A brilliant race in Turkey shows F1 is on the right track (Making F1 better)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

The top three were covered by less than a second in Turkey
The top three were covered by less than a second in Turkey

The Turkish Grand Prix was a fantastic race – and it didn’t need a single drop of rain to liven things up.

F1 Fanatic readers rated the Turkish Grand Prix higher than any other dry race weekend since our “Rate the Race” polls began at the start of 2008.

After the criticisms of ‘boring F1’ following the Bahrain Grand Prix, what conclusions can we draw about the state of F1 fro the Turkish GP?

Why we saw a great race

Why did we see such a good race in Istanbul? Rob put forward one convincing explanation:

From my technically ignorant viewpoint, it seems that the McLaren and Red Bull cars? handling characteristics ?ǣ one faster in slow corners and in a straight line, the other faster in high-speed corners ?ǣ combined with a track which has a good variety of fast and slower sections, and the grid positions of the top four drivers all combined to keep them racing together.

Rob’s dead right. But there was one other element which conspired to keep the front runners close together.

The top three were covered by less than a second on some laps. And for that we have the refuelling ban to thank.

Last year Lewis Hamilton would have had a much easier job winning this race. McLaren would have fuelled him up for his middle stint, brought him in later for his final stop to leapfrog the Red Bulls and collected an easy victory.

The great strength of the refuelling ban is it forces drivers to to fight for their wins on the track.

And when F1 drivers spend lap after lap in close proximity with their rivals, you’re far more likely to get the kind of drama we saw on Sunday.

What F1 can learn from it

Just as it would have been foolish to rush into knee-jerk changes following the Bahrain Grand Prix, it would be wrong to conclude from one great race that everything is fine in Formula 1 at the moment.

It wasn’t just at the front of the field that we saw quicker cars trying to pass slower ones. But not only were passes for position still in short supply, there were several examples of how it was impossible for some drivers to get close enough to even try a pass.

And Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg and Robert Kubica crossed the line separated by less than two seconds – but it rarely looked as though any of them might try a move on the other.

Jaime Alguersuari caught the Sauber drivers by up to three seconds per lap at the end of the race, yet couldn’t get close enough to overtake.

This is the long-lamented aerodynamic problem again. If drivers cannot get close enough to their rivals to put pressure on them, we’re not going to see close racing.

We already know the teams are banning the powerful double diffusers next year to reduce the cars’ aerodynamic downforce. They should seriously consider further reductions in wing size to make it easier for cars to run closely together.

If all they do next year is push the balance further towards less grip and more power, that will be of far greater benefit to F1 than unnecessary changes to the race format. As John H put it:

This was a great race.

We always look to the past with rose-tinted spectacles (??look at this, wheel to wheel stuff they?re almost touching?? Mansell gets in there?? etc…??) but try to imagine Murray and Hunt commentating on today?s race and you?ll realise F1 is in good shape these days ?ǣ not bad.

We don?t need overtaking every five minutes to make a great race. Keep races long. Stay away Briatore!
John H

What do you think made the Turkish Grand Prix such a good race? Was it a one-off or the sign of things to come? have your say in the comments.

Race rating data

The chart below shows the result of over 67,000 votes cast rating the last 42 races out of ten:

F1 races rated out of ten, 2008-2010
F1 races rated out of ten, 2008-2010 (click to enlarge)

This is part of “Making F1 better”, a series of articles looking at ways to improve Formula 1. Fore more information see the introduction: Making F1 better: a discussion series

Making F1 better

Image (C) Red Bull/Getty images

149 comments on “A brilliant race in Turkey shows F1 is on the right track (Making F1 better)”

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  1. Keith, look again to Rob. This race was sui generis. It says nothing to recommend the refueling ban.

    In fact, it suggests the opposite. You miss the context of the only passing among the top four, which totally undermines your argument. The passing was driven by the inability of the cars to make the distance at full power with fuel on board. This led to one (failed) pass that was contrived by RBR in a foolish attempt to address this situation, and one pass made possible by confusion at VMM about the instructions to NOT pass, made to permit the cars to finish. The only bona fide pass at the front was Hamilton on Button, which wouldn’t have been necessary except for the fuel situation, and would not have been less likely with refueling anyway. Oh, and Vettel’s pass of Hamilton in the pits, just like in olden days.

