Ferrari are expected to be competitive at the most aerodynamically critical venues – and Istanbul is definitely one of those. But last year Fernando Alonso was able to unsettle and split the red cars – something he and Lewis Hamilton will be trying to do again, without giving away anything to each other.
Read the preview and make you podium predictions below…
F1 heads to one of its newest tracks, Istanbul Park outside the capital of Turkey, created by Hermann Tilke.
The designer has had a lot of criticism for some of his tracks but Istanbul Park is widely considered one of his best. It has numerous spots for overtaking, several challenging bends, plenty of gradient, and the excellent, ultra-quick turn eight.
TV times – Britain
Schedules from ITV and Radio Times
Grand Prix Qualifying live – Saturday 25th August ITV1 11.30am – 1.15pm (Qualifying starts 12am)
Grand Prix Race live – Sunday 26th August ITV1 11.45am – 3.05pm (Race starts 1pm)
Grand Prix Race highlights – Sunday 26th August ITV1 11.15pm – 12.20am
Grand Prix Race highlights – Monday 27th August ITV4 6pm – 7pm
If McLaren’s drivers can focus their attention on beating their Ferrari rivals rather than each other, then either can still be the champion. In the three-week break since the last race they better have come up with some compelling solution to the problem of giving each driver a fair crack at winning each race and not letting one spoil the other’s efforts.
Fernando Alonso drove brilliantly at Istanbul last year, piling the pressure on the dominant Ferraris and squeezing more than one mistake out of Michael Schumacher. Lewis Hamilton was every bit as impressive in the GP2 event, flying past rival after rival following an early mistake.
Renault can’t seriously expect to overhaul BMW in the remaining races, particularly after their poor showing at the Hungaroring.
Giancarlo Fisichella had a poor weekend last year and desperately needs to put one over Heikki Kovalainen, who is beginning to overshadow him.
Ferrari can still win both titles but this needs to be the first of a string of raes where they hold the upper hand over McLaren. The highly aerodynamically efficient F2007 is expected to be just the job here.
Felipe Massa may get a fillip from returning to the scene of his first ever pole position and victory 12 months ago. He needs it, because he hasn’t won since May.
Nothing less than a front row lockout and a one-two in the race will do, though even that wouldn’t necessarily solve the thorny problem of which of their drivers is the better championship prospect.
Honda were the first team to be beaten by Spyker in a straight fight at the Hungaroring, and designer Shuhei Nakamoto has recently admitted that he needs help sorting out the cars aerodynamic balance.
For drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, then, this race will be all about trying to get through the first stage of qualifying and, after that, hoping for rain.
Istanbul has been a bogey track for BMW – neither car scored here last year or in 2005, when the team was Sauber.
The driver situation at the team is fascinating. Nick Heidfeld had the upper hand at the beginning of the year, but Robert Kubica has generally been stronger since returning from his Canada crash. Heidfeld’s contract has still not been sorted for next year, which (with former BMW tester Sebastian Vettel confirmed at Toro Rosso) strongly suggests that the Mario Theissen is trying to scoop one of the big four.
The disgruntled Alonso could be top of his list – if not, then perhaps he is trying to prise Nico Rosberg from estranged partners Williams.
Ralf Schumacher finished seventh last year so perhaps we’ll see his more competitive side once again this weekend. He’s another established driver in need of a contract for next year, and it’s hard to see who other than Toyota might want to sign him.
As usual expect Mark Webber to qualify well but points will be a challenge – the Red Bull never seems able to deliver on its qualifying pace during the race. And there are still question marks over its reliability.
Williams have a best finish of tenth at the Istanbul Park, and if they keep pulling the kind of strategic blunders that turns fourth on the grid at the Hungaroring into seventh at the chequered flag, then it’s going to stay that way.
Another strong qualifying performance from Nico Rosberg is essential, as ever Alexander Wurz will be struggling to hang on to his team mate.
Scuderia Toro Rosso-Ferrari
Many expected Sebastian Vettel to give Vitantonio Liuzzi a wake-up call at the Hungaroring. That didn’t happen although, of course, Liuzzi retired with car failure, which is hardly unusual for the team this year.
The pressure remains on the Italian as he fights to stay in F1 for 2008. His options at the moment appear limited, and he desperately needs the kind of attention-grabbing solid points score that’s just not possible with a Toro Rosso. As Vettel has discovered.
There have been rumblings about the futures of both the last two teams over the three-week break.
Spyker is bringing its B specification car which it hopes will bring it closer to the rest of the field. It will be interesting to see what the quietly impressive Adrian Sutl can do with it – Honda should look genuinely worried.
Anthony Davidson was frustrated to be knocked out of the Hungaroring by contact with Giancarlo Fisichella – it’s been that kind of year for him. He seriously needs to give his team mate some trouble to be in with a chance of keeping his drive for 2008.
Simply getting either car to the finish would be a step forward over last year’s performance, however.
Predict the podium for the Grand Prix – leave your comments below.
Photos: Charles Coates / LAT Photographic | Ferrari Media | Red Bull / GEPA