Turkey flashback 2007 - Hamilton puncture blows open title race 06 May 2008
While this weekends Turkish Grand Prix will be the fifth round of the championship, 2007's race was held much later in the year - in August. By then, of course, the season was entering its final stages and the Formula One fraternity knew that whatever happened at Istanbul Park would have more than a passing bearing on the championships outcome.
In short, the Turkish race would be critical and all four contenders for the drivers crown were keenly aware that it could ultimately make or break their title prospects. With just over 20 points separating the rivals in the standings, Lewis Hamilton (80), Fernando Alonso (73), Kimi Raikkonen (60) and Felipe Massa (59) all still had a chance of clinching the championship.
For Alonso, the Istanbul race held even more resonance, as it marked his 100th Grand Prix since his debut with Minardi in 2001. And the Spaniard was keen to clinch a 19th victory and reassert his waning supremacy at McLaren. His rookie team mate Hamilton was doing a good job of undermining it and the British driver was determined to score a fourth career win in Turkey. The McLaren duos high hopes, however, held no sway over the chasing Ferrari team. Both Massa and Raikkonen had already been victorious in Turkey - the Finn in 2005, the Brazilian in 2006 - and both were confident they could do it again.
If a four-way battle for supremacy wasnt exciting enough, there was also the venue to consider. Istanbul Park is widely considered to be one of the most challenging tracks on the calendar and with sweltering heat forecast for the 2007 race it would also be a true test of durability too. Not in regular use, the circuit was also notorious for slipperiness and as Friday dawned no one expected run of the mill practice sessions.
But throw in a light shower during the morning and a problematic loose drain cover in the afternoon, and the first day in Istanbul proved even more action-packed than normal. On the timesheets, however, it remained pretty predictable, with Raikkonen taking the honours before lunch and Hamilton topping the timesheets in the afternoon. Their respective team mates proved equally quick too.
The melee behind the two front-running teams, however, was a more intensely-fought affair. Toyota looked particularly strong, as did BMW Sauber and Williams. The prize, meanwhile, for the most frustrated driver of the day went to Red Bulls David Coulthard, whose RB3 suffered a dramatic fire in the first session.
On Saturday morning Ferrari and McLaren continued to lead the field, with Hamilton fastest and Massa second. Renault, meanwhile, nuzzled their way into the best of the rest pack, alongside Williams and BMW Sauber, with Giancarlo Fisichella finishing in eighth.
As predicted though, it was Ferrari and McLaren who dominated qualifying, Massa beating Hamilton by five-hundredths of a second to snatch a second successive pole position in Istanbul, while Raikkonen took third from Alonso. BMW Sauber finished up fifth and sixth, with Robert Kubica leading Nick Heidfeld. Renaults Heikki Kovalainen was seventh, but Toyota had to be satisfied with Jarno Trullis ninth as team mate Ralf Schumacher only managed 18th. Everything was in place for a real scorcher of a fight between Ferrari and McLaren.
However, in race trim the F2007 was clearly the quicker car and it propelled Ferrari to their second one-two victory of the season. Polesitter Massa was able to lead from the start, while Raikkonen got the jump on Hamilton at the start and then comfortably toured around behind his team mate - eventually finishing 2.2 seconds adrift. Alonso, whose poor start initially dropped him to sixth, was a distant third for McLaren, but it was championship leader Hamilton who experienced the only real drama of the event.
A costly puncture late in the race, which in turn damaged his front wing, meant he went from third to fifth, behind the BMW Sauber of Nick Heidfeld. Kovalainen scored an admirable three points for Renault, ahead of seventh-placed Nico Rosberg, who finally enjoyed some luck for Williams, and Kubica in the second BMW Sauber.
The result meant that as the teams looked to the Italian Grand Prix, the penultimate round of the European season, the title battle was closer than ever. McLaren still had the advantage in the constructors standings on 148 points to Ferraris 137, but Hamilton had lost a significant chunk from his drivers lead, with Alonso now just five points adrift on 79, Massa on 69 and Raikkonen on 68.