F1 2011 Round 04 – Turkish GP Preview

Welcome to Round 4 of the 2011 Formula 1 World Championship at Istanbul, Turkey. The DHL Turkish Grand Prix marks the end of the ‘flyaway’ races and a prelude to the European leg of the title race. The inaugural race at this venue was held back in 2005, and Kimi Raikkonen won the race in his McLaren-Mercedes. In 2005 and 2006 the race took place near the end of the European stint, before the Italian GP. Since then it has been moved up the calendar and has been more or less around the Spanish/Monaco GP dates. This is the first time however, that Istanbul Park is hosting its race before any of the European races.

Since its inclusion in the F1 itinerary, Istanbul is yet to provide us with a classic race in the way China has done several times. Despite the fact that it has a corner that merits a place in the all-time list of great corners, alongside Eau Rouge and Casino Square – the uninspiring-ly named Turn 8, fast sweeping turns and slow chicanes, and the uniqueness of it’s anti-clockwise layout, it hasn’t really produced much in the way of wheel-to-wheel racing. And the problem seems to be that the circuit rewards a good car more than a good driver, as Lotus driver Jarno Trulli has often complained.

Also, one really worrying situation is the lack of attendance during the race weekend from the Turkish public, who feel the ticket prices are too high. As a result, the last few years have seen grandstands being covered with huge tarpaulins to hide the rather embarrassing spectacle of fully empty grandstands. However, just as Abu Dhabi is getting to work on modifying the circuit to make overtaking easier, Istanbul could follow suit and also reduce the ticket prices in order to bring in more people to the races, making the circuit a worthwhile investment.

From Kimi’s victory in 2005, and Felipe Massa’s subsequent domination of the GP from 2006 to 2008, the only exciting action worth mentioning is a close battle between Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso for second place right up to the finish in 2006. In 2009, Jenson was unbeatable, with his Brawn-Mercedes, after a brief battle at the start. Even last year’s race was largely uneventful except for the Red Bulls running into each other and the McLarens going wheel-to-wheel briefly.

This year, the form book going into the weekend looks pretty much identical to the 2010 edition of this race. Red Bull are ahead as usual, but McLaren have closed the gap and it appears to be a four-way fight for the win once again. These two teams have pulled out a bit of a gap to Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault, although the Italian team seems to have made some progress over the three-week break, frantically sorting out the wind tunnel calibration problem and introducing upgraded aero packages. But as the team have admitted, they are not expecting a miracle in Turkey and may have to wait until Spain to make an impact.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the 150 Italia, except for its conservative design roots. The car is just as fast as the Red Bulls and the McLarens on race day, but in qualifying it loses a truly massive amount of performance compared to the RB7. Equally, Fernando Alonso has been off-colour in these three races, making mistakes at the start and then spending the race minimising the damage. Massa has been in much better form, though his 5th and 6th places are not what the Scuderia are looking for. The car showed enormous potential during the final Barcelona test, so it remains to be seen whether the flyaway races hid the Ferrari’s true pace or not.

Mercedes and Renault will look to overhaul Ferrari and close in on McLaren but that is easier said than done. Rosberg at the moment has the best chance of beating the Ferrari duo with his scintillating qualifying form, although Renault’s famously frenetic development program could push them ahead as well. Behind them, engaging in a dogfight every weekend are the closely matched Sauber, Force India, Williams and Toro Rosso cars. Williams appears to be at the tail of this field, and its internal turmoil isn’t going to help much. Lotus on the other hand, has made impressive strides forward and is stepping up the heat on these teams with every progressive weekend.

Left behind in a lonely fight to avoid the last place are Hispania and Virgin. HRT made a disastrous start to the season, with their cars not able to make it through the 107% rule in Australia, but have looked a better prospect for this season compared to Virgin. Both teams have highly regarded technical chiefs, talented drivers, and it looks like a lack of money is going to keep them stuck in a rut while Lotus steams ahead.

Predictions for the race? Well, it’s hard to imagine anything other than a Red Bull on pole – the RB7 has a bewitching advantage on Saturday afternoons, and their claim to have resolved the KERS issues is an added threat, but thankfully, the race is too close to call between the McLarens and the Red Bulls. And with due respect to both teams, lets not forget the key to winning in Turkey as always, will be tyre-management. The Ferrari has been outstanding in this respect, which is why an improved 150 Italia could be a threat to these two teams. As ever, maintaining the Pirellis through the fearsome Turn 8 will be crucial. Rain is predicted for all three days of the weekend, and is another critical factor. And when you add these to the DRS wing and KERS boost which are already giving us better and closer racing, there’s no doubt in my mind that Istanbul could surprise us all this year with a race to redeem itself.