    If in fact the refueling ban forces drivers to pass on the track, rather than the pits, it was not the case in Turkey. What the refueling ban may do is force teams at certain tracks to concoct strategies to limit consumption, with perforce means forbidding teammates to race each other. Anyway, if this is the kind of drama we like, then allowing refueling would make it even more exciting, by allowing teams to manage the fuel to an advantage they can capitalize on the track by leapfrogging the other guy in the pits.

    As Rob said, the design of this track and the relative strengths of the cars, allowed VMM to exert a strategy, based on fuel consumption, that allowed them to push RBR from behind. This will not occur elsewhere, perhaps save Malaysia and Monza. And at the normal consumption tracks, like Barcelona, (in the dry) we will see the same sort of process: a leap-frog opportunity at 1/3 distance. Then a tire-preservation exercise to the end.

    As before, the refueling ban means the strategies for stopping are identical across the top of the field, and the only real opportunity to pass still occurs in the pits. This time there is only one such opportunity, and no opportunity to adjust fundamentally the strategy mid-stream.

    I also remember the suggestion that the ban would mean, toward the end of the race, different cars would be on vastly different paces due to differential skills in tire management and in set up. That also is not appearing to be the case, notwithstanding the illusory claims that Ferrari or whoever had awesome “race pace” and that people like Button would prosper because they were not impetuous and knew how to manage their tires.

    The refueling ban is a failure. It’s taken away elements of strategy and competition and added nothing.

    I know that the problem with passing is aerodynamics, because that is always what you add in defence of the ban. But that has nothing to do with the merits of refueling, as the cars would be fundamentally the same, aerodynmically, either way.

    1. Hand on, I’m going to go look up sui generis and then I’ll get back to you…


      “of it’s own kind, unique”

      Ah, OK.

      the refueling ban means the strategies for stopping are identical across the top of the field

      As I said to David earlier, I think it’s more the tyre rules and aerodynamic problem that are preventing variety in strategy:


      And again, I don’t see how a race where Hamilton would had the option of passing the Red Bulls by running a long middle stint and passing them via the pit stop would have been better. Like the Spanish or European GPs last year – look how popular those races were.

      1. Agree Keith. When they introduced refueling, it had some novelty value of how some teams were bad (williams, often), and others incredibly good (Schumi/Brawn) at getting the strategy right, but on track there was a lot less real racing happening. (I did very much enjoy Alonso/Ferrari strategy in Monaco, and how McLaren were first to counter with Hamilton, but that is not all I want to see in F1).

        I have to say, for me it is not really that I want a lot of overtaking to happen, but I do want to sit in anticipation of a nice move being attempted and being happily surprised about how well it is countered, or finally succeeds.
        If it is too easy or too hard, and thus becomes predictable, it just isn’t very interesting to watch.

        That is what has made Hamilton a pleasure to watch for me during the season (including Turkey), and Alonso as well in China/Australia.

        1. [quote]it is not really that I want a lot of overtaking to happen, but I do want to sit in anticipation of a nice move being attempted and being happily surprised about how well it is countered, or finally succeeds.
          If it is too easy or too hard, and thus becomes predictable, it just isn’t very interesting to watch.[/quote]

          totally agree mate! good point. well said

  2. BTW, that chart of race ratings is excellent. You should compile these graphics, with your notations and comments, in a book for the end of the season. I’ll make my deposit when you are ready.

  3. So now we have come to a point in F1 where if there are two attempts to overtake in the whole race, the race is brilliant ???

    Come on Keith, you know better. If that was a brilliant race, then what were races of the past where we had 15-20 overtakes all over the field ?

    1. I didn’t reach the conclusion that it was a good race on my own. 2,885 votes were counted for the Turkish GP poll. Of those, just 190 rated it lower than six. That’s pretty emphatic.

      1. I think many like myself rated the race very high for the Result fo the race. When the poll comes up right after a race you are on an emotional high that your favorite driver has won the race, that you make an emotional decision rather than a logical one.

        I’ll bet if the same number of overtakes happened and Hamilton did not win, the results of the Poll would have been much less.

        This is afterall a UK site. Not saying that there arent international people on it. But I’d say the fair majority of readers come from the UK.

