Mark Webber, Red Bull, Istanbul, 2010

Can Red Bull and McLaren be caught in Turkey?

2011 Turkish Grand Prix previewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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

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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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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images