Hopefully the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix won’t be the last one

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Cameramen kept Istanbul's sparse stands out of shot last year
Cameramen kept Istanbul's sparse stands out of shot last year

Will F1 return to Turkey in 2011?

With attendance figures for the race plummeting and Bernie Ecclestone doubling his price to the Turkish government for a place on the packed F1 calendar, F1’s time in Turkey may be drawing to a close.

But it would be a pity to see F1 lose the best new track added to the championship in recent years.

Hermann Tilke, the man who holds a near-monopoly on F1 circuit design, is often criticised for creating uninspiring tracks. But Istanbul Park is unquestionably one of his better efforts, and the best one to hold a Formula 1 championship round.

The unromantically-named turn eight is one of few examples of a truly great corner on a modern track. Here’s some fascinating data on the bend from Renault:

As corners go, it?s pretty special and has already built up a fearsome reputation. It?s a 260 km/h rollercoaster, with a few bumps thrown in for good measure, and puts immense g-forces through the car and driver. Mastering the corner requires a sound set-up and supreme driver skill.

Although turn eight is usually described as a quadruple-apex corner, the drivers will treat it more like a double-apex corner. And, like any corner, the engineers still think of turn eight in three phases: turn-in, mid-corner, and exit. The only difference is that this corner is one of the longest of the season taking a full eight seconds from corner entry to corner exit. And in that time the car travels 600 metres with a top speed of 270 km/h.

The g-force stats are just as impressive with the drivers experiencing an average lateral force of 4.3 g during those eight seconds, with a peak of 5.2g. So it?s tough on the drivers? necks and don?t be surprised to see some extra padding appear on the headrests this weekend to help the drivers through the 58 laps of the Grand Prix.

There’s more to the Istanbul track than just turn eight – it has gradient, camber and bumps – vital components of the best tracks which other venues often lack.

Still when I went to the race in 2006 I made a beeline for turn eight. Like Becketts at Silverstone and Eau Rouge at Spa it doesn’t fail to impress when you see it in person.

It’s a pity fewer and fewer people make it there every year. But I don’t believe this excellent track is to blame for dwindling spectator numbers any more than it is for the dreary race there last year – voted the worst of 2009 by F1 Fanatic readers.

If you read the comments left here by people who’ve been to the race a consistent theme is how difficult the race is to get to. When I went four years ago my trek to the track from Istanbul involved a taxi, a boat, and a bus driver who got lost.

What I’ve heard from others suggests my experience was typical and that lack of promotion for the race added to public ignorance of the event.

The circuit itself really is in the middle of nowhere. There?s no nightlife, and when we returned to Istanbul, you?d be hard pressed to find any evidence of an F1 race taking place.
Mark from Canada

Moving the race from the heat of August to May’s cooler temperatures hasn’t helped attract more viewers. Last year just 32,000 made it to the race, prompting the organisers to cover some stands with tarpaulins to hide the empty seats, and the FOM cameraman to point their lenses away from the thin crowd.

The cost of admission has been blamed as another cause of poor attendance. But as reported here in May, Istanbul actually enjoys some of the lowest ticket prices on the calendar.

But what matters more is how that price relates to average local income – in which case the race may well be priced too high. It would be interesting to hear from Turkish fans what they think of the ticket prices – please post in the comments.

While there’s little to commend the dreary circuits built for F1 in Abu Dhabi and Valencia in recent years, losing Istanbul Park from the F1 calendar would be a genuine shame.

Do you want the race to stay, or should it be dropped? Have your say in the comments.

If you’re going to this year’s Turkish Grand Prix you can find other fans who are heading to the race here: 2010 Turkish Grand Prix discussion

2010 Turkish Grand Prix

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