Can Red Bull and McLaren be caught in Turkey?

2011 Turkish Grand Prix preview

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Istanbul, 2010

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Istanbul, 2010

Last year’s Turkish Grand Prix was a masterpiece of tension.

It culminated in one of the most dramatic moments of the season as the Red Bull drivers crashed into each other, handing a one-two to McLaren.

This year’s race looks set to be another battle between these two teams – unless Ferrari or Mercedes have made sufficient progress in the last three weeks to join in the fight for victory.

The development race

Although the race is held on the Asian side of the Bosphorous it is looked on as the first round of the ‘European season’. Most, if not, all teams will have new parts for their cars and some are bringing a raft of factory-fresh upgrades.

Among those with the most work to do are Ferrari, who are yet to score a podium finish in 2011. New wings and brake ducts are among their planned improvements.

The team have been playing down their expectations for this weekend but a lot is riding on their latest upgrades as they strive to make the simulation data match up to reality.

Mercedes, meanwhile, have begun to get on top of the problem with their Drag Reduction System which hampered them at the start of the year. Nico Rosberg’s strong performance in China was the closest they’ve come so far to delivering on the potential they showed in testing.

These look like the teams most likely to join in the contest for a podium finish but Renault are not to be overlooked. Their challenge was blunted by poor qualifying in China but Vitaly Petrov went well here last year, setting the fastest lap of the race.

Two other teams have a lot riding on their Istanbul upgrades. The first is Williams, about whom little more needs to be said on their current predicament.

The last is Virgin, whose upgrade is the culmination of work which began shortly after their new car hit the track during testing in February, as they quickly realised the MVR-02 wasn’t up to scratch.

But none of the teams can afford to stand still. Even HRT, who brought little in the way of upgrades for their car last year, have new parts for their F111.

And it remains to be seen whether Red Bull can get through a race weekend without a failure on their Kinetic Energy Recovery System.

A tough track for tyres

Istanbul is one of the hardest tracks of the year for tyres. The famed turn eight accounts for 40% of the energy put through the tyres in a single lap.

With that in mind Pirelli were working on a new tyre which they hoped would prove more durable. However they are not able to race it this weekend and the teams will use the same combination of hard and soft tyres they have for the first three races.

The first and most important question of the weekend is how well the tyres will stand up to the punishment of turn eight. Pirelli came to the circuit for testing earlier this year but rain limited their ability to test the tyres at full speed.

Assuming the weather is dry this weekend the teams expect to be in the vicinity of three tyre stops during the race, much as was the case in Sepang.

Rain forecast

However it is not guaranteed the race will be dry. F1 staff arriving in Istanbul today found it surprisingly cool and wet. This is partly to be expected: this year’s race is around three weeks earlier than last year’s.

F1 Fanatic will review the weather forecasts for the weekend once updated weather information is available tomorrow.

We’ve not seen rain at the Turkish Grand Prix before and the teams have not made much use of Pirelli’s rain tyres so far – meaning this could be a step into the unknown for all concerned.

Farewell to Istanbul?

Take the opportunity to savour this weekend’s race because it could be the last we get to see at Istanbul Park.

The undulating circuit is rightly regarded as the best of the modern generation of tracks. But that will not be enough to keep it on the calendar if Bernie Ecclestone decides they aren’t paying enough.

Join in the 2011 F1 Fanatic Predictions Championship

There’s F1 races tickets, DVDs and more to be won. Play for free by guessing the top five in each race.

As of this weekend you now have until the start of qualifying to make your prediction. After submitting your prediction you can edit it as many times as you like before the deadline:

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47 comments on Can Red Bull and McLaren be caught in Turkey?

  1. Shagrathian said on 4th May 2011, 18:59

    It’s very cold and rainy in here. And the forecast reports show rainy days ahead.

    • HounslowBusGarage said on 4th May 2011, 20:17

      Are you near the track?
      BBC weather forecast for the track area is just 12 degrees on Friday and Saturday with light rain both days.

      • Shagrathian said on 4th May 2011, 20:35

        I’m 20 km away from the track. it’s been chilly and raining since yesterday. i looked up on the internet and it’s more or less the same.

  2. Dan Newton said on 4th May 2011, 19:01

    I know I’m not alone, but I can’t wait for this race. Anyone know if you can place a bet on the Red Bulls crashing?

    • timi said on 4th May 2011, 19:21

      what country do you live in?
      i know in england you can go into most betting shops, go up to the desk ask about almost any kind of bet, they’ll call the head office, and some crazy researchers will come back to you with the odds!!

      • f1fanboy said on 4th May 2011, 21:20

        I’ll be putting on a bet for Lewis unable to finish the Grand Prix because of tyre wear problems, just like in Malaysia LOL!

