The Turkish Grand Prix Preview - Ferrari under pressure? 08 May 2008
Ferrari scored a solid one-two at the last round in Spain, but neither McLaren nor BMW Sauber are letting their heads drop. Both came away from the Circuit de Catalunya - having finished third and fourth respectively - feeling encouraged, and both expect to challenge the red cars in Istanbul this weekend.
"The three quickest teams looked to be very closely matched; and Renault have taken a major step forwards, too," says McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh. "It looks good for the sport, but we have to build on our own solid performance. We know we have some more developments coming through and we have to make sure we get them as soon as we can.
"During the second and third stints Lewis (Hamilton) was as quick as the Ferraris and able to catch up, but trying to pass a rival car at the Circuit de Catalunya is another matter altogether."
Meanwhile, BMW Sauber team principal Mario Theissen says: "Our targets for the Turkish Grand Prix are clear: we want to consolidate our position among the leaders, where Ferrari is currently the yardstick. For the fifth race of the season we will be making detail improvements to the F1.08 again. The layout of this ultra-modern circuit on the Asian side of Istanbul is a real achievement and presents a true challenge. The race has been moved from the height of summer to this earlier date, which should make quite a difference to the demands on the teams and their material. Last year we had to contend with air temperatures of 36 degrees on race day.
Ferrari may have had the advantage in Barcelona, but team principal Stefano Domenicali is exhorting his team to work ever harder to keep ahead of their rivals. We saw that they are pushing like hell," he says in reference to McLarens and BMW Saubers performance in Spain.
"It was a very difficult race with two safety cars that interrupted the pace at which we were progressing. But we did need to keep up the pace and we don't need to lose control of the reliability, because they were only three seconds behind us. The pace will be very tight and the championship is with us leading both, but it will be very, very long, believe me."
World champion Kimi Raikkonen, the current points leader, likes Istanbul Park, having won there from pole in 2005. Its a terrific circuit, demanding on the cars, but great fun to drive. And his team mate Felipe Massa loves it because he has won there the past two years. It is a place that really suits Ferrari.
All of the teams will have minor package changes to optimise their cars for the track, but interestingly Ferrari have revealed that they will not be racing their Lotus 80-style aero nose here, due to the relatively low downforce requirements.
Besides the top three, Renault entertain high hopes after their upturn in performance in Spain, Red Bull and Williams are looking for more points, and Toyota have a regular points contender too in their TF108. Ross Brawn says that the overall smoothness of Istanbul Park will also suit the Honda RA108s much more than Barcelona did with its bumps; thats a point worth noting since Jenson Button set the races fifth-fastest lap on his way to sixth place in Spain.
Elsewhere, Toro Rosso have confirmed that they will run their STR2B for one more race, before debuting the STR3 in Monte Carlo and, of course, Super Aguri will not be present after team principal Aguri Suzuki withdrew the outfit from competition on Tuesday.
All of the drivers love the Istanbul track because it is technical and presents such a great challenge. There are lots of different types of corner, a couple of straights and some elevation changes. All the ups and downs of the track dont really affect the set-up; they just make it more interesting to drive. There are some chances to overtake, such as going into the first corner, and along the long stretch that heads into the low-speed Turn 12. The corner that everyone talks about is the multi-apex left, Turn Eight. That really sorts the men from the boys.
Its bumpier than expected, and because it is such a long, fast corner if you dont get the line exactly right or lift or accelerate at the wrong moment you will get bounced off the circuit, Raikkonen says. We exit the turn flat out at 310 km/h, and it is vital to have been able to get to this speed as it takes you on to one of the short straights at the back of the track.