Red Bull head to the Turkish Grand Prix as the team to beat. Does the Istanbul circuit offer their rivals any hope of catching the RB6s?
Red Bull dominated at the Circuit de Catalunya, so they should have an easy run to victory at Istanbul, a track which makes similar demands on F1 cars.
That’s the theory, but remember that at Catalunya – where the RB6s were almost a second quicker than the opposition in qualifying – they didn’t have the same performance advantage in the race. In fact, Lewis Hamilton was able to stay close enough to split the two RB6s at the first round of pit stops.
And all the teams will have to get a handle on one of the most punishing tests of tyre wear we’ll see this year.
In the first stint of the race, on high fuel loads and almost certainly running on the soft tyres, the front-right tyres will take a terrific pounding around turn eight, at speeds of up to 270kph and lateral forces exceeding 5G.
As we saw in Spain the RB6 is able to generate greater downforce than any other car – but can they do that without hurting their tyres too much?
Ferrari, on the other hand, have been able to manage their tyre wear very well – witness Fernando Alonso’s 77-lap stint on one set of tyres at Monaco.
Although they’ve not performed as well on the harder rubber being used this weekend, the team believe they’ve made progress in understanding how to get the most out of those tyres.
With much speculation surrounding Felipe Massa’s future with the team, this could be an important weekend for him.
He’s been over three tenths of a second slower than Alonso on average in qualifying this year – can he shrink that gap or, better yet, beat Alonso in a straight fight for the first time since Bahrain, at a track where he’s won three times in the past?
The inter-team battle at Red Bull is equally interesting, with Sebastian Vettel eager to hit back after Mark Webber’s domination of the last two races. Vettel’s hopes are pinned on a new chassis which, as was the case with Michael Schumacher two races ago, he hopes will help him cut the gap to Webber.
It remains to be seen whether Red Bull will be bringing their version of the F-duct to Istanbul, as Christian Horner said they might a few weeks ago.
Another driver getting a new car this weekend is Lucas di Grassi, who finally gets his hands on the revised Virgin VR-01 with a larger fuel tank capacity. Timo Glock has had the car since Spain.
Mercedes are also using their revised, longer W01 in Istanbul, having temporarily switched back to the short car in Monaco. How well it goes will determine whether they are competing with the three front-running teams, or left to fight a rearguard action against Renault and Force India.
Drivers to watch
Four driver to keep an eye on this weekend. Name your top picks in the comments.
Sebastian Vettel – Previously thought to have the upper hand on Mark Webber, but has been beaten by his team mate in the last two races. He lost out to Webber here in 2009 as well – can he turn the tables this year?
Lewis Hamilton – Can he take the fight to Red Bull? Or might he succumb to the tyre trouble that plagued him here in 2007 and 2008?
Adrian Sutil – The Force India was more of a match for the Renault at Catalunya, so Sutil may give Robert Kubica a run for ‘best of the rest’ here.
Heikki Kovalainen – Revelled in the updated Lotus T127 at Monaco, he may now be the high watermark for the new teams’ progress.
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2010 Turkish Grand Prix
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