Turkish Grand Prix Start

In the wake of Red Bull’s seemingly dominant display en route to victory in the pervious rounds at Barcelona and Monte Carlo, it’s hard to see who – reliability aside – can stop the Red Bull march to victory as the Formula 1 circus makes its way to the Istanbul Park circuit in Turkey for Round 7 of the 2010 Formula 1 World Championship season.

East will meet west once again in 2010, with Hermann Tilke’s circuit proving a huge hit with the drivers for its challenging layout. Sadly, attendance figures have continued to dip each year since its debut in 2005, and the future of the event at this great venue is very much under question.

Can the 2010 event provide fans and F1 figures alike with another great spectacle? We’ll just have to find out! Let’s take a look at what’s on offer…

The Circuit

2010 Formula 1 Turkish Grand Prix 
Date: 30 May 2010 No. Laps 58
Lap Length: 5.338km Race Distance: 309.396km

Lap Record: 1:24.770 – Juan Pablo Montoya (2005, McLaren)

The advent of yet another Hermann Tilke circuit – or ‘Tilkedrome’, as many like to term them – to the Formula 1 calendar in 2005 made many F1 insiders and fans understandably nervous, with the enthusiasm for his very formulaic designs very much on the downturn.

The initial outlay of the circuit was for it to be clockwise, however the extreme variation in the gradient – a first for a Tilke circuit, where hills are traditionally bulldozed as opposed to built over – made the circuit a much greater challenge and spectacle in the less-used anticlockwise configuration.

Its variation in altitude, corner types and camber, in addition to the usual mix of high-speed straights and hard braking points gave the circuit a far more natural feeling to it than other Tilke circuits, and it quickly became a strong favourite with many of the drivers.

Indeed, the famous quadruple-apex Turn 8, is held with as much esteem as more historic corners such as Spa’s Eau Rouge or Suzuka’s 130R – the high-speed, almost neck-breaking sweeper is a true test of the driver’s stamina.


The History Bit

The inaugural 2005 race saw Kimi Raikkonen keep his championship aspirations alive with a fine win, but his points margin over title rival Fernando Alonso would have been greater following that weekend if team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya hadn’t have thrown away second place in the closing stages by dint of tangling with Tiago Monteiro’s Jordan as he attempted to lap the Portuguese driver.

Turkey 2006 Massa However, subsequent Turkish Grands Prix have proven to be something of a stomping ground for Felipe Massa, with the Brazilian earning his maiden win from pole in 2006 (pictured left), and repeating the feat with similarly impressive performances in 2007 and 2008.

In 2009, it was a race between the Red Bulls and Brawns as the Ferraris fell off the pace. Despite Sebastian Vettel securing pole position and leading off the line, an opening lap mistake was all the invitation that Jenson Button needed to slip through to a lead he wouldn’t relinquish. Incredibly, it was to be the Briton’s last win of the season en route to the Drivers’ Championship.


What to expect?

As has been the case with the Circuit de Catalunya, the Hermann Tilke designed Istanbul circuit rewards cars with an aero package that creates downforce without compromising on drag. The Red Bull RB6 suits this description to a tee, and it would be a surprise to see them not lock out the front row at the end of qualifying.

The race for supremacy within the Milton Keynes team could not be closer – both Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel sit with 78 points apiece and a 3-3 scorecard in their head-to-head qualifying battle this season.

But with Webber having led every lap of the last two races, momentum is very much on his side leading into Spain even if the Istanbul circuit has not proven particularly kind to the Australian in the past.

Despite the team’s seemingly impregnable advantage in qualifying, come race day it certainly seems that the chasing pack is able to peg the gap. With the ‘F-duct’ equipped teams able to use their downforce-spoiling devices to good effect on the circuit’s long straights, the Red Bulls – who do not run such a system yet – will be very vulnerable to an attack under braking. However, if Red Bull decided to run its version of the system, then perhaps their rivals may as well pack up and head to the next race…

McLaren should bounce back in Turkey after a troubled weekend in Monaco where the MP4-25 was found wanting on the slower, twisty nature of the Principality’s streets. The sweeping, fast nature of the Istanbul circuit will suit their car much better, and – barring daft mechanic errors on the starting grid – the team should approach this weekend with greater confidence.

Ferrari should also feel a better prospect this weekend, with both Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa – in particular – carrying strong form in their past races here.

Currently, Felipe is missing something relative to his team-mate, but the Turkish race is one where he also seems to find that extra 10%, and this might tip the balance back on even terms.

After its outstanding podium result at last fortnight’s Monaco Grand Prix, Renault is wisely playing down hopes for a repeat performance at this more aero-dependent circuit.

While Robert Kubica was able to drive well above the potential of the R30, the Istanbul Park circuit doesn’t give a driver that same luxury, and he will struggle to figure in the top-eight.

The longer-wheelbase Mercedes GP W01 will make its second appearance after a short hiatus at Monaco following its debut at the Spanish Grand Prix. If further developments track as planned, then expect both Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg to figure there or thereabouts. What will be intriguing is the intra-team battle between the team-mates – the form book has of late favoured Michael…

But they’ll all be chasing the Red Bulls this weekend…

[Original images via The Cahier Archive, The Guardian]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.