        1. That was not true for me and from the posts here, there are quite a lot of non UK visitors (Australian, American, German, Italian, Czech, Polish, Dutch, Sri Lankan, Indian, Chinese, cant remember any others right now, sorry).
          Second, i am not a Hamilton fan. For me what did it was:
          – the start was great with a nice first lap.
          – some action with Hamilton all over the back of Webber.
          – Pitstops where Webber countered Hamilton and Hamiltons crew messed up
          – nice shots of cars getting close and having a try at others
          – some tension weather there might actually fall rain
          – Vettel crashed into Webber bringing Lewis and Button in front
          – Button having a go at Lewis
          – Alonso passing Petrov
          – The comments made by Vettel and RBR treating him like a little boy who needs consoling for a big bad teammate
          – the press conference with Webber and Lewis on Vettel.

          All of it made it a great race for me. I don’t even care very much who won (but having a 5th winner is good).

        2. Glenn,

          very good point, and I believe it does reflect reality.

          Keith will tell you that I was on his live chat during the race and at one point around the middle of it I commented that it was starting to get boring. The only thing that happened to spice it up a bit was the RBR incident and Button half-hearted attempt to pass Lewis. That was it.

          And we also have Alonso’s and Massa’s comments that their race was boring. This confirms that not much really happened elsewhere on the field except the RBR incident.

          So indeed this was far from a ‘brilliant’ race. And Keith knows it, even though he pretends he doesn’t.

          1. Hey I dont mean my post to go against Keith and everything that he does. In fact his site is the most informative on the Web for me and always entertaining to chat about something that we all love. I mean must of us are grown men and women sitting in between work and what have you to discuss F1. I think it brilliant. His information that he has (via his polls) give him information based on the fans of this site. Not his own beliefs. But I think the fans of this site, while some are very knowledgeable Id say the majority are just fans, Who will vote for the British Team and British drivers.

            I mean looking at the races that are voted the highest, How many of those races where won by Mclaren or a british driver?

            Now think of this. If there where a Italian equivilant of F1Fanatic on the web. Let say for ***** and giggles, F1fanatico.IT . And they rated the Turkey GP, Would you think it would fare the same result as this poll?

        3. Fair question:

          Over the past month, just over 30% of traffic to this site has been from the UK. The next largest sources are the USA, Australia, Canada and Poland, Spain and India, which together contribute about 31%.

          But what matters far more than nationality is intention. The vast majority of people who respond to the ‘rate the race’ polls understand that what we’re interested in is how good the race was, not whether their favourite driver won.

          If you look at the vote results I don’t think there is a correlation between which driver wins and how high a score a race gets. For example, the highest and lowest-rated races were both won by Felipe Massa.

          Lastly I would say, look at the highest rated races and ask were they the most exciting ones, and look at the lowest rated races and ask were they the least exciting ones. I think they are.

      2. It was rated good because they had too much red bull and crashed into each other.

        We should have a poll pin pointing how significant was the crash to the quality of the turkish race.

  4. In my opinion Turkey was a great race. This is in part to McLarens’ development of their car and the circuit characterirstics. However I believe that what we need for better action to happen is for aero to be reduced to a 2004 level (with no flip-ups etc), stall development there into yearly or 6 monthly phases where design an developments can be added (so a high downforce package, medium and low downforce package produced at start of year for use until either next season or 6 months time for changes), increase tyre performance and increase tyre wear (make them faster and wear quicker – its a “little” boring watching the cars doing 1 stop as it reduces strategy and puts almost all cars in a 5 lap window), finally increase engine performance so it to has more effect on car performance but also make them less driveable so the driver has to have a bigger input into throttle application if this means increasing bhp and torque to make it difficult then so be it but make sure there is a bhp ceiling so 1 engine cant rule them all) Just an idea maybe it would work maybe it wouldn’t but it would reduce the aero problem as it were, The FIa pushed the teams down the aero route when they said no more engine development and only 1 tyre supplier. Also 2 or more tyre suppliers with more choice of tyres over weekend but less sets per drivers e.g soft medium or hard availible but fewer sets for whole weekend ( maybe 3 for race, 2 for quali and 5 for practice with teams choosing which sets to give up – thus choice, strategy and overtaking with any luck). just an idea sorry its so long winded…..

    1. As a spectacle it was far from great. It was a decent race, but not great. In terms of results I can understand why people like you found out great, since your favorite team won. That’s good, but it does not make the spectacle of the race great. There was not much happening around the field, as Alonso and Massa said afterwards.

