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Third time lucky for Vettel?

2011 Turkish GP pre-race analysisPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Vettel has missed out on chances at victory in the last two Turkish Grands Prix.

Can he put an end to his losing streak on Sunday?

With a pole position start he is the red-hot favourite to win.

Vettel started from pole position here in 2009. But within half a lap he’d run wide and lost the lead to Jenson Button, who went on to win.

Last year a broken anti-roll bar in qualifying cost him pole position. He was on the verge of passing team mate Mark Webber to lead when he inexplicably drifted towards his team mate, triggering a crash that ended his race.

But this time the odds are clearly stacked in his favour.

The start

After qualifying Lewis Hamilton lamented missing out on starting from the clean side of the grid, as has happened to him more often than not at Istanbul.

Starting on the even-numbered side of the grid is a distinct disadvantage. Hamilton started second here last year and was easily passed by third-place Vettel at the start – though he was able to re-pass him later on in the lap.

Sam Bird, who started second in today’s GP2 feature race, had exactly the same problem (see here for a video of it, and also Fabio Leimer’s frightening crash from which he happily emerged unscathed).

Starting off-line is especially disadvantageous at Istanbul because the racing line does not cut across the straight, and the track does not get used much between F1 races.

At 120m the run to the first corner is one of the shortest of the year but that’s still enough for a driver who makes a slow start to be punished. Mark Webber (second), Hamilton (fourth) and those directly behind them could find themselves having to defend as they start.

Strategy

The rain that hit first practice on Friday is not expected to return during the race, though temperature should be slightly cooler.

Tyre degradation has proved to be less severe than expected so most cars should be three-stopping instead of four. As we saw in China, teams are likely to approach the race trying to get away with as few stops as possible, and only commit to a higher number of stops if they really need to.

Mark Webber may be starting 16 places closer to his team mate than he did in China but taking that one last place necessary to beat him will be a tall order.

Dirty side of the grid aside, Webber has usually been a few tenths off his team mate’s pace and has needed an extra pit stop in every race so far.

In many ways, Nico Rosberg could be the bigger threat to Vettel than Webber.

Felipe Massa, tenth on the grid, will have a free choice of tyre having not set a time in Q3. The same goes for the 14 drivers behind him, including Kamui Kobayashi, who will be allowed to start despite not having set a time in qualifying and therefore not beaten the 107% target time.

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