Starting off-line could prove McLaren’s undoing (Turkish GP pre-race analysis)

Starting on the dirty side of the track could be a problem for Hamilton

Starting on the dirty side of the track could be a problem for Hamilton

McLaren successfully gave the flying Red Bulls some rare opposition in qualifying. Can they go one step forward and keep them from victory in the race?

The start will be crucial – and history shows having both their drivers on the left-hand side of the grid could be a disadvantage for McLaren.

The start

As Robert Kubica found out in Monaco, it’s not enough to split the Red Bulls in qualifying, you have to make it count at the start as well.

And at Istanbul, just like at Monte-Carlo, it’s questionable whether starting from second on the grid offers much of an advantage compared to starting third. Yes, you’re further ahead, but you’re on the dirty side of the track.

Lewis Hamilton starts second and he would do well to copy team mate Jenson Button’s tactics from last year by angling his car sharply across to the right to get onto the cleaner, grippier side of the track – and in front of Sebastian Vettel – as soon as possible.

Button will surely do likewise to impede Michael Schumacher’s progress, and so on down the grid.

If either McLaren driver can come out of turns nine and ten within range of an RB6, their straight-line speed advantage could help them pick off their rivals. The MP4/25s were 6kph faster than any other car through the speed traps during qualifying.

Strategy

Even at Istanbul, where tyre degradation is more of a concern, no driver in Q3 was tempted into qualifying on the hard tyre. Further proof, as argued here last week, that the top ten tyre rule is a complete waste of time.

So expect tyre stops to begin as soon as the midfield runners have enough space to be able to pit and come out in front of the six new cars. Unless, that is, some kind of incident in the midfield opens up a gap there for the leaders to drop into after their pit stops.

Once the pit stops being the destiny of the race could be decided in the ensuing scramble.

Michael Schumacher will not have to start the race on the tyres he spoiled with his spin at the end of qualifying, because the rules require drivers to start the race on the same set of tyres they set their best time on – which was his previous set.

Alonso in the midfield

A poor qualifying session has left Fernando Alonso with some ground to make up if he’s going to score points tomorrow.

Starting from 12th on the grid he will probably have to start his race fighting a rearguard action against 13th-placed Pedro de la Rosa.

He will have a free choice of which tyres to start and he may choose to gamble on the hard tyres. This might make sense if the conditions tomorrow are as hot as they were on Friday and tyre wear is a concern on the soft tyres. But it carries the risk of being vulnerable if the safety car comes out early.

We will also see if turn eight continues to catch out drivers in the race. For most of them it will be a case of judging when – or if – it can be taken flat-out as their fuel load decreases during the race.

Even the Red Bulls have found this corner tricky, and after qualifying Button worried that his McLaren was running too low and at risk of bottoming out in the corner – a concern in the opening laps with a heavy fuel load.

How do you expect the Turkish Grand Prix to unfold? Can Mark Webber win his third race in the row? Have your say in the comments.

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47 comments on Starting off-line could prove McLaren’s undoing (Turkish GP pre-race analysis)

  1. Scalextric said on 29th May 2010, 18:24

    And lets not forget reliability. RBR have had more issues than most this weekend.

  2. Mahir C said on 29th May 2010, 18:33

    What about the apparent brake issues of Vettel? He complained that brakes were locking up very easily and spoiled both of his qualifying laps. Will he have a chance to mend it under parc ferme conditions?

    • sato113 said on 29th May 2010, 20:37

      that was the roll bar failure. it’s talked about on autosport.com

      • Patrickl said on 30th May 2010, 10:07

        So it wasn’t a repeat of his brake problems in Spain, but it was a repeat of the same failure he had in Australia.

        I’m amazed that an F1 driver couldn;t feel the difference between a brake failure and a suspension failure.

        For that matter, they had to tell Vettel that his front wing adjuster wasn’t working. i guess he didn;t notice that his adjustments didn’t do anything there either.

        Maybe it’s just Vettel who is so insensitive to his car? I remember that other drivers (Zanardi and Senna) were able to tell wich rubber compound the tyres had that they were using. I remember Zanardi was testing tyres and he could tell they gave him the tyres of the previous season (which they used to set a benchmark)

        • Daffid said on 30th May 2010, 10:42

          But didn’t Zanardi have to switch back to steel brakes because he couldn’t ‘feel’ the carbon ones? Wasn’t that part of the reason his F1 career part 2 at Williams was so disastrous?

