Local
    Free practice 2 1100 GMT / 1400 Local
    Free practice 3 0800 GMT / 1100 Local
    Qualifying 1100 GMT / 1400 Local
    Race 1200 GMT / 1500 Local

Fast facts

  • Juan Pablo Montoya holds the lap record at Istanbul Park with a time of 1:24.770 set in a McLaren in 2005
  • The steepest slope of the track is 8.145%, the length of the longest straight is 720 metres (0.45 mile) and the track width ranges from 14 metres to a whopping 21.5
  • There are 38 gear shifts per lap and drivers cover 66.5% of the lap at full throttle
  • Construction of the track required 1,450 workers and 40 heavy vehicles. Safety provisions include the installation of barriers made up of 124,000 tyres

Trivia

  • The Istanbul Park circuit is located on the Asian side of the city, close to an international airport and just off the motorway linking Istanbul to Ankara. It is situated within a green belt area amid forest and cultivated green fields
  • The Turkish Grand Prix is the only 'sail-away' race on the calendar. To get there, the majority of teams transport their equipment by road to the port of Trieste in northern Italy and then by ferries across the Adriatic and Aegean Seas
  • The circuit is built on four different levels to provide the track's dramatic gradient changes and enhance its character. Over the course of a lap, elevation varies by almost 46 metres
  • The circuit is the first of five anti-clockwise tracks on the calendar, the others being Singapore, South Korea, Interlagos and Abu Dhabi

Circuit

Istanbul Park's undulations, fast but technical corners and numerous overtaking opportunities make it one of the most complete circuits on the calendar. Using a rare anti-clockwise configuration, it is widely regarded as the best of Hermann Tilke's creations and has seen plenty of exciting races over its five-year history. Passing is possible into the tight section towards the end of the lap and, failing that, another attempt can be made into turn one.

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Weather

There has never been a wet Turkish Grand Prix and this year's event looks unlikely to buck the trend. Expect air temperatures of up to 30C and toasty track temperatures when the sun is out. This should mean the conditions are slightly more suitable for the harder tyres.

Betting

After back-to-back wins Mark Webber is starting to get the odds he deserves and stands at 5/2 to win in Istanbul. Sebastian Vettel is still the favourite at 7/4, while Istanbul Park specialist Felipe Massa is a good outsider at 16/1. Robert Kubica's recent Monaco performance sees him favoured over both Mercedes drivers, but don't be fooled, the Renault is less likely to shine in Turkey.

ESPNF1 Prediction

Sebastian Vettel is not used to being outperformed by his team-mate and will be keen to counter Mark Webber's recent success. There are a number of reasons to think he will be successful, most notably that his damaged chassis at the last two races has now been replaced and also that he took pole in Turkey last year ahead of the dominant Brawns. What's more, Istanbul Park was the venue of his F1 debut in 2006 when he burst on to the scene, setting the fastest time of Friday free practice in a BMW Sauber.

Laurence Edmondson is an assistant editor on ESPNF1

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Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1 Laurence Edmondson grew up on a Sunday afternoon diet of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell and first stepped in the paddock as a Bridgestone competition finalist in 2005. He worked for ITV-F1 after graduating from university and has been ESPNF1's deputy editor since 2010