        • NW said on 4th May 2011, 22:50

          A black flag would be sweeter

          • timi said on 4th May 2011, 22:59

            hahah i think i’d get the best odds if i tried to put money on a first corner pile up/crash.
            for me, that used to be one of the highlights of a GP. obviously i felt bad for the drivers who had to then pit on the first lap, or retire immediately. but watching 20 or so cars go round a corner, with half of them making contact, carbon fibre flying everywhere.. beautiful.

  3. all the uncertainty over wet tyre performance with little experience and the teams never experiencing the track in the rain before could provide us with a cracking race :D

  4. Sushi Meerkat (@sushi-meerkat) said on 4th May 2011, 19:14

    unless Ferrari or Mercedes have made sufficient progress in the last three weeks to join in the fight for victory

    AHEM, what about the Enstone Renault Team?, its quite clear that Keith is “biarist” towards Ferrari…

    These look like the teams most likely to join in the contest for a podium finish but Renault are not to be overlooked.

    *sheepish sigh*, errr DISREGARD MY PREVIOUS COMMENT!.

    My current feelings for this Race is it that I’m neither overwhelmed nor underwhelmed, I guess you could say I’m just “whelmed”* by it all, even though it could be the last race the coverage for it so far has been mediocre at best… in fact I forgot to check my calender and see its this weekend!

    *real word, whoop!

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 4th May 2011, 20:21

      I am just curious to see how it all pans out. Having a pretty wet week so far in Turkey will add another unknown to the mix, possibly making it even more of a suprise weekend.

      I must say, I would relish seeing another Vettel/Webber clash (with Webber finishing high in the points, just like last year), but I would certainly love Massa to show his skill at Turkey again.

      And having those Renault cars or maybe the Mercedes really into the mix would be lovely as well.

      Alonso might also have a good race again, if its wet and Ferrari actually start taking some risks not just with the car but also on strategy, why not have them nail it.

      To cut it short, bring it on!

      Bring it on1

  5. RIISE (@riise) said on 4th May 2011, 19:28

    Keith biased towards Ferrari? Did you see the mugs? =P

    In my opinion Renault will probably fall back, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ferrari and Mercedes are ahead of them.

    • adamf184 (@adamf184) said on 4th May 2011, 20:09

      I agree with your thoughts on Renault. Im always quite surprised when the BBC and others say what a fast car Renault have built. What 3rd-5th fastest? Not fast enough to look like it will ever get a win on merit IMO. Not really a fantastically fast F1 car just a good one.

      • Sushi Meerkat (@sushi-meerkat) said on 4th May 2011, 21:39

        I reckon the Renault could kick the teeth’s in of both the Ferrari’s and Mercs if they get a solid quali schedule in, race pace?, Ferrari not so much… but against Mercedes the Renaults are more than a match.

        Needless to say both Quick Nick and the Rudderless Russian have been on the podium this year on merit, because the Renault is kind to its tyres, while the Mercs (thats of ShoeMaker especially) chews through its allocation and drop off the pace late in the race.

        • Douglas62500 said on 5th May 2011, 8:36

          Indeed Quick Nick is without a doubt a rapid driver, but I think with Kubica within the Renault team, they team wouldn’t just be aiming for podium finishes, but actually victories, especially on technical circuits like Monaco or Suzuka.

          • BBT (@bbt) said on 5th May 2011, 13:54

            Yawn, they be finishing in exactly the same position there is nothing to point to otherwise.

  6. George (@george) said on 4th May 2011, 20:08

    Didn’t Petrov make a late tyre stop last year, which is why he got the fastest lap?

    • adamf184 (@adamf184) said on 4th May 2011, 20:12

      Yes well remembered. After Alonso cut his front tyre. He was having a very good race for him up to then. Keeping Alonso at bay nearly all race, good practice that he put to good use later in the year :-P

    • TFLB said on 4th May 2011, 21:58

      It was actually one of Petrov’s best races last year. He was very close to Kubica in qualifying, then kept pace with him in the race until his tyres started to go off and he had defend from Alonso.

      • TFLB said on 4th May 2011, 21:59

        So what I mean to say is that although he had fresh tyres, the fastest lap wasn’t a complete ‘fluke’.

      • George (@george) said on 4th May 2011, 22:13

        Ah yes I remember now, I think I was too busy watching the battle at the front to store that part in my memory banks :P

  7. infy said on 4th May 2011, 20:45

    This is one of Ferrari’s worst tracks. Last year they were dead slow here for no reason besides pure lack of pace. I wouldnt be suprised if its the same thing year.

    I’m sure they are looking forward to Monaco though.

    • Last year they were dead slow here for no reason besides pure lack of pace.

      Lack of pace is generally why teams are slow :P Sorry, couldn’t resist. Ferrari struggled more in the more highspeed stuff last year I think and it was only after the EBD update that they really caught up anyway. Although from 06-08 they collected three wins in a row but since the reg changes of 09 they haven’t gone particularly well here but then again that’s only two races.

