ISTANBUL, 25TH-27TH AUGUST 2006. The ART GP team left Turkey with an unassailable lead in the team championship after a total of three podium finishes at the Istanbul circuit, two second places from Lewis Hamilton and one third from Alex Premat, meaning that they will be crowned 2006 champions at the next round in Italy.
Hot and dry conditions were the call of the Turkish weekend and after qualifying in fifth, Lewis dropped back to sixth at the start of race one, however he soon sailed past the fighting Jose Maria Lopez and Adam Carroll for fourth and was soon hunting down his teammate, Alex Premat, who had made it into second at the start of the race. Losing the position to Giorgio Pantano, Alex was back in third as his teammate began pushing for the position. Determined not to give in easily, the two ART drivers ran side by side for almost a lap before Lewis managed to execute the pass and head off after Pantano.
Taking the position before Pantano retired, Lewis was on his way to a podium finish, crossing the line for second with Alex a fine third, the duo giving the team a double podium. This thrilling race was just a taste of what was to come on Sunday when Lewis drove the wheels off his Dallara for another podium finish, becoming the star of the show in the process. Starting seventh behind his teammate, Lewis spun on the second lap and dropped all the way down to 16th, however he refused to let this beat him and he fought back brilliantly over the course of the next few laps to be back up behind Piquet by lap 16.
But, the excitement didn't stop there as this epic battle continued with Lewis running side by side with Timo Glock, neither driver prepared to yield. Meanwhile, Piquet was close behind and waiting for the chance to pounce. Finally on lap 21 Lewis made his move and headed off after third placed Adam Carroll where he stayed until the final lap. A late braking manoeuvre saw the ART driver make it through into second, crossing the line moments later to complete one of the finest drives in GP2's history.
Meanwhile, Alex earned six points due to his third place in race one, but after being forced to go wide on the opening lap of race two, he made slight contact with Pantano, Piccione and Di Grassi. While no damage was done, his car become difficult to drive and left him unable to match his teammate's performance. Lewis now heads into the final two rounds of the season at the Monza circuit ten points ahead of Nelson Piquet in their battle for the 2006 crown while Alex sits third, 39 points behind his teammate. However, the young Frenchman will also have to fight to secure his position in Monza as Timo Glock sits just four points behind in fourth.
Frederic Vasseur: We left Turkey without victory, something that is always a small disappointment; however to secure the title in the team championship on Saturday was an immense satisfaction. Our two drivers did a great job with three podiums and a history making drive from Lewis, who put himself in a good position for the final races of the season in Monza, where his and the team's objective be to take the drivers crown. Alex will have his own battle with the fight for 3rd place in the drivers championship.
Alexandre Premat : To finish third and on the podium in race 1 was a great achievement that I can be proud of. It wasn't an easy race, but I had a really good start and was in second position right away. I almost took a gamble and thought that I would try and pass Nelson Piquet Jr, but I played it safe to ensure that I didn't ruin the team, and my own hopes. We had excellent grip on the hot track but the car was difficult to drive until my first early pitstop. We then changed the tyres and the car was better. I could fight, overtake and secure some important points for the championship. I was not feeling well on Sunday morning as I had caught a cold. This may have been the reason why my start was not fantastic and could have been better. Still, I was forced to go wide into the gravel on the first lap and I lost a bit of time. Later I was involved in a slight contact with Pantano, Piccione and Di Grassi, but fortunately it did not to do any damage to my car. The race was really hard for me as my car was very difficult to drive. I am really disappointed that I couldn't make it onto the podium again. However, I will remain focused and I'm determined to end the season on a high note in Monza.
Lewis Hamilton: To come from fifth was really good for us in race 1. We needed the points as Nelson is getting close and we had good race pace. I just put my heart and soul into that second race. It's just all hope, you keep it inside you and push to the end. I never give up-never. That's been my motto since I was very young. And today it served me well.