Here are some of the circuit and event details :

Session Timings

Race Local Time :

Friday, 6th May

Practice 1 – 10:00 to 11:30

Practice 2 – 14:00 to 15:30

Saturday, 7th May

Practice 3 – 11:00 to 12:00

Qualifying – 14:00

Sunday, 8th May

Race – 15:00

Indian Standard Time :

Friday, 6th May

Practice 1 – 12:30 to 14:00

Practice 2 – 16:30 to 18:00

Saturday, 7th May

Practice 3 – 13:30 to 14:30

Qualifying – 16:30

Sunday, 8th May

Race – 17:30

Weather Forecast

Source : BBC Weather

Circuit Details

Race Date : 08 May 2011

Circuit Name : Istanbul Park Circuit

Orientation : Anti-Clockwise

Number of Turns : 14 (8 Right, 6 Left)

Number of Laps : 58

Circuit Length : 3.317 miles (5.338 km)

Race Distance : 309.396 km

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

Circuit Map

A lap of Istanbul Park Circuit with Fernando Alonso

“We will cross the start and finish line in sixth gear, at 300 kph on a flying lap – and it is actually positioned quite close to the first corner. We will touch 310 kph before braking heavily for the T1/T2 sequence, which comprises a tight left hander followed by a progressively opening right. The left hander is taken in 3rd gear at around 160 kph, and we will then be back on the power as soon as possible as we take 2, lifting only briefly to apex at around 220 kph.

The run to T3 curves gently right, and we will once again hit 320 kph before braking heavily for the next sequence of three corners. The first corner, the left-hander of T3, is actually the quickest of these, taken at 165 kph in 3rd gear, and we will have to compromise the exit slightly, sticking to the left of the circuit to get the correct line for T4. We downshift once for the right hander, taking it at 120 kph before a short burst of acceleration to 3rd gear, then braking again for the tight double-apex lefts of T5 and T6. These will be treated as one corner, with T5 taken at 120 kph before T6 under full acceleration. Like T2, the exit of this corner opens out, and we will have to be on the power as soon as possible, with a stable rear end, to maximise our speed on the run to T7. This type of corner also puts the rear tyres under real strain, as they are subjected to high lateral loads as well as the acceleration forces.

The track runs downhill slightly on the way to T7 – and we will touch 300 kph before braking to 2nd gear for the right hand hairpin, which is taken at 115 kph. Once again, the corner opens out on exit, and leads us into the most interesting corner on the circuit – T8. This long left hander will be particularly tough for the right front tyre, as it comprises four different apices, taken at approximately 175 kph in third and fourth gears. Once again, a clean exit will be important as any mistakes could open the door for cars behind into T9.

The sequence of T9/T10 will be treated like a chicane – we brake from 310 kph in sixth gear to 115 kph for T9, the left-hander, before then accelerating through T10 without lifting at approximately 200 kph. A good exit from T9 and the correct line through T10 will be crucial as they lead onto the circuit’s longest straight – and its most obvious passing opportunity. The right-hand kink of T11 is taken flat out in sixth gear at 310 kph, and competitors will have a good opportunity to overtake on the brakes into T12.

We will hit a maximum speed of around 320 kph before braking for the slowest corner on the circuit, T12, taken at just 95 kph in second gear. We may see some interesting manoeuvres into the corner, because it is immediately followed by a slow right-hander at T13 – meaning a driver on the outside through the hairpin will have the ideal line in T13. That could mean we see cars battling side by side through these corners.

T13 will be taken at 110 kph, and we will then look to position the cars on the right-hand side of the circuit to get the best possible line through T14 – and onto the start/finish straight The final corner will be taken in 2nd gear, at approximately 115 kph, before accelerating hard down the main straight and towards another lap.

On-board lap of Istanbul Park Circuit

Technical Requirements

The purpose-built anti-clockwise circuit on the outskirts of Istanbul offers a mix of challenging low and high-speed corners and has already established its position as a firm favourite with the drivers. Overtaking is difficult, especially in the first half of the lap, but the long back straight leading into the tight hairpin of Turn 12 offers the ideal opportunity for a lunge under braking. Combine this with the challenge of Turn Eight, which is one of the most demanding of the year, and you have all the ingredients for an exciting Grand Prix.

