Turkey Preview - who can beat the bull? 27 May 2010
The undulating 5.338-kilometre Istanbul Park circuit is unusual in that it is one of only four on the calendar that runs anti-clockwise, the other three being Singapore, Brazils Interlagos and Abu Dhabi. Its unique selling point is the formidable Turn Eight, the everlasting left-hander which has three apexes and is taken around 250 km/h at arguably the highest G-forces the drivers experience during the season. Elsewhere, speeds reach 320 km/h and track temperatures of up to 55 degrees Celsius are to be expected. Its a tough place.
Naturally, aerodynamic efficiency is at a premium here, which means that the on-form Red Bulls will be in their element. Mark Webber is the man in form right now, with back-to-back victories in Barcelona and Monte Carlo, but team mate Sebastian Vettel will have a new chassis after a small defect was found on the one he used in Monaco and the German hopes that will put him back on top. Going into the race the two of them share the world championship lead.
Ferrari and McLaren, however, entertain very strong hopes of getting on terms with the energy drink cars. Ferraris Fernando Alonso firmly believes that he could have challenged for victory in Monaco had he not crashed at Massenet corner on Saturday morning. Team mate Felipe Massa, meanwhile, had never lost a race round the Otodrom until Jenson Button won for Brawn last year.
The Englishman is dead set on making up for the silly snafu McLaren made with a radiator intake protector in Monaco, and his team mate Lewis Hamilton is determined to win at a track where he has always tended to be fast but unlucky.
Istanbul Park is a track that I really enjoy, says Button. Turn Eight is one of the best corners in Formula One: it feels fantastic when you throw the car into the first apex, and then just feed it through with very precise throttle and steering inputs. When you get it right, it feels absolutely fantastic - you really can pull a lot of speed through that corner.
Actually, I think the track is one of the better modern circuits we visit - its got a good balance of corners, some good gradient and, most importantly, in terms of overtaking, its probably the best-designed circuit that we visit all year. If you can follow a car out of Turn 10, then youve got a really good chance of getting a tow and having a look up the inside into Turn 12, or even Turn 13 - those two corners are where all the passing usually happens.
Hamilton says: I think we came away from Monaco with a respectable result, but the MP4-25 wasnt particularly well suited to a tight and bumpy track like that. At a place like Istanbul Park, our car will be back in its element. It loves smooth, fast circuits, where the aero can really work over the car through the long, fast corners. It should feel fantastic to drive.
So, looking at the characteristics of the track, its a place where we should be able to pick up from where we left off in Spain. Were not under any illusions, but we think well be able to get another decent result and were hopeful of taking the fight to the cars at the front.
Mercedes GP come to Turkey embarrassed after a poor race in Monaco, but team principal Ross Brawn was bullish when he said: We will return to our previous suspension system and longer wheelbase car, we have the latest iteration of our 'F-Duct' rear wing plus further aerodynamic developments.
Force India also have an important upgrade, which is why test driver Paul di Resta wont be running on Friday morning so that Vitantonio Liuzzi and Adrian Sutil can acclimatise to their revised cars, but Williams have been forced to revert to their old, pre-Monaco front wings, having run out of time to manufacture more new ones after the heavy accidents that befell Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg in Monaco.
Bridgestone will once again bring their hard and soft compounds here, and making the latter last through race-pace laps in Turn Eight will be one of the keys to success.