        • Tim said on 30th May 2010, 11:54

          No, not the same fault as Australia – that was a lost torque drive between the front left axle and wheel.

          In fairness, Vettel doesn’t appear to have said his brakes had failed – he just mentions that he had a strange problem with them locking up, which was a symptom of the broken anti-roll bar. Anti-roll bars don’t tend to break very often so most drivers wouldn’t automatically point to it as the cause.

  3. Lacking any reliability issues,
    Webber P1
    Hamilton P2
    Vettel P3
    Schumacher P4
    Button P5
    Rosberg P6

  4. adam23 said on 29th May 2010, 18:42

    Ferrari could have similar problems, although its more of a lottery in the midfield.

    Button will definitely have to show some more grit if Schumacher gets anywhere near or ahead of him on the first lap.

    • Mike said on 30th May 2010, 4:01

      Even if he’s not as fast as he used to be, Schumacher is still very talented, much to Button’s expense it seems!

  5. Giuseppe said on 29th May 2010, 19:06

    I really fancy Hamilton for 1st to cross the chequered flag.

    McLaren has been up there with RB on race pace on previous races and now they’re doing so well in quali makes me think they might have the edge in race pace.

  6. Ninad said on 29th May 2010, 19:22

    I just hope Michael can get a podium tomorrow.

    • Dianne said on 29th May 2010, 23:07

      Oh yes,to see Michael on the podium would be great for him and all the fans Worldwide.When you think of how many races he has won over the years,it makes you realise that we are actually watching a “Living legend” — go for it Michael:)

  7. Mike said on 29th May 2010, 19:30

    Hasn’t Lewis had problems with overcooking the tires during the race at this circuit? If that is true it could turn out to be an interesting race for him.
    Red Bull 1-2 is what I’m hoping for.

    • Harry Bits said on 30th May 2010, 6:12

      Im glad this track has got us starting to talk about tyre wear again. I few days ago a few of us, myself included, were discussing our dislike of the Hard Compound tyres lasting for nearly the entire race.

      It’s good to see that the harder compound tyres dont work as good here as just maybe we’ll see a battel, or two, of drivers trying to race on the softs as they start to go off.

      Racing on hard tyres for the entire race just ends up in a procession of the top 10 drivers simply changing from softs to hard and no battles for the top positions.

      Plus with this track being ‘dirty’ I think we might see some good action.

    • TommyC said on 30th May 2010, 6:35

      yeh, that’s for sure. he had that huge puncture i 07 and then in 08 he had to run a 3 stopper just t be safe. i wonder how he’ll ho on softs with the full fuel load

  8. Fer no.65 said on 29th May 2010, 19:32

    If nothing weird happens, Mark will get away with it!! :D

  9. Calum said on 29th May 2010, 19:35

    Is there any rule about parking on your grid slot at a crazy angle?

  10. Derek said on 29th May 2010, 19:47

    This is Hamilton’s best chance for a win. He just has to get round that first corner ahead of the Red Bull’s and the F’ duct will pull him away.

  11. Ned Flanders said on 29th May 2010, 20:44

    If I remember rightly the race organisers had a road sweeper thingy clean the inside of the start finish straight last season. Presumably they will have the same thing this season, although who knows how much difference it will make.

    One things for sure- the first lap should be interesting tomorow!

  12. I personnaly don’t like so much Vettel, and à 3 in a row win from Webbo should put him back to be a bit more humbleness, no ?
    It’s Webber’s chance…

  13. SoLiD said on 29th May 2010, 21:02

    As I mentioned in another post, I do think Lewis can win this one. He has always been good on race pace. But he does need to keep Vettel behind at the start!
    Let’s hope he can, and we might have a race on our hands :)

  14. explosiva said on 29th May 2010, 21:09

    I remember Rubens last year when he said something to the effect of “I prefer to be 3rd (vs 2nd) because the odd numbered grid positions were on the clean side. Of course, his clutch acted up, and he didn’t have a good start. Could similar reliability woes doom Vettel tomorrow?

  15. Bleu said on 29th May 2010, 21:11

    In GP2 and GP3 today the second-placed went to lead in first corner and also to win.

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