Istanbul Park: What You Need to Know

After the trip to China, a three week break seems an ideal time to kick back and relax for fans and teams alike. Relaxation is a pipe dream for anyone in the industry, Turkey signals the beginning of the European leg of the season (despite being on the Asian side of Istanbul) and also the moment for the first big upgrade push. You might want to record this race though, as it could be the last one for a while if contract negotiations go south over the hosting fee. It’s a prevalent theme across the board this year, the economic recession is still casting its shadow and Formula One hasn’t escape its grasp. The hosting fee is set to double and the Turkey GP organisers are baulking at the steep hike over renewal, and with the dramatic decline in attendance it looks set to make way for either Russia or the US GP joining the calendar next year.

Other issues that may join the other nails in the coffin are the location, ticket prices for the locals and general interest of the locals. Although F1 has a global audience, each circuit depends heavily on the local residents to fill the majority of the stands, and in the case of Turkey the track is in the middle of nowhere and ticket prices are considered too high for locals. The result of this is that when the world tunes in they don’t see the hustle and bustle they associate with such a high-grade sport, they see rafts of empty stands. Shanghai organisers got on top of the same issue this year by lowering prices and covering empty stands with ‘CHINA’…hey, at least it’s original.

Fact File: Istanbul Park, Turkey

Image credit: Will Pittenger

Laps 58
Circuit Length 5.338 km (3.317 miles)
Race Length 309.396 km (192.250 miles)
First Race 2005
Fastest Lap J P Montoya 1:24.770 (2005)
2010 Winner Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)

Layout and Approach:

What we have here is a anti-clockwise circuit that features some serious undulation across the lap, a notorious corner thrown in and we have a track to talk about. Istanbul Park has only been around since 2005, but turn 8 has quickly become known as one of the trickiest corners on the calendar. It’s here that the men are sorted from the boys, the big fish from the small fry, the gym bunnies from the slackers. It’s classified as 1 turn but in fact it’s a combination of 4; a full 7 seconds, and up to 5G at around 250km/h…well done Turkey.

The start can also throw up some problems as well, as you can see from the map above, when the lights go out they are very close to the first 2 corners meaning 24 cars will be tussling for position very quickly. Crash, bang, whollop? possibly. With this being one of the new generation of tracks you would expect to see some familiar characteristics, such as a tight hairpin at the end of a very long straight…nope not there is it? For Istanbul Park Hermann Tilke said he designed it to ‘catch the drivers out’, and he took inspiration from well known circuits to do that. Spa, Monza and Silverstone have all been called upon or compared with.

Car set-up is also a tricky subject coming here, with a wide range of corners throughout the lap what do the teams plump for? The engine will be expected to work hard across the full range of power, from bottom to top. The drivers are going to need that when throwing that car around turn 8, but they will also need a good level of traction when hitting those slower sections.

Overtaking and Strategy:

This circuit isn’t exactly littered with overtaking spots, but several drivers have picked turn 12 to be the best one to overtake on, after a straight it will be a test on braking bravery when attempting to gain position. Practice sessions are going to extremely useful in order to get vital data on how tyres behave under the duress of that turn 8, teams must be working hard to figure out the best strategy to avoid wearing the rubber down to the canvas.

Weather again will be a factor, it’s Turkey so it should be hot right? Well judging by the forecast at the beginning of the week, it looks like Friday will be featuring heavy rain and cool temperatures of 11°C. Could we be catching a glimpse at wet weather tyres this weekend? It seems highly unlikely that the wet weather will extend into the weekend past the first practice, as average track temperature tends to be around the mid 50s. With the heat in mind, KERS could be a huge issue for teams who have yet to resolve the issue over the break. Red Bull are the most notable team to be having problems with the boost, but other teams have been struggling too. And with the heat, cooling is a major concern to get to the end of the race in one piece.

Tyres:

Turn 8 will provide a high level of wear on those already delicate tyres, so before the rubber jumps the cliff drivers will be nursing them through this corner to get them back to the pits. High speed sections and heavily braking will only increase the energy driven through the rubber, and flat spots are going to be more likely.

Why Turkey Rocks:

It might not be a favourite with locals for a variety of reasons, but it seems to be one with the drivers. The challenge presented by an anti-clockwise track (drivers necks are used to a clockwise setting) and a tough turn halfway through the lap, put extra strain on the body. The track surface itself can be bumpy, and in the past it has sent drivers and their cars off track, but since those early days the circuit has been tamed by a Brazilian. Felipe Massa put himself at the top of the podium 3 times in a row between 2006 and 2008, and with the boost of confidence he has received so far this season from being the Ferrari driver to talk about, he might wear his ‘King of Turkey’ crown again. Talking of confidence boosting, both Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton received a hefty dose in Shanghai, and with the McLaren driver winning last year he will be determined to keep Vettel in check.

5 Key Points:

  • Turn 8
  • Hot weather
  • Massa revival?
  • Engine reliability
  • Tyres and drivers under strain
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