Istanbul heat set to test tyres 16 Aug 2005
Bridgestone and Michelin will take something of a step into the unknown this weekend when they race at Istanbul Park for the first time. However, the tyre suppliers are no strangers to new circuits - last year saw inaugural visits to Bahrain and China - and both have been going through a familiar preparation process.
Bridgestone were triumphant in both new races last season and the Japanese company is hoping to repeat that success on Sunday. "This weekend's Turkish Grand Prix will present us with an exciting new challenge as we tackle the only new track on the calendar this year, said technical manager Hisao Suganuma. We have been working very closely with our teams, using simulation techniques to assess the demands of the track.
Like Bridgestone, Michelin have been carefully analysing the characteristics of the new track and its surface. The circuit is densely asphalted, with thickly coated stones that make the track look particularly black, explained motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier. At the start of the weekend cars will be running on neat tar and conditions are likely to evolve quickly as more and more laps are completed. In some ways it is a similar situation to those we faced earlier in the season at Barcelona and Montreal, where the circuits had been freshly - and totally - resurfaced.
Of course, it is not just the surface the tyre engineers will have to consider, but also the unique Hermann Tilke-designed layout. "It looks very appealing with a number of elevation changes and a blend of fast and slower corners plus a long main straight, added Dupasquier. In theory, average lap speeds should be relatively low. Aerodynamicists face the biggest headache as they try to figure out a set-up that generates sufficient downforce for the slow-speed corners without overly compromising straight-line performance.
The final key factor in determining tyre choice for Turkey will be climate. We can expect temperatures to be high, perhaps in the region of 50 degrees Celsius, explained Suganuma. The track surface should be smooth but from a tyre point of view, it will be tough. Consequently, we are taking tyres from our medium to hard compound range."
But while the engineers may be pretty confident in their predictions for rubber requirements at Istanbul Park, they also realise they have to be prepared for any eventuality. "When we race at a new track for the first time, it is best to take tyre compounds with a slightly broader operational spectrum than we usually choose, in order to minimise any risk of error, concluded Dupasquier.
Just who has made the better choice will become apparent over the course of the Turkish Grand Prix weekend, which gets underway with Fridays first practice at 1100 local time (0800 GMT).