After the three week summer break, Formula One heads to the new ground of Istanbul for this weekend's inaugural Turkish Grand Prix. The 5.3 km, Herman Tilke designed Otodrom is located 50 miles to the east of Istanbul, on the Asian side of the ...
After the three week summer break, Formula One heads to the new ground of Istanbul for this weekend's inaugural Turkish Grand Prix. The 5.3 km, Herman Tilke designed Otodrom is located 50 miles to the east of Istanbul, on the Asian side of the Bosphorous. The circuit has 13 turns and four straights and is one of only three tracks on the calendar that run anticlockwise.
Any new circuit is a challenge for the drivers and teams but Turkey will at least be partially familiar by the time they arrive. Data from venues with similar high temperatures to Istanbul, as well as the available track geometry, will allow the teams to make evaluations in regard to set up and cooling requirements.
"We use the official map of the circuit in conjunction with our simulation programmes," explained Sauber technical director Willy Rampf. "This enables us to run a basic car model in order to evaluate different parameters such as downforce levels and mechanical grip."
Istanbul has several gradient changes and the general consensus of opinion is that it will be a medium-high downforce track. It has an estimated top speed of approximately 320 kmh and lap times are predicted to be in the 1:25 area.
"The track has been adjusted to the terrain as known from classical circuits such as the N?rburging Nordschleife and Spa," said Mercedes motorsport director Norbert Haug. "The corners require a lot of downforce; however, the cars also need high speed on the straights. It will be a real challenge for drivers and engineers to evaluate the optimum set-up."
The corners are a mixture of high and low speed and some of them are quite long, which will increase the tyre loads. Along with the new track surface and the predicted high temperatures, tyres will likely be in the medium to hard compound range.
"When we race at a new track for the first time, it is best to take tyre compounds with a slightly broader operational spectrum than we usually choose, in order to minimise any risk of error," commented Michelin's Pierre Dupasquier. "We also have to bear in mind all the meteorological conditions that might confront us."
BAR's Jenson Button is one of the few drivers who has actually driven the circuit, albeit in a road car. "It looks very exciting, with some long, high-speed corners and a spectacular blind crest at turn three," Button enthused. "It's always nice to go to new circuits and the main thing in Turkey will be to make sure we are physically well prepared."
Renault's championship leader Fernando Alonso said managing the tyres in the heat will be a main consideration, along with the brakes, but it will be tough on the drivers too. "When temperatures are very high, we can lose up to 3 kilos through sweating in the car," he remarked. "So we need to be in top physical form as well as getting the car to perform to its best level."
Aside from Ferrari, there has been no testing during the summer break so unless the Scuderia has made some vast improvement, we can probably expect the private battle between Renault and McLaren to continue apace in Turkey. Alonso did not score at the last race in Budapest while rival Kimi Raikkonen won, so it's all still to play for.
The status quo between Alonso and Raikkonen was not hugely disturbed by the Hungarian result, but the championship is far from decided. "It was a great result in Hungary for me and there are still six races with a maximum of 60 points to be won for a driver," Raikkonen, who is currently 26 points behind Alonso, pointed out.
Many people are interested to see if Ferrari's improved form from Hungary will continue in Turkey and Michael Schumacher is looking forward to an untried track. "I have no trouble in approaching new circuits," said the German. "It will be a very interesting weekend."
Toyota is maintaining its fourth place in the constructors' standings and Ralf Schumacher, who scored his first podium for the team in Hungary, is looking forward to racing on the new track. "The fact that this circuit has hills makes things more interesting than usual," Ralf commented.
"The blind corners aren't a big problem but it won't be easy to brake downhill and sometimes you tend to lock up wheels on those kind of circuits. So I will take the scooter round on Thursday just to see which corner comes after which corner. Then you take the car on Friday and do the best you can."
After a three week absence the fans and drivers alike are keen for a return to competition. With only six races remaining the season is rapidly dwindling away but there's still time for some surprises to shake things up a bit. With a brand new circuit in Turkey, it's possible we could get some surprises this weekend.