The Turkish Grand Prix Preview 23 Aug 2007
The third Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul Park marks Fernando Alonsos 100th grand prix start since he made his debut for Minardi in the 2001 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, and he will be looking for his 19th career victory. Currently he has 73 points, to series leader and McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamiltons 80.
"It is always great to have a break and re-charge the batteries, but it is fantastic to be getting back out on track in Turkey, the double world champion says. I have a solid points total in the drivers world championship and I am aiming to build on that considerably in Istanbul. We are in a strong position in both championships and there are a lot of points to be won in the final six races. However, we are looking at the races one by one, and my focus is on this grand prix and getting the best result possible in Turkey. I have come second in the two years we have raced here previously and I will be aiming to improve on that this time.
Hamilton will be looking for win number four, coming off his latest success in Hungary, and loves the challenging track. "I have great memories of the Istanbul Park. Last year this was a defining race in the GP2 championship for me and I am really looking forward to getting out there with the MP4-22. It is an amazing track to drive, with so many different challenges, and overtaking is possible. The circuit is pretty wide, which always helps when you are trying to pass. Having dropped down to the back of the field after spinning on the second lap last year, I spent the race working my way back up to second. It felt like a win and it would be great to get on the top step this year!
It is a very physically demanding circuit; all the fast corners, such as Turn Eight which is awesome and flat out, and the heat place a big demand on the drivers. During the short summer break I have been keeping up with my training to ensure I am fully prepared for it. Along with the team, I am very motivated right now."
So, too, however, are the Ferrari duo Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa. The Finn won the inaugural race here in 2005, and the Brazilian scored his maiden win here last year. I love this place, and I am very confident that we will be in a strong shape this weekend, Massa said.
In common with all of the other teams, McLaren and Ferrari have been honing their packages in the wind tunnels and computational fluid dynamics programmes available to them, since track testing was banned during the summer break. So everyone will come here with revised cars and the hopes that changes encourage. BMW Sauber drivers Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica were recently both confirmed for 2008, and are confident that they can maintain the teams third place overall in the constructors championship, while Renault believe that they can get Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen closer to the front.
Istanbul is one of the best tracks on the calendar, and Turn Eight has rapidly become a drivers favourite together with Spas Eau Rouge and Suzukas 130R.
It is probably the most difficult corner in the whole championship, suggests Fisichella. A long-left hander, with an apex speed of around 250 km/h (155 mph), for about 6.5 seconds. There are some high g-forces to contend with, on your body but especially on the neck, and it can be very difficult, especially at the end of the race. It is demanding for the drivers, but that is the attraction for us!
Then there is the heat; the ambient temperature on race day is expected to be around 30 degrees C, which means that the track and cockpit temperatures will be commensurately higher.
It is a medium downforce track because there is one very long straight after Turn 10 where teams darent sacrifice too much top speed for better grip in the high- and medium-speed corners. Against that, however, is the fact that the surface is smooth and the kerbs quite low, so it is possible to run relatively stiff suspension settings and low ride heights to optimise aerodynamic performance.
Some 67 per cent of the lap is run at full throttle, which is well above average, and the circuit also includes a long period of around 16 seconds spent at full throttle, between Turns 10 and 12. That, together with the ambient temperature, places a premium on engine performance and reliability.