      1. I’d disagree. The top four were always within 10 seconds of each other the whole race and that’s what made the race ‘great’ I thought. There was always the possibility of something happening that meant more than the ‘battle for eighth’ because there were more points at stake.

        If it was Alonso and Massa battling the red bulls, I’d have felt exactly the same. Wheel to wheel action between teammates is always good – perhaps that’s why China got voted so highly too, because of Massa and Alonso in the pitlane.

        It’s too easy to say it’s because ‘your favourite team won.’ That’s a little patronising to be honest with you :)

  5. Prisoner Monkeys
    2nd June 2010, 15:50

    Formula 1 hs certainly gotten better, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. To me, the ideal version of Formula 1 is one where driver skill takes priority over everything else. Get rid of aerodynamics, re-introduce KERS with more power and more options (ie 80bhp for twenty seconds per lap or 160bhp for ten) and ban shark fins on aesthetic grounds. Increase the number of races to twenty-four or twenty-five, and shorten the race weekend. Instead of having four hours’ practice over two days, give them two hours on Saturday morning. Make it as hard as possible for a driver to succeed; show us that they are the best drivers in the world.

    1. The introduction of blue shells which put the leader back to last, and banana peels drivers could fling to ward off their opponents, would also appeal to your ideals.

      In all seriousness: if you want a spec series with all emphasis placed on the driver, go watch NASCAR. Leave F1 to the people who understand it.


      2. The introduction of the old spiky blue shell, eh?

        got a lol from me :D

        HRT might have more success developing that than adding downforce to the car…

  6. Great race, but holding judgement for a few more races. Overtaking is still an issue, and it seems to be more about attrition be it tyres, brakes or fuel. Also team orders due to fuel robbed us of a ‘natural’ conclusion to the race.

    Hoping for more of the same in Canada, RBs qualify ahead of the Macs, Macs quicker in race pace… only this time they all have enough fuel to fight to the finish.

  7. Hey, the Turkey onboard is up on F1.com with Hamiltons hotlap, pay attention to his left hand. Still think the RW80 is knee operated?

    1. mateuss, sorry, couldn’t see him do anything unusual with his left hand other than reach down to adjust the brake bias shortly before turn 12. Did I miss something?

      1. I saw Jenson doing the same at the final turn in Barcelona.

      2. Here I made some screenshots where it is obvious. http://i.imagehost.org/0976/ham.jpg

        1. Magnificent Geoffrey
          3rd June 2010, 7:26

          I’m fairly sure that what Jenson is operating there is the brake balance controls. We used to see that happen (drivers changing something with their left hand) prior to the F-Duct ever coming into existance.

          1. I’m pretty sure Jenson isn’t in that picture…

            also, his hand is on the bottom of the wheel, not past it/below where they would go to adjust brake balance. it’s a lot more obvious if you watch the video :D

    2. when you mentioned this I thought this was a brake bias adjustment. but, watching the lap it doesn’t seem that way.

      every straight he hold the low part of the wheel with his left hand and seems to keep that arm perfectly still. I’m starting to think it is operated by the elbow or something.

      1. Yes, atleast somebody spotted what I was talking about. But I dont think he is using his elbow but defenetly his arm or hand in some way.

  8. theRoswellite
    2nd June 2010, 16:32

    Enjoyed the race immensely, especially as it reflected on the inter-team relations at both RB and McL. And, after seeing the debacle of the front runners, the attempted pass by Button was icing on our cake.

    I would also guess that Hamilton’s reassertion of his leading position might be more than just a “statement”, as it seemed quite authoritative.

    It’s too bad, that we seem to, of late, be having our best racing between teammates. (considering, however, the portent for an evolving post race drama, my complaint must be filed under..”Dim and Feeble”.)

  9. No doubt it is a great track, & after seeing that amount of racing this season I am sure that it will be on the calender for a very long time just as Bernie has hinted us yesterday. As I said in the past the only thing that is required is to do more publicity of F1 to local & especially they need to make it affordable to the local.

    But still the FIA need to put more emphasis on reducing the aero effect of the car.

  10. Something else ive noticed and this may need an article in its own right but ive seen far more cars oversteering than i can remember this season. Two stick out, the Virgin through the tunnel at Monaco as it was hunted down by Alonso and Jamie Alguesuariin qualifying for Turkey. Awesome to see, breathtaking in fact.

