Turkish GP - A return to the team's planned development programme Maranello, 2nd June 2009 - Going into the seventh round of the world championship, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro is in fourth place in the Constructors' Championship, a long way...
Turkish GP - A return to the team's planned development programme
Maranello, 2nd June 2009 - Going into the seventh round of the world championship, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro is in fourth place in the Constructors' Championship, a long way behind the leading team. Nevertheless, the Scuderia arrives in Istanbul in optimistic mood, based on strong showings in the last two rounds in Barcelona and Monaco and the fact that it has a fantastic track record at the Istanbul Park circuit.
As of this race, the F60s driven by Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa will benefit from further modifications to the aero package, including an update to the double-deck diffuser. These changes are not as major as those introduced for the Spanish Grand Prix, but they do represent a small step forward in terms of development. More significantly, while the many changes introduced in Barcelona were mainly a reaction to the FIA's ruling on the double diffuser issue, opening up new areas that could be looked at from an aero point of view, the changes in Istanbul represent a return to the team's planned development programme, based on the principle of introducing minor updates at every race.
Even if the efforts of everyone at the factory have shown their worth in Monaco a fortnight ago, this weekend, one can expect the Red Bulls, that are particularly suited to faster circuits, to be more competitive than in the Principality, so while Brawn is likely to still be a step ahead of the pack, the fight behind between the Prancing Horse and the Bull should be much closer, as indeed it was in Barcelona. It is to be hoped that the further updates to the F60 package for this race, will continue to move Ferrari up the pecking order. Past history in Istanbul tells of a very competitive Ferrari, partly because the engineers found a good set-up basis, which is still valid despite the big changes to the technical regulations. The working practice of the team has also been validated, because the new approach adopted in Monaco in 2008 proved just as effective this year. In a sport where the car plays a huge role in the final result, it has to be said that Felipe Massa can be described as something of an Istanbul specialist. In fact, the current Ferrari driver line-up has won all four Turkish Grands Prix to date, as Kimi Raikkonen won the inaugural race back in 2005 driving for another team, when Ferrari was uncompetitive because of tyre issues. Since then, Felipe has won the last three, each time starting from pole, each time recording the fastest race lap, with the other Ferrari driver also on the podium: Kimi third last year and second in 2007, with Michael Schumacher third in 2006.
On the tyre front, Bridgestone is bringing its "soft" and "hard" tyre types, the same as used in Barcelona and the team will attempt to improve its performance on the harder compound, which has been a weak point for a while now. The fact that the front right tyre gets put under extreme pressure here is not a problem that should affect the F60, as the car is quite gentle on it tyres, which is down to set-up. Even around slow and twisty Monaco, the KERS system proved useful, if not in facilitating any overtaking, then in terms of producing good lap times and here in Istanbul, its benefits should be far more obvious and help with overtaking: The long straight, that runs from Turns 9 and 10, passing through the kink at Turn 11, ends with a hard braking entry into a tight right-hander (Turn 12) and that is the best passing opportunity on the lap. The run down to the first corner after the start is also sufficiently long for KERS to provide a handy advantage when the start lights go out. The F60s have been fitted with KERS for all bar one of the races so far this season and the team's knowledge and ability to extract the maximum from it, has improved significantly throughout the year, so that it is now being used more efficiently. As for race strategy, two stops is the most common choice, although as Hamilton showed in the McLaren last year, three is an option, because the pit lane itself is quite short and the entry to it means the drivers cut the final very slow corner. Combined with a high 100 km/h pit lane speed limit, making that extra stop can sometimes pay off in terms of running a lighter car for four stints.
Away from the technical front, Ferrari has also greatly reduced it's "lap time" from hotel to circuit and back. After years of staying in hotels on the European side of the city, it has now made the switch to the Asian side: this means the endless queues for the toll bridges across the Bosphorus are now a thing of the past, thus allowing for a very valuable additional thirty minutes before the early morning alarm clocks begin to ring!