Team, Michelin looking into cause of tyre problems
Williams had hoped the Turkish Grand Prix might mark a turning point in what has been a difficult season. Instead the inaugural Istanbul race marked something of a nadir in the team's campaign, both cars forced to retire after several unexplained tyre failures.
Mark Webber had suffered a rear right tyre failure during the practice session on Saturday. The team hoped that was the end of the problem, and omens for the race initially looked good with Heidfeld qualifying in an impressively high sixth place with Mark Webber right behind in seventh.
The race was barely underway before things took a dramatic turn for the worse. Felipe Massa ran out of road after an over-optimistic start, colliding with Heidfeld as they arrived at Turn One for the first time. Two laps later the German was touring back to the pits with the first tyre failure of the afternoon, but ominously it was the rear right tyre, despite Massa colliding with the left-hand side of the car. The tyre was replaced and he rejoined in 19th place.
Shortly afterwards it was Webber who found himself in the wars, colliding heavily with Michael Schumacher as both drivers chased a one-car gap. The Australian driver lost his front nose cone and was forced to pit to replace it - Schumachers car suffered more serious damage and he was forced to effectively retire from the race (although the Ferrari team cannily sent him out again later, many laps down, to improve his qualifying position at Monza.) Shortly afterwards Webber was in the pits again for another new rear right tyre.
As the Williams team struggled to work out what was going wrong, both cars continued to race - but then first Webber and shortly afterwards Heidfeld suffered from apparently identical tyre failures again, fortunately only finding the Istanbul circuits generous gravel traps and run-off areas, with both drivers coming into retire.
Another points-free race sees Williams increasingly adrift in the Constructors Championship in a lowly fifth position and with 52 points from the season so far. Without a dramatic improvement in both form and fortune, the prospects of catching fourth-placed Toyota (with 71 points) look increasingly remote.