Trackside Tipster: Turkish Grand Prix

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F1 leads to the fast and fluid Istanbul Park Circuit with the two title competitors separated by just a few points. Trackside Tipster looks at who the circuit should suit, and tries to spot where some of the surprises may come from in this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix.

Close to calling, but is Perez worth a point?

The character of the Istanbul circuit this weekend makes it particularly difficult to call for victory in the race – although Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has tipped last year’s winner Lewis Hamilton to be strong around the Turkish track.

Red Bull has the advantage in mid-speed and high-speed corners, of which Istanbul has plenty, but Mercedes can bring it back in the twisted sections so it can bring the balance back to the center.

Max Verstappen is a small favorite, especially considering that rain is in the air again – because it means Mercedes could follow the route that Red Bull took in Russia and change Hamilton’s engine, which put him at the back of the net.

The value in terms of odds comes outside the top two – and Sergio Perez seems to have excellent odds for the best of the rest – or even a win – in the other Red Bull, especially when he finished second in a Racing Point last year.

Perez won in Azerbaijan, and after a mistake in the middle of the season, he was in contention for a podium in Russia, despite a slow pit stop. A game to stay out on slicks in the late rainstorm dropped him in the order, but he gets fired up for jumping back.

Track details

Track details

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Select the rod fitter

Past history provides some guidance in Istanbul. The race dropped from the calendar in 2011 and did not return until last year, when colder temperatures and new asphalt provided a constantly changing surface with a low grip, and the race ran in the rain.

The only current drivers to have won in Istanbul are Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren, 2005), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren, 2010 / Mercedes, 2020) and Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull, 2011). In any case, it shows that they have a good handle on the field.

One move, however, is clear – and that is that seven of the eight races have been won from the front row of the net (the exception is last year’s wet event). Of those, only two have not been won from pole.

Can Aston Martin be worth a shot?

Aston Martin started on the back foot this year as new aviation regulations damaged their car more than most. They have since recovered, but are blowing hot and cold – and their best results typically come on faster tracks.

Most recently, Lance Stroll was seventh at Monza, and Sebastian Vettel was fifth at Spa, while Vettel earlier this season spoke in Azerbaijan, which has the longest straight on the calendar.

Turkey is known for some fast-flowing sections – which seem to fit Vettel’s driving – and the Mercedes engine in the back can give them the power to drive a good race on the weekends.

Last year, when they competed as Racing Point, they had a blind – albeit under unequal conditions. Strolling and then teammate Sergio Perez qualified 1-3 on a damp track. Walking led half of the race before falling back, but Perez finished in second place.

Turns on the temperature

Last year’s races were run in November in temperatures around 11-14 degrees, and one of the big reasons for Racing Point’s success was their ability to turn on the tires at low temperatures.

This year, the race runs a full month earlier. The forecast is for more ‘normal’ temperatures of around 20 degrees, but there is still a chance of rain that will keep the temperatures cooler and the surface will be slippery.

This means that the teams that can more easily get heat in their tires can benefit from the double bonus that they also will not suffer so much from the tire deterioration caused by the slippery track.

Ferrari is that kind of team, so it can be one to see. Charles Leclerc has settled into his new power unit and found it quickly in Russia. In order to get the same, Carlos Sainz must take a penalty kick so it can bring him out of contention.

A view of the track

A view of the track

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Williams shoots for a pair

Williams has had a huge resurgence in recent races, with George Russell scoring points at four of the last five events that have never before scored a point for the team since joining the net in 2019.

In the other car, Nicholas Latifi has never managed to match his very talented British teammate, but he too has scored points twice in the last five races. With a Mercedes engine, the pair could be a good shout out here for a score of double points.

Edges in the distance?

Calling winning margins is difficult in F1, as so much can depend on what a team decides to do. However, this trajectory punishes on deck, so the leader will probably not want to push harder than the minimum needed to stay ahead.

The average winning margin here is just over 10 seconds, but it has fluctuated from Hamilton’s 31,633s advantage last year (extended due to the changed circumstances) down to Felipe Massa’s narrow victory of 2,275s in 2007.

The last race, in Russia, saw Hamilton win by a massive 53s margin after an insanely late rainstorm. Going back from there, this year’s winning margins are 2.3s, 20s, 1.9s, 2.7s, 3.8s, 17.9s, 35.7s, 2.9s, 1.3s, 8.9s, 15.8s , 29.1s, 22.0s, 0.75s.

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