Round five of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Honda Racing F1 Team to Istanbul for the Turkish Grand Prix. The 58-lap race takes place at the 5.338km (3.317mile) Istanbul Park circuit, which is one of only two anti-clockwise...
Round five of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Honda Racing F1 Team to Istanbul for the Turkish Grand Prix. The 58-lap race takes place at the 5.338km (3.317mile) Istanbul Park circuit, which is one of only two anti-clockwise tracks on this year's calendar.
Istanbul Park is located on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, the transverse channel that links the Mediterranean with the Black Sea, about 90 kilometres (56 miles) from the centre of Istanbul. The undulating topography upon which the track was built in 2005 has helped to create one of the most technically challenging racetracks in the world, and also one of the most physical for the drivers.
A unique feature of the Turkish Grand Prix is the means by which the Honda Racing F1 Team's transporters travel to and from the race. Along with the rest of the teams' freight, they were shipped by sea from Trieste in Italy on Wednesday and are due to arrive at the port of Istanbul over the weekend.
ISTANBUL PARK - THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE
The anti-clockwise direction of Istanbul Park, with its eight left-handed corners, has no direct bearing on car set-up. However, as with any racetrack there are several key moments on the lap, the most significant of which is Turn 8.
The cars and drivers pull up to 5G for seven seconds through this triple-apex left-hander, making it one of the most physical corners in the world for the drivers. The minimum speed through here is 250kph (155mph), but that's not the reason why it's a key corner from a technical point of view. A mid-corner bump, when the car is fully loaded, forces the engineers not to set the ride height too low and that punishes the car's handling through other corners.
A pre-requisite for a competitive lap time at Istanbul Park is good car balance because there are a number of 180-degree corners that reward good handling. Then there's the slow left-right-left sequence at the end of the lap that leads the cars back onto the pit straight. The braking point into this section sees the cars slow from 300kph (186mph) down to 80kph (50mph), which makes it the best overtaking point on the lap.
Full throttle: 62%
Brake wear: Medium
Downforce level: Medium - 6/10
Tyre compounds: Medium / Hard
Tyre usage: Medium
Average speed: 220kph (137mph)
HONDA TEAM TALK
Ross Brawn, Team Principal
Q. How do you expect the Honda Racing F1 Team to perform at the Turkish Grand Prix?
"Istanbul Park is a great race track which our drivers really enjoy. Although there is no opportunity to test before this race, we will have some small refinements to the car and aero package to suit the characteristics of this particular circuit. I am expecting the RA108 to perform slightly better around Istanbul Park than in Barcelona, where we suffered with ride quality over the bumpy surface, so I believe we can look forward to challenging for the top ten in qualifying and hopefully scoring points again."
Q. How important to the team was Jenson's sixth place in Barcelona?
"We were extremely pleased to pick up our first points of the season in Barcelona and it was just reward for the efforts that everyone has put in over the last few months. We took many positives from the race weekend, including the good performance of the new aero package and our strategy working well, with the execution of the pit stops being especially good. Of course, there are challenges to be overcome, however I am confident we have the right attitude and commitment to resolve these. There is tremendous potential in this team and our three points in Barcelona was the first step at the start of a very intense few months of racing."
Q. What are your thoughts on the Istanbul Park circuit?
"The Turkish Grand Prix is one of my favourite races on the calendar and I've had a couple of good results here in 2005 and 2006, finishing in the top five on both occasions. The track layout is excellent with the changes in elevation making it a tough but enjoyable circuit for the drivers. There are some really good overtaking opportunities at turn one and turn three, with a chance of passing into turns nine and twelve if you get it right."
Q. Knowing the strengths of the RA108, do you expect the car to be competitive at the Turkish Grand Prix?
"The Spanish Grand Prix was our first major upgrade to the RA108 and the new aero package definitely gave us a performance improvement over the weekend. It's good to know that we are improving the car step-by-step and I was able to develop a good understanding of the new developments. The car that we take to Turkey will be essentially the same package, therefore our focus will be getting onto Q3 and qualifying in the top ten. Turkey is a circuit that I have always been competitive at, and really enjoy driving, so I am hopeful that we will have a good race."
Q. How physical is Istanbul Park for the drivers?
"The Istanbul Park track is fairly challenging from a drivers' point of view as it runs anti-clockwise which is unusual and the undulations are quite extreme which can make for an exciting lap. I have been impressed with the circuit since we started racing here in 2005. The lap itself has a nice flow, and most importantly, it's a good racing track with overtaking opportunities, which have led to some exciting races. The highlight for most drivers is the high-speed turn eight where the triple apex is really quick, blind and tough on your neck. "
Q. You reach 257 Grand Prix appearances this weekend. What does this mean to you?
"Becoming the most experienced Formula One driver ever means a great deal to me. I've had a long career in Formula One and I have so many wonderful memories, but I don't feel any different today to the day when I started out on this journey in 1993. My first race, at Kyalami, seems like yesterday. I must thank my family and friends for their unwavering support through the years. I was lucky enough to start my career in F1 at a young age and I love racing as much as ever and, importantly, I still love Formula One. Whilst people will look back at my 16-year career in Turkey, I'm still looking forward and the next race is the one that matters the most."
Honda in Turkey
Although Honda has had an official presence in Turkey since 1992, its factory in Gebze Sekerpinar only began operations in 1997. Over the last 10 years its production capacity has steadily increased and it now produces 50,000 units a year. Honda's automotive sales in Turkey were 22,102 units in 2007, giving it a 6.2% market share.