In 2004, we had Bahrain and then China and this year, it is the turn of Turkey to add its name to the list of countries hosting its very first Formula 1 Grand Prix. Turkey will become the twenty sixth country to host a grand prix, while the actual...
In 2004, we had Bahrain and then China and this year, it is the turn of Turkey to add its name to the list of countries hosting its very first Formula 1 Grand Prix. Turkey will become the twenty sixth country to host a grand prix, while the actual circuit will be the sixty ninth to stage one since the world championship begun in 1950.
Apart from the technical challenges facing the engineers and drivers in dealing with a new circuit -- the Istanbul Racing Circuit is again, like Bahrain, China and Malaysia, the work of German designer Hermann Tilke -- a new circuit also means a new set of challenges for the team's logisitics department.
That is particularly true in the case of next weekend's race, which effectively takes place on two continents. The majority of teams will all stay in hotels in the European side of Istanbul, crossing the bridge over the River Bosphorus every morning to head for the track which is located in Asia.
In charge of ensuring that Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro tackles the fourteenth round of the world championship in a state of complete readiness is Miodrag Kotur, the team's head of logistics, who began planning for this first Turkish adventure almost as soon as the race was announced around one year ago.
"The work begins back at the factory, finding out as much as possible about the new venue; looking at maps of the country, the city, the circuit," says Kotur. "Then I get in touch with the circuit organisers, before making a site visit to check out the track, the hotels and hire car companies; a trip which I made personally in November of last year."
"I also look around the town to see what facilities it has to offer in terms of restaurants or shops where the team's catering staff can get their provisions and everything else we might need over the course of the grand prix weekend."
It seems that there are Italians living all over the world and that includes Turkey! "This means we can always find some people to help us on site who speak the same language which is an advantage," maintains Kotur.
"Maybe they run hotels or a travel agency and we can rely on them for additional back-up. Of course, we can also call on the local Fiat dealer network and the Ferrari importer and this can be useful for getting hold of cars to use as team transport, from the hotels to the track."
The daily trip from town to track has already been the subject of much discussion as Istanbul is notorious for its traffic congestion, especially getting across the Bosphorus Bridge. "The track is located around fifty to ninety minutes drive from the centre of Istanbul where everyone will stay, but at least that is not as bad a journey as the one we face in Shanghai," reckons Kotur.
"But at least most of the traffic in the mornings will be coming across the Bosphorus Bridge into town as we are leaving, and additionally, many of the local inhabitants usually go on holiday in August, so there should be less traffic."
People in F1 have got in the habit of visiting new venues outside Europe, arriving early to set up camp, laying out office areas in the buildings provided and finding storage space for tyres, fuel, packing cases and other equipment. However, that will not be necessary this weekend.
"The thing to remember about this new circuit is that, although it is in Asia, it will function as a European track," explains Kotur. "By that I mean that we will have all our trucks and motorhomes there and there is no need to build up and equip offices."
"From what I could see from my visit there, before the circuit was fully completed, the garages are big and modern as is the paddock space. It is built to cope with the current needs of Formula 1 in the 21st century, so it will be much easier to work and far less cramped than some of the historic tracks we visit during the year."
"Many of the old circuits were designed in the days when each team had just one transporter and a staff of around twenty, whereas now, the big teams will use four transporters and have as many as ninety people on hand."
If the trip to and from the circuit every day promises to be out of the ordinary, so too is the journey that all teams must make to get to Istanbul from their factories in Northern Europe. A unique feature of this race is that the teams will be taking all their cars and equipment by sea, from Trieste in Italy to Istanbul at a port within 15 kilometres of the circuit.
The journey, at 72 hours, or three days is quite long. "What will be very important and critical is not so much the outward journey, as we have plenty of time with the break after Hungary, but the return journey will be very tight," says Kotur.
"The Italian GP at Monza comes a fortnight after Turkey and we have to allow the same 72 hours to make the return freight trip. So most of the freight will be leaving at around midnight after the race, which means we will have to pack up very quickly at the race track. This is all being done with the help of FOM, just as is the case for the flyaway races outside Europe."
"Actually, this arrangement is more convenient for Ferrari than for the other teams. At least Trieste is in Italy and so our trucks will be able to return to Maranello to unload and prepare for the Italian GP at Monza, whereas the English teams will have to go directly to Monza and prepare their cars there, if they feel they have insufficient time to go back to England in between the two races."
"Actually, for the other teams, they could end up doing three grands prix without returning to base. Because after the Italian GP, there is only one week before the Belgian GP at Spa. Again, we will have time to make a brief diversion via Maranello, whereas the foreign teams will head straight for the Ardennes."
"As it is a new grand prix, the whole team will arrive by special charter on the Wednesday prior to the race, rather than the more usual Thursday. We land at Ataturk airport on the European side of the city, which means it won't take long to get to the hotels in the centre of town. Then, on Sunday night, we leave from the new airport in the Asian side, which is much nearer to the circuit. All in all, it is going to be a very interesting week!"