As a relatively new facility the track surface at Istanbul is in good condition and the kerbs are not especially aggressive, which makes it quite straightforward to find a stable car balance. Teams will seek a compromise between stiffer settings for the high-speed part of the lap to give a good change of direction, and softer settings for the low-speed section, particularly the final few corners to ensure good mechanical grip.

Nelson Piquet explains: “It’s quite difficult to find the right compromise with car set-up at Istanbul because the lap is so varied in terms of corner speeds and grip. The last three corners of the lap are the slowest on the circuit, taken in second gear at around 80 km/h. Turn 12 after the long back straight is the biggest braking zone of the circuit and offers the best overtaking opportunity of the lap. It’s easy to make a mistake here and go in too deep, which puts you out of position for the final couple of corners and can cost you a lot of time.”

There are few critical high-speed corners at Istanbul Park, but the teams will still run with medium downforce settings in order to carry good speed through the long left-hander of Turn Eight, which puts high g-forces through the drivers’ necks.

Fernando Alonso explains: “Turn Eight is one of the quickest and longest left hand corners of the year. It’s really a series of corners with four apexes, although we treat it as one apex and try to be as smooth as possible with the steering inputs. We don’t touch the brake at any stage through the corner, and simply lift the throttle slightly to keep the car online. In the middle of the corner we’re doing about 260km/h and you can really feel the g-forces on your body. It’s easy to understeer wide in this corner, which will cost you a lot of time, but there’s plenty of run-off to save you.”

While the aero grip keeps the cars glued to the track through Turn Eight, it is mechanical grip that predominates between Turns Three to Five and Turns 12 to 14.

The braking zone into Turn 12 after the long back straight is the most significant on the circuit. It also represents the best overtaking opportunity and will normally see plenty of action during the Grand Prix. Overall the circuit is not particularly demanding on the brakes, which have enough time to cool on the long straights before the main braking zones, although with medium downforce settings the drivers may struggle with locking of the rear brakes.

The Turkish Grand Prix is quite a demanding track on the tyres, largely due to Turn Eight which puts high loadings through the tyres, particularly the front right. To avoid any potential problems, we can adjust suspension settings and front wing angle; however, we must always be mindful of finding the correct balance between protecting the tyres and maintaining mechanical grip, to ensure the car is quick in the more technical parts of the circuit. Pirelli will supply the hard and soft compounds from their 2011 range.

Istanbul presents a varied workout for the engine, requiring both good top speed and low end performance. Turn Eight remains a constant concern where the engine is concerned as it is important to ensure effective power delivery at high revs for good performance in this high-speed corner. Overall around 65 percent of the lap is spent on full throttle, which is about average for the circuits on the calendar.

Analysis : The magic of Turn 8

Provided by Mercedes GP

Although the Turkish Grand Prix is a relatively new addition to the calendar, its Turn 8 has already found an entry into Formula 1 folklore as one of the best corners of the season.

The high-speed triple apex turn challenges cars, drivers and tyres to the limits – and will once again be a focus of attention at Istanbul this weekend thanks to Pirelli’s first event at the venue.

Ahead of the grand prix, Mercedes GP has issued a statistical analysis of the corner – which highlights just how impressive the corner is, and how it compares with other famous turns on the calendar like 130R at Suzuka or Pouhon at Spa-Francorchamps.

Turn Eight is the longest corner of the season. What are the key facts?

Turn Eight is 640m long – which equates to 12 per cent of the total lap distance of 5.338 km – and lasts for 8.5s, equivalent to 10% of the current lap record of 1:24.770 set in 2005. Drivers generally take three apexes, the slowest of which is at 260 km/h, with an average corner speed of 270 km/h.

How does this compare to the other longest and fastest corners of the season?

Turn Eight presents a unique combination of very high speeds and sustained load. In terms of time spent in the corner, the cornering phase through Turns one and two in Shanghai totals 8.7s – which exceeds Turn Eight – but during deceleration rather than at sustained high speed. The Parabolica at Monza lasts for 7.6s, and Barcelona’s Turn Three for 7.4s. In terms of speed, comparable corners are 130R at Suzuka (3.7s, 315m) and Copse at Silverstone (3s, 240m) – both have a duration of less than half that of Turn Eight. In terms of distance, the season’s next longest corners are Parabolica at Monza (470m) and Spa’s Pouhon (460m) – both are over 25% shorter than Turn Eight.