    Are the drivers better, are the cars easier to hold? Do the tyres have a more progressive loss of traction??? Keith do you know???

    Personally i enjoy seeing a car sideways as much as i enjoy an overtake – sometimes more. The overtake seems to be obsessed over but not the ability of a car to go sideways. Its certainly made me watch dikes on bikes or motogp as i believe it to be commonly know

  11. So, biggest question to come from the race – is adjusting fuel mixes and turning revs up and down from the pit lane the same as intentionally crasing a car and causing a safety car incident?

  12. Matt

    answer: No.

  13. Attempts at an overtake is sometiems better than an overtake. You’ll relize that wet races and races where the fight is for the top spot often rate the best. You’ve got the races like Melbourne this year or Brazil two years ago, scores of overtaking here and there that you forget the dominance of 1 team which is probably half a lap ahead.

    Then you’ve got the races like Turkey this year and Spa last year, while overtaking was difficult, drivers attempting to pass or placing alot of pressure still generate alot of excitment. It sure did for me. Sutil behind Kimi and Lewis hounding Webber.

    Not very often you see races where the top 2 or 4 cars are so close together with a chance of an overtake or a crash. There’s still the problem with the Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes train but fans love it when the attention is for the victory. Not 14th place.

    1. Magnificent Geoffrey
      2nd June 2010, 21:46

      I absolutely agree.

      Overtaking is the one thing that excites us the most as viewers, especially so if a move is made for the lead or near the end of the race say. Like you say, a race with little overtaking but a genuine battle up front can be more exciting than a race with lots of overtaking down the field that’s dominated by a driver leading by 30+ seconds the whole race.

      It’s a bit like in football, there can be such a thing as a 0-0 draw that is still an incredibly close, tense and exciting match to watch that viewers could even enjoy more than a 5-0 match where you know who’s going to win within five minutes of the game starting.

      Turkey was just the sort of scenario we wanted, no strategy to mess things up and just a straight race to the line. Having the top 4 all together like that was exactly what we wanted to see. If we can find a way of tackling the ‘dirty air’ issue and are lucky enough to have such close performance between the top teams like that again, I can’t think of anything more that I’d want.

  14. Anyone posted a video,of LH an JB duel ?

  15. There’s also another reason, that unfortunately can’t be transformed in a rule: Turkey 2010 was such a good race also because the top teams had top drivers capable and allowed to race each other hard (sometimes too hard)…

  16. i was there in Valencia in 2008 and i’m still receiving therapy to get over it!! but as for the race in turkey. One swallow does not make a summer. F1 still needs a shake up from top to bottom.

  17. F1 is indeed in great form.. and that has been since the control tyre imo.
    Next year the ban on the Double diffuser is great!
    Now we need the new engine rules and then see we can get some more or less stable rules. That always loses the field up. And never go back to a tyre war! Tyres have a to big of an influence.
    Being ill this week I discovered the bbc iplayer free practice with Croft and Davidson, great commentating.
    It’s great to see how much Davidson knows. He’s was spot on with everything that happend on track (failures)

  18. This was a great race if only for the fact that the body language of the drivers after the race was as much anticipated as the race itself.

    Lets face it – spicing up intra-team rivalry is way more effective at improving the drama than anything else.

  19. Finally got time to put a comment up. I went to Turkey, started bad with a nightmare Taxi journey from Attaturk airport to the Hotel (on the Asian Side), and thought that this was just the start of things to come, how wrong I was! The Hotel (Hotel Park156) was fantastic, despite my worries over booking something over the internet as a result of a google search for ‘Hotels near Istanbul Park’, travel to and from the circuit was only marred by my own incompetence (I won’t go into it I’m afraid) and all the races (barring the Porsches) were brilliant. GP3 was excellent – so many cars, so little space on the track! GP2 still showing itself to be the proving ground for future F1 drivers and then, the main event, Superb, being a Jenson fan from way back in his carting days, I admit to getting a little bit excited when he put his move on Lewis, but I’m not disappointed with the overall result.

    Only real gripes as follows:
    Why no kangaroo TV?
    Circuit could have done with more TV screens
    What’s with the security on the grandstand not letting you take bottles in with the lids on or tins of beer unopened?

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