2008 Turkish Grand Prix notes

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Istanbul, 2008, 470150

Here are my notes on the Turkish Grand Prix including how Lewis Hamilton lost the race on Saturday, what happened to the BMWs, and how much trouble Nelson Piquet Jnr is in.

Plus when was the last time we saw a pass for the lead in a dry race?

Hamilton lost it on Saturday

Despite his compromised strategy Lewis Hamilton probably would have won if he’d started on pole position – and he has only himself to blame for not doing that. Here’s how the top three finishers’ qualifying times compared to their fastest lap times in their first stint, and how much fuel they had on board:

Driver Q3 lap Best first stint lap (difference) Lap no. of first pit stop
Felipe Massa 1’27.617 1’26.666 (-0.951) 19
Lewis Hamilton 1’27.923 1’26.641 (-1.282) 16
Kimi Raikkonen 1’27.936 1’26.506 (-1.43) 21

Given that Hamilton’s first stint lap times were probably increased by being stuck behind Massa, and he might have gone even faster, his qualifying lap was clearly not good enough.

Had Hamilton started from pole position he would not have lost time in the first stint stuck behind Massa while the Ferrari driver’s tyres went through their graining phase. That in turn would have probably allowed him to get out of the pits in front of Kimi Raikkonen for his third stint, saving him enough time to make the difference over Massa.

Was BMW’s dip in performance a one-off?

Robert Kubica, BMW, Istanbul, 2008, 470313

Ron Dennis said earlier this year that he didn’t think BMW could maintain the pace of development over the course of a season to stay as close to McLaren and Ferrari as they were in the opening races. Was the Turkish Grand Prix, where Robert Kubica finished 17s behind Raikkonen, a sign of that prediction coming true?

Kubica’s fastest race lap was a 1’26.780, 0.274s slower than the fastest (Raikkonen’s). However he was not able to lap close to that pace consistently – in fact that was his sole sub-1’27s lap despite spending most of the race without a car directly in front of him.

Heidfeld’s best race lap was 0.5s off Kubica’s. The same margin separated them in qualifying, again to Kubica’s advantage, despite only having two laps’ less fuel in his BMW.

So Kubica’s performance was probably the more accurate guide to the true performance of BMW. But we’ll have to wait a few more races to know if this is the start of a trend, or just a one-off.

Problems for Piquet

Nelson Piquet Jnr, Renault, Istanbul, 2008, 470313

It was a ghastly weekend for Nelson Piquet Jnr. He was seven tenths of a second slower than Fernando Alonso in the first part of qualifying, which set against his obvious speed in testing and practice has led some to speculate whether he’s cracking under pressure.

From 17th on the grid he finished 15th, only gaining places at the expense of Kazuki Nakajima (first lap retirement) and Sebastian Vettel (first lap damage). His best lap was six tenths slower than Alonso’s.

Pat Symonds actually praised Piquet immediately after the race, commenting that he’d been one of the only drivers who’d tried to defend his position from the recovering Heikki Kovalainen. The television cameras didn’t show much of that, however, other than Kovalainen passing Piquet as the Renault driver under-steered wide at turn 12.

Ye gads! Overtaking!

There were actually some passing moves made during the Turkish Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton’s pass on Felipe Massa was the first pass for the lead in a dry Grand Prix since – I think – Kimi Raikkonen on Giancarlo Fisichella at Suzuka in 2005…

Hamilton did, however, have a car that was at least a second per lap faster at the time. If a driver doesn’t have that kind of advantage they can’t even get within range to try and make the leading driver defend their position. That much was clear from Raikkonen’s inability to get close to Kubica in the first stint or Hamilton at the end of the race.