Off-line start is bad news for Button (Turkish Grand Prix pre-race analysis)

Posted on Author Keith Collantine

Button has a strategy advantage but he starts on the dirty side of the grid
Button has a strategy advantage but he starts on the dirty side of the grid

We’ve got the championship leaders in the top four positions, tricky track conditions and one of F1’s best modern circuits.

Can Sebastian Vettel keep the heavier-fuelled Jenson Button behind? Is Rubens Barrichello the biggest obstacle to a Button win? And how much of a problem will the soft tyres be?

Let’s take a look at how the Turkish Grand Prix could unfold.

The story of the weekend has been the lack of grip on the track, which will affect many of the team’s key decisions in tomorrow’s race.

The start

Historically, Istanbul has been a venue where the difference in grip between the ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ sides of the grid is most apparent.

Sure enough, in the GP2 feature race today third-placed Romain Grosjean easily beat second-placed Luca Filippi off the line. Just as last year Lewis Hamilton moved up from third to second and Robert Kubica from fifth to third.

So Jenson Button’s first concern tomorrow will be not ‘how can I get past Vettel?’ but ‘how can I keep Barrichello behind?’. Barrichello has claimed he does not have team orders to follow, so it will be fascinating to see how close the Brawn cars are through the first corners.

Tyres will play a significant role at the start but, given the lengths of everyone’s first stints, it looks as though few are considering starting on the soft tyre. The most likely exception is Fernando Alonso, who is fuelled shortest.

Although using the soft tyre at the start of the race increases the chance of a good start, it will likely suffer worse degradation than later in the race, when the build-up of rubber on the surface has increased, as we saw at Monte-Carlo two weeks ago.

Finally, we have the KERS cars to consider. The Ferraris start sixth and seventh and, with Istanbul’s wide straights to take advantage of, they have an excellent chance of picking off a couple of cars in the first few corners.

A dream scenario for Vettel would be Button losing a couple of places and being picked off by the fast-advancing F60s – leaving him to suffer the kind of race Vettel had at Barcelona.

The strategy

The trump card in Button’s hand is that he is fuelled farther than Vettel. So, if the pair end up running line astern, Button should be able to pit later and use his extra laps with less fuel on board to jump ahead.

Button’s advantage is equal to two laps at best, so this is by no means a done deal. If Vettel can eke out even a small lead over Button, it could be enough for him to prevail. But whichever way you carve it up, Vettel drove with less fuel on board today, so he’ll have to stop for more tomorrow.

Soft tyre degradation has been a concern during practice. At Istanbul if a driver finds himself stranded on worn tyres he is not going to be able to keep rivals behind for long, as there is a lot of space for overtaking.

Every Turkish Grand Prix so far has been won from the driver starting on pole position. But it may not be easy for Vettel to extend that run tomorrow.

What do you expect to happen in Sunday’s race?

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