      • ‘They’ being Felipe Massa. He kinda lost his mojo when Alonso came in. But with Massa being on much more even terms with Fernando so far, maybe his swagger will be back this weekend?

  8. Bigbadderboom said on 4th May 2011, 21:07

    Will be interesting to see a part wet race, but I’m very interested to see how the famous turn 8 really does effect the tyres in the dry. I love it when we get the “who blinks first” scenario as the track conditions change and everybody is glued to the timing screens to see when the optimum tyre choice changes. Really looking forward to this one and may change my prediction strategy and try to second guess some suprises (Not that it worked for me in Melbourne :()

  9. Joe said on 4th May 2011, 21:42

    Petrov only set fastest lap due to having to pit like 5 laps before the end = Low fuel soft tyres lol

  10. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 4th May 2011, 21:45

    Really looking forward to this weekend. My favourite circuit and i’ll be sure to relish it given what Keith has said about the situation with Istanbul Park.

    A part wet race would indeed be interesting given that it’s not typically a wet circuit and they have no race experience of the inter/wet Pirelli’s. However I love the fluidity of this circuit and Turn 8 just won’t be the same if it’s wet.

    Hoping Mercedes and Renault are in the mix.

  11. djdaveyp85 (@djdaveyp87) said on 4th May 2011, 21:49

    Keith I think this whole article is biased towards Red Bull. How dare you suggest they have the fastest car, how can you reach that assumption without being biased.

    It is English boase towards and Austrian team.

    This site is going down the drain!

    ONLY KIDDING! Great informed article as always :D

  12. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 4th May 2011, 22:09

    Well Monaco can’t be much worse for them considering Alonso walled his F10 during qualifying last year.

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 4th May 2011, 22:11

      Argh not again! Keith, could you move the above comment to a reply to infy’s post a few above please?

      Mobile Opera fails me again :(

      • Oliver said on 5th May 2011, 6:36

        If you use Mobile Opera, don’t wait for too long before you post a message. Or refresh before you reply, else your reply will never arrive on target. Secondly if you have made an earlier post, it is likely Opera will send your next reply to the bottom.

  13. BROOKSY007 (@brooksy007) said on 4th May 2011, 23:56

    Webber should have won last year!! (closely contested by hamilton)

    Let’s hope his karma brings rewards as its about time his luck changes!! Unless we see team interference again?

    However I think hamilton has a good shot here.

    • Pink Peril said on 5th May 2011, 3:12

      Agree, and I take slight umbrage with the statement that ‘the RBR’s crashed into each other’. Makes it sound like a joint effort, which it was not, Vettel was clearly driving that bus. If Newey can get Webber’s KERS working, then I think he has a good shot at winning. And payback is a —-

  14. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 5th May 2011, 2:48

    Can’t wait for the exciting race that will happen.Will be interesting to see how things go for the drivers in turn 8 if it rains on Sunday.Just hope this is not the last of Turkey.

  15. Lord Ha Ha said on 5th May 2011, 3:20

    If RBR uncover KERS reliability as claimed the rest will need to bring more than what is on their lists. Massa (if he has new aero) and Perez and Petrov might move up.

  16. Boomerang said on 5th May 2011, 6:59

    “With that in mind Pirelli were working on a new tyre which they hoped would prove more durable. However they are not able to race it this weekend”
    Keith isn’t it a bit contradiction in saying that Pirelli worked on the tyre they can’t race with…
    I just hope they will hold trough turn 8.

    • Aussie Fan said on 5th May 2011, 9:15

      Keith simply states that Pirelli has been working on a harder tyre but that it is not ready to be raced this weekend.

      That makes complete sense to me, its not ‘contradictory’ in the slightest.

  17. Jev said on 5th May 2011, 7:32

    i am so looking forward to this race, hope there will be a bit of rain to make it more exciting. was originally planned to go to istanbul but luck went out the door.

  18. HounslowBusGarage said on 5th May 2011, 8:46

    If it’s wet, the DRS is switched off – is that correct?
    And if it’s wet, the KERS is much more of a handfull, isn’t it?

  19. Bäremans said on 5th May 2011, 8:47

    Not expecting Ferrari to show a different form than in the previous races.
    A wing is not designed, produced, tested and finished in just 3 weeks time. They must have been working on that for quite some time already. So, with incorrect data from their wind tunnel. I don’t see them provide a boost or advantage over the others.

    McLaren only announced small tweaks. No news on their first big upgrades yet. Perhaps they had to rethink their upgrade shedule due to the last minute changes to their car before the season. Curious to know whether they are still developing that octoput exhaust system to make it raceable or not.

  20. Erik said on 5th May 2011, 11:31

    I think a Formula 1 car will win the race.

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