Following his success at Monaco, Mark Webber leads the Formula 1 World Championship for the first time in his career and enters the sixth Turkish Grand Prix on a wave of confidence; buoyed also by the fact that he did not take victories in Spain and Monte Carlo by sheer luck and circumstance, he dominated both in dramatic fashion. Webber’s victories were also key to his positioning within the Red Bull camp – whereas after China, there were growing whispers as to whether the Australian would remain at the squad beyond 2010, it is now believed that he is on the verge of signing on for at least another year with the Austrian team. Although bother Webber and teammate Sebastian Vettel are level on points at the top of the current standings, Webber leads by virtue of having more race victories so far this season.
Vettel has every right to feel aggrieved. Mechanical failures in Bahrain, Australia and Spain has seen the German drop a stockpile of points; although Vettel finished the races at both Sakhir and Barcelona after losing a number of positions, while his Melbourne adventure was concluded in a gravel bed. Jenson Button has also lost out recently following difficult events in the last two races, which has seen him drop to fourth in the World Championship after leading the field at the end of the Spanish event; however his teammate Lewis Hamilton was unable to gain any sort of upper hand in the initial European runs and the 2008 World Champion currently resides 7th in the standings.
Felipe Massa will be hoping his somewhat indifferent first third of the season does not continue this weekend; Istanbul is a track that the Brazilian normally runs very well on – in fact the Ferrari driver has won three of the last four events in Turkey. Realistically, the Ferrari is still not there in terms of outright pace and grip; while in the Italian camp, Massa still appears to be under the dark cloud brought by Fernando Alonso. The former Renault driver is winning the mental battle at the Scuderia and while Massa picked up a small victory over the controversial Spaniard at Monaco by finishing 4th ahead of Alonso’s 6th, it was Fernando’s drive that invigorated the team as he charged from 23rd place – Massa on the other hand drove a solid, but silent race as he held off Hamilton, yet fell as away from Robert Kubica. Certainly one of the surprises of the season so far has been Kubica as the Pole has garnered some truly stunning results from what is essentially the fifth best car out there. Seven-time World Champion, Michael Schumacher did not win the two events he raced here previously and in the Mercedes, it is unlikely that the German will do so this year; however following a very controversial end to the Monaco Grand Prix, he will be looking for a strong result to put it behind him.
As for the Istanbul circuit, it is one of the better efforts by chief circuit designer, Hermann Tilke; however the event is constantly under scrutiny for having one of the lowest race day attendance year-on-year, but for the immediate future the race is secure. A oft-heard compliment from drivers and fans alike is aimed towards the spectacular turn 8 complex – a series of four apex’s the punishes a driver’s body with high-end G-forces, while also taking a lot out of the right front tyres, due to constant high turn-in speed. A good aerodynamic balance through this section is vital to securing a good lap time.
Sadly, good race circuits do not often guarantee good sized audiences and this is partly due to the location of the circuit, which is for all intents and purposes incredibly hard to get to. Unfortunately, with the Formula 1 circus returning to the US in 2012, the Indian Grand Prix débuting next season and a Russian event potentially on the horizon, it is conceivable that next year’s event may well be the last Turkey sees for some time.