After a three week hiatus, the F1 circus heads to Istanbul for this weekend's inaugural Turkish Grand Prix. The Herman Tilke-designed Otodrom has 13 turns and four straights and is one of only three tracks on the calendar that run anticlockwise.
After a three-week hiatus, the F1 circus heads to Istanbul for this weekend's inaugural Turkish Grand Prix. The Herman Tilke-designed Otodrom has 13 turns and four straights and is one of only three tracks on the calendar that run anticlockwise.
The Turkish layout also features a lot of natural gradient, and some challenging corners, F1 architect Tilke said this week. "There is a hairpin consisting of several straight segments," the German said. "It's not easy to meet the racing line there. If a driver manages to do so, he can stay on full throttle there."
"The track has been adjusted to the terrain as known from classical circuits such as the Nürburging Nordschleife and Spa," said Mercedes motorsport director Norbert Haug. "The corners require a lot of downforce. However, the cars also need high speed on the straights. It will be a real challenge for drivers and engineers to evaluate the optimum set-up."
The corners are a mixture of high and low speed and some of them are quite long, which will increase the tyre loads. Along with the new track surface and the predicted high temperatures, tyres will likely be in the medium to hard compound range.
Renault's championship leader, Fernando Alonso, said it would be a challenge to manage F1 cars' tyres and brakes in the heat. "And, when temperatures are very high, we can lose up to 3 kilos through sweating in the car," he said. "So we need to be in top physical form as well as getting the car to perform to its best level."
Aside from Ferrari, there has been no testing during the past three weeks. Unless the Scuderia has made some vast improvement, F1 enthusiasts can expect the rivalry between Renault and McLaren to continue in Turkey. Alonso did not score at the last race in Budapest, while rival Kimi Räikkonen won, so it's all still to play for.
On Thursday, Alonso had no doubt who he would be fighting against on Sunday, and said he would be tempted to "let (Ferrari's) Michael (Schumacher) go" if they found themselves wheel to wheel on the new Otodrom circuit.
"I am fighting with Räikkönen for the championship. That's how I have to approach the weekend - thinking about him and McLaren. Losing the championship after I have led it from the second race would be a big disappointment," he admitted.
"It was a great result in Hungary for me and there are still six races with a maximum of 60 points to be won," Räikkönen, who is currently 26 points behind his Spanish rival, pointed out.
However, Räikkönen might have more pressing domestic issues on his mind this weekend. According to a Finnish publication, the 25-year-old - who had previously been targeted by the tabloid press due to his drunken public escapades - was allegedly caught in bed with another woman, called "Dora", by his wife, Jenni.
reported that after a recent night out in Helsinki, Räikkönen invited four women back to his house. "Kimi was drunk," a witness told the magazine, "and telling dirty jokes."
At 7am the next morning, Räikkonen was discovered in bed with "Dora" - by his 24-year-old wife, herself a former Miss Scandinavia. This week, Jenni Räikkönen, who called off a scheduled appearance in Istanbul on Thursday, issued a stern "no comment" to Germany's newspaper tabloid.
Meanwhile, Toyota is maintaining its fourth place in the constructors' standings and Ralf Schumacher, who scored his first podium for the team in Hungary, is looking forward to racing on the new track. "The fact that this circuit has hills makes things more interesting than usual," the German said.
"The blind corners aren't a big problem but it won't be easy to brake downhill and sometimes you tend to lock up wheels on those kind of circuits. So I will take the scooter round on Thursday just to see which corner comes after which corner. Then you take the car on Friday and do the best you can," he added.