Friday, 9 May 2008

Turkish Grand Prix: Preview

This weekend sees the fourth running of the Formula One Turkish Grand Prix at the already much-loved Istanbul Park circuit. Ferrari head into the weekend as very much the team to beat, as they top both driver and constructor championship standings. McLaren and BMW though are not too far behind and will both be looking to get in amongst the two Ferrari drivers and cause an upset.

The Istanbul Park circuit is one that has become an instant favourite of most of the drivers due to its many elevation changes, mixture of high and low speed corners, and the now infamous super-fast Turn 8. I seem to recall Jarno Trulli being the only driver on the grid who wasn't really that excited by the track, but when even Kimi Raikkonen is moved to describe the track in glowing terms like "terrific" you know it's a goody. I don't think I've ever heard Kimi use such an expressive word!

I suspect Kimi will be even more enthusiastic about the circuit if he and Ferrari can continue their fine early season form and take another 1-2 finish like last time out in Spain. Kimi will have a fight on his hands though; if not from McLaren and BMW then certainly from Felipe Massa who loves this circuit, and beat Kimi here fair and square last year. McLaren (with a fully fit Heikki Kovalainen) and BMW will be desperate for it not to finish as another Ferrari 1-2 however, as they are already losing vital ground in both championships. They both need to try and claw back that crucial tenth or two that they have been missing in the past couple of races in relation to the Ferrari. We will see what difference any revisions to the aero packages will make on this relatively low downforce, high speed circuit.

Ferrari themselves have made arguably the most significant change in terms of aero by choosing to ditch the 'holey nose' debuted in Barcelona in favour of a more traditional front aero set up. They were still blisteringly quick before Spain anyway, so I don't think any Tifosi need worry about this apparent retrograde step.

Elsewhere it looks to be business as usual in the vicious and closely fought midfield battle. Renault will be looking to consolidate the advantage that they managed to eek out over their rivals in Spain, although I doubt there will be any repeat of Fernando Alonso's headline stealing low-fuelled qualifying performance. There was some wild speculation over the past week that Red Bull stalwart David Coulthard was on the brink of being given the boot after his troubled start to the 2008 season. This appears to have just been some over active imaginations though, as he is here and racing, and shows no signs of being dumped by the team. If he were to be dropped it would be extremely harsh of the team considering everything DC has done to help build the team since its inception in 2005.

This race should see the swan song of the current Toro Rosso chassis before the move to the brand new car that Sebastien Bourdais stuffed into a wall in testing three weeks ago. Honda have announced that Rubens Barrichello will be running a special livery to commemorate his record 257th Grand Prix appearance.

The only other news to report is that, due to the demise of Super Aguri, Saturday's qualifying session has been amended. The first two sessions will see just 5 cars eliminated each instead of 6. This will leave the usual 10 car shoot out for the thrilling final session of qualifying.

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