What G-forces do the drivers experience in Turn Eight? The peak G-force is 5G, while a level of 4.5G is sustained for two seconds. The average G-force in the corner is 3.5G.

What demands does this place on the tyres?

Turn Eight is the most demanding corner of the season in terms of tyre energy. Although it represents just 12% of the total lap distance, this corner alone accounts for approximately 40% of the total tyre energy during the lap at Istanbul Park. Of the car’s four corners, the right-hand front tyre is worked hardest.

What loadings are the cars subjected to in the corner?

The peak suspension loadings through the corner are over 10,000N – equivalent to a force of 1,000kg, or over 150% the total car weight. The average loading on the right-hand front is 7,000N. The corner also imposes vertical G-forces owing to the bumpy surface between the first and second apexes: the variation between +0.5G and -0.8G feels harsh to the drivers.

How does car set-up take account of the corner?

Car set-up must take this corner into specific consideration, notably in terms of tyre camber settings and ride heights, particularly at the rear of the car.

What do the drivers think of the corner?

For seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, the corner is “not particularly difficult to drive but one of the season’s longest and pretty fast.” Performance in the corner is car-dependent: “It’s very heavy on the tyres, and the way you drive the corner largely depends on the car and how you have set it up. That compromise might make it tricky, so we need to wait and see how it goes.” In contrast, team-mate Nico Rosberg finds it “one of the most challenging corners of the year” owing to the high speed and prolonged G-loadings. “If I had to create a fantasy F1 circuit, this corner would definitely be included!”

2010 Flashback : Red Bull drivers throw away easy 1-2 into McLaren hands

This was the single most dramatic weekend of the season. At Istanbul, it was a straight fight between the Red Bulls and the Mclarens.  The Red Bulls had unbeatable traction in the corners, while the Mclaren F-duct provided startling speed on the straights. Webber, Vettel, Hamilton and Button ran in a tense, closely bunched up group for much of the race, running away from the rest of the pack.

Just when we thought it was going to be an uneventful finish, WHAM! Sebastian Vettel, in a brain-fade moment, made the mother and father of all screw-ups, trying a hasty move on the inside of Webber, and sending them both off the track. The Red Bull team stared in disbelief as their drivers threw away an easy 1-2 and gifted 43 points to arch rivals Mclaren. Webber made it back onto the track to take third place, while Sebastian retired on the spot and indicated that Mark was a loony.

Except for the fact that it wasn’t deliberate, it reminded me of the Prost-Senna annual-take-each-other-out competition at Suzuka. Two very quick drivers, and both can’t stand losing to each other. One a solid reliable driver, the other an intense, lightning fast, and impetuous racer. Honestly though, I’m surprised that the Red Bull pitwall didn’t see that one coming. Or did they want Vettel to win the race? We may never know, but it was the most embarrassing moment ever for Red Bull, the team gifting an easy 1-2 to the opposition.

One of the things that lends credence to the theory that RBR wanted Vettel to take the lead, is that Webber was told to wind down his engine a little bit to conserve fuel at the same time as Seb increased his pace on new tyres. Although both drivers were deemed to be at fault, I’m inclined to apportion more of the blame on Vettel. Webber gave him some space, and all he had to do was outbrake his team mate on the inside line. Moving across and expecting Webber to yield tamely was kind of stupid. Luckily for the team, Webber was able to continue on and get third place, but that’s hardly any consolation. And then the Mclaren men rubbed it in moments later by showing Red Bull how to race wheel-to-wheel without taking each other out.

We thought it was going to be an easy walk in the park, a comfortable 1-2 for the British squad. But minutes later, Jenson and Lewis went wheel-to-wheel and every single one of us stared with pounding hearts and bated breath. But as if to add insult to Red Bull’s injury, the Mclaren boys showed everyone how it’s done, on-the-edge but in control, with clean passes and fair racing. Just look at the picture above to appreciate how unbelievably close it was between these two. Lewis eventually triumphed, but coming on the back of Red Bull’s disastrous shunt, it was one of the finest moments in motor racing, with unparalleled excitement, tension and expectation.

This year, we are more or less in a similar situation – Red Bull and McLaren are at the top going into the 2011 Turkish GP, but with a three-week break after China, you never know, Ferrari, Mercedes or Renault may have found a few tenths here and there. And best of all, rain is predicted for the entire weekend. It should be a great weekend of F1 then. Lets roll.


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