Turkey 2005 - a triumphant debut 22 Aug 2006
The Formula One teams arrived in Turkey last year full of anticipation. Expectations of Hermann Tilkes all-new Istanbul Park track were running high, with speculation that the man behind Sepang, Bahrain and Shanghai, may just have created his best circuit yet. Those expectations were to be fulfilled, spectators and drivers alike singing the praises of the new venue. With its spectacular gradient changes, blind corners and genuine overtaking opportunities, it presented a real challenge to both man and machine, and by the end of the weekend the three-apex Turn 8 had already passed into Grand Prix folklore.
McLaren dominated practice, which saw no end of runners making full use of the circuits huge run-off areas as they got to know the layout. Their biggest rivals for qualifying looked set to be Renault and, notably, BAR, but it was to prove a session full of surprises, the biggest of which was just how difficult Turn 8 was on the limit. Jenson Button and Takuma Sato made mistakes there - mistakes which probably cost the team a podium finish. Satos problems were compounded when his time was cancelled for impeding Williams Mark Webber on his slowing-down lap. Jacques Villeneuve was another spinner, while Michael Schumacher waited until the downhill Turn 9 to make his error, exiting the corner backwards on his way to the rear of the grid.
At the front, it was an all-McLaren-Renault affair, with Kimi Raikkonen on pole from Giancarlo Fisichella, then Juan Pablo Montoya (who had the disadvantage of being fourth out in the single-lap qualifying session) and Fernando Alonso. Their nearest challengers were Jarno Trulli in the Toyota and the Williams of Nick Heidfeld and Webber. Ferrari were confident this wasnt going to be their weekend, with Rubens Barrichello their best runner in 11th.
Come the race and Renault were powerless to stop the McLarens running away, despite being on lighter fuel loads than the silver cars. Fisichella seized the lead at the start, but a mistake later in the lap allowed Raikkonen to regain the place once and for all. Further misfortune befell the Italian when a fuel-rig problem hampered his first stop and it was left to Alonso to maintain the chase. It looked to be a fruitless task, with McLaren all set for a commanding one-two as the race entered its final stages. Then Montoya went to lap Tiago Monteiro, choosing to move over in front of the Jordan in the braking zone. The result was a gentle tap from behind as the yellow car failed to stop in time, putting the Colombian into a spin. He continued, but with a damaged diffuser and Alonso large in his mirrors. The pressure - or the damage - soon told and on the penultimate lap he ran wide at Turn 8 and the Spaniard sailed through for second, dealing a severe blow to Raikkonens and McLarens championship hopes.
With Fisichella fourth, Button took fifth after an impressive drive through the field. Trulli was sixth, with the two Red Bulls completing the points. Ferraris miserable weekend continued. Schumacher clashed with Webber, forcing both to pit for new bodywork, before eventually withdrawing, while Barrichello finished a lap down in tenth. There were no smiles at Williams either, with both drivers pulling out after two right-rear tyre failures each, the cause of which was thought to be bodywork touching rubber through the high g loadings of Turn 8.
But regardless of their finishing position, all the teams came away having learnt some valuable lessons about Istanbul Park and most of the drivers confessed they couldnt wait to return in 2006 to put what they had learnt into practice.
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images.