Leclerc hopes Turkey F1 track "still slippery" to boost Ferrari's hopes

Charles Leclerc hopes the reworked Istanbul track surface will “still be slippery” after the low-grip 2020 conditions benefited Ferrari, while several Formula 1 rivals hope the situation has improved considerably.

Ahead of this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix, the Istanbul Park circuit was water-blasted to make the surface rougher following an FIA recommendation in the aftermath of the 2020 event.

The Istanbul surface had been re-laid with fresh asphalt ahead of Turkey's return to the F1 calendar for the first time since 2011, but as the work was only completed three weeks before the 2020 race there was not enough time for the track to cure and the bitumen remained saturated with slippery oils.

That situation, allied to Pirelli bringing the hardest tyres in its range last year, left the drivers struggling to build tyre temperature and feeling like they were driving on a surface "worse than ice", per McLaren's Lando Norris.

Rain during the final two days of the 2020 event exacerbated their struggles, with several drivers spinning off – some multiple times – during the race that ended with Lewis Hamilton winning and clinching his seventh world title.

The water-blasting work, which Motorsport.com understands was only completed in the last few weeks, is aimed at making the track surface rougher to raise grip levels by exposing the gaps between the stones, with Pirelli also making its compound choice one step softer for 2021 to provide further assistance.

Leclerc said that he "remembers that a lot of people complained [in 2020], but I was one of the only ones that was actually happy that it was like this because we were competitive, we were fighting for very good positions".

He continued: "And obviously a podium was possible. I enjoyed that weekend – it didn't end up the way I wanted, by being just under the podium, being fourth.

Grandstand

Grandstand

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

"But, overall, it was a positive weekend for us, and I hope we can reproduce that this year. I've heard some things have changed – obviously they have washed the track several times.

"So, let's see if it's as bad as last year. I don't think it will be as bad, but hopefully it will still be slippery and hopefully it will still benefit us."

McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo explained that the water-blasting work should "give [the track surface] a few more edges so we can get the tyre to bite into it a bit more".

Leclerc's Ferrari teammate, Carlos Sainz, said "we're all expecting it to be better than last year" and that "it would be quite a surprise to have the same conditions as last year, because last year was very difficult and very difficult also to understand why the grip was so particularly low".

The Spaniard also suggested if the water-blasting has changed the grip-level considerably, then the field could encounter "extreme" tyre degradation with the track's demanding layout.

"If it's more like Portimao, where the grip is not high but it's OK, then should be good fun," said Sainz. "If it's like Barcelona or Silverstone – really high grip levels – then it should be also quite exciting because then the tyre wear could be quite an issue.

"Maybe for my personal interest I want them on the more extreme [side]. Then more different things that can happen and maybe more opportunity comes for me."

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, walks the track

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, walks the track

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Lance Stroll, who claimed pole in the wet 2020 qualifying and led the first half of the race before fading away to ninth, reportedly due to front wing damage, said that if the grip levels have improved then Istanbul's famous, multi-apex Turn 8 won't be "much of a corner with our cars nowadays".

He added: "If the grip picks up, I expect it to probably be flat. If it's not, it's a different story."

Wet weather is also predicted to impact the 2021 Turkey event, which Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel said he does not "mind if it rains again" because "it was good fun".

"It was very slippery last year, we'll be hoping it's not as slippery," said Vettel. "This year we have spectators, so for the spectators, it's probably not so nice to have wet conditions.

"But for us I think it could mix things up, so I'm fairly open minded."

Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas, who spun six times in the 2020 race and was lapped by Hamilton as his faint title hopes were finally extinguished, said his squad had "learned a lot about the tyres" in recent 2021 events.

"Lately in the rain, it hasn't been too bad," he said. "[Mercedes has learned] especially the operating temperatures, pressures for the inters and wets.

"[But] I really hope this track will have a bit more grip than last year, because it was quite extreme last year, even in the dry. So, looking forward to seeing how it is."

shares
comments

Related video

Verstappen: Second place in 2021 F1 standings won't change my life
Previous article

Verstappen: Second place in 2021 F1 standings won't change my life

Next article

Turkish GP: Latest F1 technical developments direct from pit lane

Turkish GP: Latest F1 technical developments direct from pit lane
Load comments
How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series Prime

How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series

The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was a race packed full of incident as Formula 1 2021's title contenders repeatedly clashed on track. Lewis Hamilton won out over Max Verstappen to level the scores heading into next weekend's Abu Dhabi finale, as Jeddah turned F1 into a drama series

The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance Prime

The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance

Dropped by Red Bull last season, Alexander Albon has fought back into a Formula 1 seat with Williams. ALEX KALINAUCKAS explains what Albon has done to earn the place soon to be vacated by the highly rated George Russell

Formula 1
Dec 5, 2021
The factors that could negate Red Bull's practice gap to Mercedes Prime

The factors that could negate Red Bull's practice gap to Mercedes

Mercedes led the way in practice for Formula 1’s first race in Jeddah, where Red Bull was off the pace on both single-lap and long runs. But, if Max Verstappen can reverse the results on Saturday, factors familiar in motorsport’s main electric single-seater category could be decisive in another close battle with Lewis Hamilton...

Formula 1
Dec 4, 2021
Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer Prime

Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer

Earning praise from rivals has been a welcome sign that Lando Norris is becoming established among Formula 1's elite. But the McLaren driver is confident that his team's upward curve can put him in the mix to contend for titles in the future, when he's hoping the compliments will be replaced by being deemed an equal adversary

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021
What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention Prime

What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention

After a disastrous 2020 in which it slumped to sixth in the F1 constructors' standings, Ferrari has rebounded strongly and is on course to finish third - despite regulations that forced it to carryover much of its forgettable SF1000 machine. Yet while it can be pleased with its improvement, there are still steps it must make if 2022 is to yield a return to winning ways

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021
How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations Prime

How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations

OPINION: The pressure is firmly on Red Bull and Mercedes as Formula 1 2021 embarks on its final double-header. How the respective teams deal with that will be a crucial factor in deciding the outcome of the drivers' and constructors' championships, as Motorsport.com's technical consultant and ex-McLaren F1 engineer Tim Wright explains.

Formula 1
Dec 1, 2021
How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison Prime

How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison

He’s had a hand in world championship-winning Formula 1 cars for Benetton, Renault and Mercedes, and was also a cog in the Schumacher-Ferrari axis. Having recently ‘moved upstairs’ as Mercedes chief technical officer, James Allison tells Stuart Codling about his career path and why being axed by Benetton was one of the best things that ever happened to him.

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2021
The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback Prime

The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback

It’s easy to look at Robert Kubica’s second Formula 1 career and feel a sense of sadness that he didn’t reach the heights for which he seemed destined. But as Ben Anderson discovered, performance and results are almost meaningless in this context – something more fundamental and incredible happened…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2021