• Turkish Grand Prix preview

Who's in for a Turkish delight?

Chris Medland
May 5, 2011

After a three-week break following what was a breathless Chinese Grand Prix, the Formula One paddock finally gets on the European roads this weekend with a trip to Turkey. Lewis Hamilton put a stop to Sebastian Vettel's winning run in Shanghai, but Vettel's second place means he still leads the standings by 21 points. It's the McLaren pair giving chase, but will they be able to get the beating of Red Bull in Istanbul? And after Mark Webber's drive through the field from 18th to third in China, will anyone forsake qualifying in order to have plenty of fresh tyres for the race?

In Form

While second place in China certainly doesn't mean Sebastian Vettel is out of form, Lewis Hamilton will be full of confidence after becoming the first man to beat the 2010 world champion this year. After a winter of worry over the lack of pace in the MP4-26, and a poor race in Malaysia where his tyre usage was questioned, he showed tactical nous in Shanghai which earned him the win as all those in front of him struggled with their tyres late in the race. Back-to-back wins in Turkey and Canada kick-started his season last year and Hamilton will be looking to make it two out of two in Istanbul.

Out of Form

While the race at the front has been a close one, the midfield pack has been equally tight, but Williams has been conspicuous by its absence. After an encouraging showing in pre-season testing, its car has proved to be both unreliable and slow. While the target was to get to the front of the midfield, the reality has been only two cars finishing a race, and Pastor Maldonado was even beaten on pace by Heikki Kovalainen's Lotus in China. The result is the worst start to a Formula One season in its history and the situation is so serious that after saying that "nothing is sacred" it was announced this week that technical director Sam Michael would be resigning at the end of the season, along with chief aerodynamicist Jon Tomlinson, while Mike Coughlan comes in as chief engineer in June.

Nico Rosberg will be looking to build on his competitive fifth place in China © Getty Images
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One to watch

Despite resorting to a cheeseburger, fries and milkshake to drown his sorrows after the Chinese Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg had a hugely encouraging race for Mercedes. The first of the three-stoppers led for a quarter of the grand prix, but a fuel problem - there wasn't enough in the car - caused him to slow and eventually finish fifth. Rosberg has been on the podium three times for Mercedes, and the car clearly has pace when it is set up properly, so he could well pose Red Bull and McLaren a very real threat.

Talking points

Turn 8 - While Hermann Tilke's tracks have not always been the subject of immense praise, it's pretty clear that the greatest corner he has designed is an original - the multi-apex turn 8. Taken at an average speed of over 160mph, Red Bull were famously able to take the corner flat out last year. Drivers experience up to 5G of lateral force through the turn, and expect to see plenty of cars snapping off line during practice and qualifying.

The weather - The forecast (below) is for rain over the weekend, which could shake up the order even further. While last time out in China we saw what many described as the best dry race in years, add in a wet track and anything could happen. Fortunately, we're not talking about artificial rain either, Mr Ecclestone.

Pirelli tyres - The tyres will find themselves as a focus once again this weekend, probably even more so than at previous races. The reasons are three fold. Firstly, Pirelli will be testing a harder compound on Friday, which they have tweaked since Malaysia and hope to introduce as the new hard compound tyre from Barcelona onwards. The idea is for the hard tyre to last for a few laps more than it currently does, but this will affect the time teams get to set up their cars for the race on Sunday. Secondly, the high force put through the front right tyre through turn 8 means we'll almost certainly see three stop strategies - maybe four - and the tyres worked harder than they have been before. And thirdly, if it rains then both of the above points will be moot, and the teams will have to quickly get on top of Pirelli's intermediate and full wet tyres, neither of which have been run at a race weekend so far.

Turkey's future - Race organisers have been saying that this race will probably be the last at Istanbul Park, with Bernie Ecclestone asking for a doubling of the race fee if it wants to remain on the calendar from next year. Regardless of the dwindling crowds, the track is one of Tilke's best, with its undulations, turn 8 and overtaking opportunities. The drivers would like to see it stay, and Bernie has a vested interest as he controls the management rights to the circuit, so the uncertainty may rumble on for a while.

Felipe Massa scored his first grand prix victory in Turkey in 2006 © Sutton Images
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Fast facts

  • This will be the seventh Turkish Grand Prix, the first was held in 2005
  • Felipe Massa has won half of the races held at Istanbul Park so far, stringing together a hat-trick of wins with Ferrari from 2006 to 2008.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya holds the lap record with a 1:24.770 set in 2005
  • All of the previous six races have been won from the front row of the grid, with the first four from pole position and the last two years from second.

Trivia

  • There are 14 corners on the circuit, but one - turn 8 - accounts for 40% of the tyre wear per lap due to its long high-speed nature. The cars are at full throttle for 8.5 seconds, putting a huge load on the front right tyre as the drivers experience an average of 3.5 lateral G
  • The track is one of only five anti-clockwise circuits on the calendar this year
  • Despite this being the start of the European F1 season, Istanbul Park is actually situated on the Asian side of the Bosphorus
  • We've only seen two safety car periods in the history of the Turkish Grand Prix, with an average of one every three races. This is mainly due to the numerous run-off areas around the circuit resulting in very few stricken cars left on the track

Circuit

Following on from Shanghai, Istanbul Park is another one of the modern F1 tracks that have been designed by Hermann Tilke. While everybody talks about the high-speed turn 8, Tilke has made good use of the undulations which sees a total elevation change of nearly 46 metres. The track mainly consists of medium to high-speed corners, with potential overtaking chances down in to turn 1 and turn 9. The best opportunity, however, comes after the long uphill back straight (interrupted by a right kink nicknamed 'Faux Rouge') in to the heavy braking zone for turn 12. Good traction is required for the slow complex of corners at the end of the lap before returning on to the pit straight.

FIA driver steward

Derek Warwick makes his third appearance as an FIA driver steward at this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix, having previously fulfilled this role at the Spanish and Hungarian Grands Prix last year.

© ESPNF1
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Weather

The race this year is being held earlier than it has been before, which has led to a heightened chance of rain. While there are showers expected throughout the weekend, it certainly seems that the teams will have their Friday running curtailed. The temperatures are much lower than normal too, which could see teams struggle to get heat in to the Pirelli tyres during any spells of dry running they have.

Betting

Once again Sebastian Vettel is the bookies favourite at 11/10, with Lewis Hamilton the next shortest at 3/1. While Webber's odds are good at 5/1, Jenson Button is a tempting bet at 15/2 having been first and second in his last two races here. Following Mercedes resurgence in China, Nico Rosberg is a handy outsider at 28/1 while his team-mate Michael Schumacher is worth an each way punt at 50/1.

ESPN Prediction

McLaren has conceded that Red Bull has a car that is around half a second quicker than the rest of the field at the moment, which would make Sebastian Vettel favourite, but the weather looks like playing a part. With this in mind, ESPNF1 is tipping Jenson Button to read the conditions better than the rest and follow Lewis Hamilton's win in China with one of his own.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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