Paddock Postcard from Istanbul 08 May 2011
There have been plenty of familiar faces within the Turkish paddock as the 'European' season kicks off. The two Dereks, former F1 racers Warwick and Daly, were present. The former was assisting the race stewards, while the latter was there managing son Conor who was competing in GP3 as part of his inward racing graduation. Brazilians Lucas di Grassi and Luciano Burti were also around, together with former Lotus, Tyrrell and Ferrari driver Mika Salo and Damon Hill's old Brabham team mate Eric van de Poele.
From the other side of the pit wall, FIA President Jean Todt made his first appearance at a Grand Prix in 2011, as did Carlos Slim Jnr and Pirelli chief Mario Tronchetti Provera. Former F2 entrant Fred Opert visited, as did a deputation from Bahrain who met with Bernie Ecclestone about the future of their race.
With the Turkish round significantly closer to their bases than the opening three 'flyaway' races in Australia, China and Malaysia, the teams have been able to bring along their huge motorhomes so they can feel even more at home in the Istanbul Park paddock. Official tyre supplier Pirelli and HRT were two with a new-look homes-from-home.
Earlier in the week Red Bull and Toro Rosso reserve Daniel Ricciardo was out and about in a much less glamorous Istanbul location, taking part in a special karting competition and party organised by Red Bull Turkey in a multi-story car park. Around 20,000 people had entered the karting contest, although only 20 competed in the final.
"I didn't know what to expect, although I was told I'd be driving a kart at some point," said the Australian. "So I was surprised when I arrived to find a full on party venue complete with a giant stage and a great band called the Cuban Brothers. The venue for the final was certainly unusual, as it took place in a multi-story car park with the karts going up and down a couple of floors."
HRT drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan, meanwhile, enjoyed an unusual start to their weekend preparations on Wednesday, joining local Istanbul football team Besiktas JK's for a training session. Liuzzi and Karthikeyan swapped shirts with members of the Turkish Super League club, including former Atletico Madrid star Simao, and took part in a quick kick about on the pitch.
There was exciting news down at the Williams motorhome with the announcement they are to collaborate with Jaguar in the development of the British automaker's new hybrid supercar, the C-X75. Williams will provide their engineering expertise in areas including aerodynamics, carbon composite manufacture and hybrid technologies. Jaguar expect the car to deliver CO2 emissions of less than 99g/km while also being able to achieve in excess of 200mph (320km/h).
Meanwhile, the on-track support action at Istanbul Park was gripping, with great GP2 and GP3 races. The former was won narrowly by F1 refugee Romain Grosjean for DAMS, with iSport International's Sam Bird right on his tail - 0.3s adrift - after a kerfuffle during his pit stop cost valuable time and made the difference between victory and a gallant second. At one stage they were three seconds faster than the rest of the field. ART's Jules Bianchi took third place, from Guido van der Garde (Barwa Addax) and Stefano Coletti (Trident).
The race was notable for a first-lap incident involving Esteban Gutierrez and Kevin Mirocha who tangled, compacting the rest of the field and leaving no space for Fabio Leimer, who was launched over Max Chilton into a spectacular roll prompting a safety car deployment.
In GP3 rookie Tom Dillmann took a late pole position for Carlin from Britons Alexander Simms (Status) and Lewis Williamson (MW Arden), though the Scot was later dropped to eighth following two penalties for crossing the pit exit lane's white line. His race then fell apart on the opening lap as he spun after passing team mate Mitch Evans, and later rolled during a strong recovery after contact with Leonardo Cordeiro.
The race was won in style by Dutchman Nigel Melker (RSC Mucke Motorsport) from Andrea Caldarelli (Tech 1) and Dillman, with Valtteri Bottas (ART) and Felix da Costa (Status).
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