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Taming Turn Eight - Istanbul Park's true test of grit 25 May 2010

Robert Kubica (POL) Renault R30.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 13 May 2010 Robert Kubica (POL) Renault 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Monaco Grand Prix, Practice Day, Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Thursday, 13 May 2010 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R29.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Practice Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Friday, 5 June 2009 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R29.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Saturday, 6 June 2009

Ask any driver on the grid a question about Turkey’s Istanbul Park and it won’t be long before they mention Turn Eight. As corners go, it’s pretty special and has already built up a fearsome reputation. It’s a 260 km/h rollercoaster, with a few bumps thrown in for good measure, and puts immense g-forces through the car and driver. Mastering the corner requires a sound set-up and supreme driver skill.

Although Turn Eight is usually described as a quadruple-apex corner, the drivers will treat it more like a double-apex corner. And, like any corner, the engineers still think of Turn Eight in three phases: turn-in, mid-corner, and exit. The only difference is that this corner is one of the longest of the season taking a full eight seconds from corner entry to corner exit. And in that time the car travels 600 metres with a top speed of 270 km/h.

The g-force stats are just as impressive with the drivers experiencing an average lateral force of 4.3g during those eight seconds, with a peak of 5.2g. So it’s tough on the drivers’ necks and don’t be surprised to see some extra padding appear on the headrests to help the drivers through the 58 laps of the Turkish Grand Prix.

Set-up wise, the teams will concentrate on finding a good aero balance to keep the cars glued to the track through this high-speed corner with the front wing set up to provide good front-end stability.

Another important parameter is the car’s ride height, as Renault’s chief race engineer Alan Permane explains: “There are a couple of bumps in Turn Eight so we need to make sure that the car doesn’t start bottoming, especially at the start of the race when we are heavy on fuel. So choosing a ride height setting that will work for both qualifying and the race is a priority. The challenge is to set the car up so that it’s drivable in all conditions.”

It’s those bumps on the racing line which will make it challenging for the drivers to take Turn Eight flat, even in qualifying trim. “It’s always been a tricky corner because of the bumps, which upset your balance,” confirms Renault driver Robert Kubica. “Last year it was nearly flat so we will have to see what it’s like this year. I’m not expecting it to be particularly challenging during qualifying, but it will be at the start of the race when your tyre pressures are low and the car is heavy on fuel.”

While those first few laps of the race will be a step into the unknown, the drivers know that Turn Eight will become easier as the fuel load comes down. And assuming that the tyres don’t degrade too much, there could be a chance of cars taking Turn Eight flat in the closing stages of the race.

Talking of tyres, Turn Eight has traditionally been a ‘tyre killer’ with the front right subject to sustained high loadings on every lap, which can lead to graining. Understanding tyre performance will therefore be at the top of the job list when free practice gets underway at Istanbul Park on Friday.