There have been just the five Turkish GPs so far (and we’re not sure there’ll be many more) so picking three of interest wasn’t too big a task- particularly after trawling through the history of Monaco.
It’s a decent circuit this one, with the quadruple apex turn 8 particularly impressive, and should hopefully provide us with a good race come Sunday afternoon. Want a flavour for what past Turkish GPs have had to offer? Then why not enjoy Badger’s Three To Remember for the Istanbul Park Circuit…
Button & Brawn: The Final Victory.
FACT: Jenson Button won his final race of the 2009 season- and what would turn out to be his last win at the wheel of a Brawn-Mercedes- right here in Turkey one year ago. At the time he was on such a stunning run (Turkey made it six wins in seven races) that we never dreamt this would be his last victory of the season. The idea that he’d switch to McLaren for 2010, and that Michael Schumacher would take his seat, seemed even more far fetched. Bless you Formula One for your never-ending ability to surprise us.
Sebastian Vettel had taken pole in the ever-improving Red Bull, with Button alongside him, having missed out on P1 by a tenth of a second. With all previous Turkish Grand Prix having been won by the polesitter history was very much on Vettel’s side- but rewriting history was what Brawn were all about.
It was Seb who lead in to turn 1, and the young German held the lead for the next few corners. But, crucially, he ran wide at turn 9, allowing Jenson to slip through in to the lead. With a further 803 turns still to go the most decisive moment in the race had already passed.
As Jenson began to scamper off things were going less swimmingly for teammate Rubens Barichello. From 3rd on the grid he’d had plunged down the order after a start-line clutch problem. He’d fought his way back up, but spun after an entertaining little battle with Kovalainen’s McLaren, dropping him back down the order once more. He quickly made up some places, but then lost his front wing in a coming together with Sutil. The luckless Brazilian would eventually retire 11 laps from home with gearbox woes.
Meanwhile the battle between the two Red Bulls was providing some intrigue. Vettel had gone with a three-stop stratergy, and had managed to close up on Button during his second stint, fresh rubber and a light fuel load aiding his pursuit. However he couldn’t pass the Briton, leaving him vulnerable to teammate Mark Webber. The Aussie, like all the frontrunners, was two-stopping, and when Vettel pitted for the third time, 10 laps from the end, Webber was able to take second position. Seb closed up on his teammate but would have to settle for third.
In the end Button won by a comfortable 6.7 seconds from the two Red Bulls, with Jarno Trulli beating Nico Rosberg to 4th, half a minute behind the winner. Jenson would take just one more podium finish before he claimed the title in Brazil, but Turkey was a crucial victory for him. He won last year’s championship by making hay while the sun shone- in other words achieving near-perfect results whilst his was the quickest car. A year on it’s the Red Bulls who have a clear pace advantage, and after their strong showing here last season we wouldn’t bet against them this weekend. But the RB6 might not be the fastest thing in F1 all season- Vettel and Webber, like Button did last year, need to make their advantage count.
It’s the closing laps of the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix. Two of the finest Formula One drivers of the last twenty years are doing battle on track, trading fastest laps, exchanging blows. They will eventually cross the line separated by less than one hundredth of a second. But today isn’t about them- it’s about Felipe Massa, who’s about to take his first Formula One victory, driving the red Ferrari he’d always dreamed of winning at the wheel of.
2006 was the end of Michael Schumacher’s first F1 career. Turkey fell late in the season, and Michael was disputing the title with Renault’s Fernando Alonso. 10 points separated them when they arrived in Istanbul, but it was Schumacher’s teammate Massa who would steal the limelight.
Felipe had taken pole, ahead of Schumacher and Alonso, and headed the duo in to turn 1. Behind them Fisichella spun his Renault, causing mild chaos in the pack, but out front the top three calmly pulled away
The race turned at the first round of pitstops, prompted by a safety car deployed when Tonio Liuzzi spun his Toro Rosso on to the kerbs. Knowing he’d lose more time completing another lap at reduced speed Schumacher was forced to queue behind Felipe at the Ferrari garage, allowing Alonso to get the jump on him. When racing resumed Massa retained his lead, with Fernando now in front of Michael.
The second stint saw Massa eke out a lead from Alonso, who in turn was pulling away from Schumacher. A trip through the gravel cost the German 4 seconds, and his hopes of fighting Alonso for second seemed to be over. But a combination of some seriously quick laps and a superior pitstop drew the Ferrrai driver close. With ten laps to go the two title challengers were now fighting tooth and nail for second place, with Massa having pulled out a comfortable lead. Fernando and Michael traded fastest laps; Schumacher searched for an opening; Fernando kept the door firmly shut. They started the final lap seperated by 0.3 seconds.
Out front Felipe was cruising. This was his now- he was going to win his first Formula One race, and he was going to do it in a Ferrari. Special stuff for the little Brazilian, who took the chequered flag 5.5 seconds clear of second place.
Second and third crossed the line almost in unison. But it was Alonso who had claimed the runner-up spot, pipping Schumacher by less than one hundredth of a second. It had been a great battle, but this was Felipe’s day and Michael, not usually known for his generosity to teammates, was visibly thrilled that the man he calls his ‘little brother’ had broken his duck. This weekend both Massa and Schumacher are in need of a good result- little brother or not, no quarter will be given if they go wheel-to-wheel in Sunday’s race.
A Tale of Two McLarens
By the time the inaugural Turkish Grand Prix rolled around the Raikonnen/McLaren-Mercedes combination was the quickest in F1. But whilst mega quick the MP4-20, and it’s Mercedes-Benz powerplant, were also frustratingly unreliable. Two races previous Kimi had retired from the lead when his engine blew, handing victory to Renault’s Fernando Alonso. A win last time out in Hungary had brought the Finn back in to the title chase- but he needed victory in Istanbul to really challenge Fernando.
Kimi was on song in qualifying, nailing his lap to snatch pole, a quarter of a second quicker than Giancarlo Fisichella, with Alonso third.
The start of the race didn’t go quite so well for Raikonnen, as Fisichella stole a march on him and lead in to turn 1, with Alonso maintaining his grid position. But that McLaren was wonderfully on song on the Istanbul Park circuit, and when Fisichella ran wide later in the lap Raikonnen retook first place. The Italian had lead for just 11 corners.
As the second lap began Fisichella let Alonso past, but the Spaniard simply didn’t have the pace to challenge the McLaren. Kimi began making his escape.
Also going very quickly was Raikonnen’s teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, and it’s to him that the story now shifts. With Raikonnen untouchable out front, and Alonso leading the title race, McLaren needed to ensure the Spaniard scored as few points as possible. In other words, they need a one-two- they needed Montoya to perform.
And for much of the race he did, recording the fastest lap (a very impressive 1m 24.770) and leapfrogging Alonso to take second place.
But it all went wrong for Montoya with just over two laps to go. With a comfortable lead over Alonso the Colombian spun at turn 12, possibly nudged by the lapped Jordan of Tiago Monteiro. JPM rejoined just ahead of Fernando, but ran wide on the next lap as Alonso menaced him and surrendered second spot. Cue a very glum Juan Pablo on the podium.
But out front there was a very happy McLaren driver. Raikonnen had cruised to victory- so much so that Takuma Sato was able to unlap himself in the BAR- and took the chequered flag by nearly 20 seconds. Alonso’s second place was a bit of a blow championship-wise, but for Raikonnen, a man who only concerns himself with race he’s just run, it was a sweet victory.
A McLaren one-two this weekend would do wonders for the Woking-based team’s title push- but can they overcome the Red Bulls?