“It’s terrifying”, “let’s see who can decipher the asphalt”, “it’s a joke” … These are some of the feelings of the pilots in their first contact with the Turkish Grand Prix of Formula 1. Lewis Hamilton he described the Istanbul circuit’s lack of grip as “terrifying” and said the surface was “Shit with a capital” S “after Friday’s practice.
F1 was back in Istanbul for the first time in nine years but the reception has not been as expected. The Turkish track was recently resurfaced as part of the effort to make it suitable for the championship after its late addition to the 2020 calendar. for the coronavirus. In addition, the track was also washed on Friday morning, which left wet spots in FP1, but the biggest concern was the lack of grip on the new surface that caused numerous spins in both sessions and doubts from the teams ahead of qualifying and the race.
Verstappen stressed that it was like riding on ice and Hamilton went further. “It’s scary all the way. It’s almost like there are wet spots everywhere. You’re on slicks, you’re speeding and it’s going too fast“He confesses.” It’s all because you’re basically way, way below the temperature window, the tires are really hard, and if you’re 10 or 20 degrees below or above, they don’t work. For some reason, this surface is too smooth. The older surface is much more open, so the tire works more, “he explained. Others like Charles Leclerc looks like they had more fun.
Pirelli takes the blame
“This track is a fantastic circuit,” said the British rider. “Y I really don’t quite understand when they spend millions to redo a surface. I know it has been standing for a long time. Maybe they could have cleaned it up instead of wasting all the money. Now the track is worse than the one in Portimao when we went for the first time, “he remarked.” For us, the tires don’t work. It’s like an ice rink out there. You don’t fully enjoy the lap you normally get in Istanbul and I don’t see let that change. ” Also both he and Valtteri Bottas they were clear about the only tire that works. The Finn said the driving experience was “pretty far” from normal style and that it was a “pretty extreme” version of the problems. He also added that the soft tire was “by far the best”, although it created some graining problems.
The reality is that the C1, C2 and C3 have ruined all of Friday to the teams, since they have only increased the confusion among the drivers. Mario Isola He acknowledged his part of the blame for the choice of tires, but also made it clear that they were notified late and the information was not the best. “We got the information on the resurfacing of the track quite late”Isola said. “And we did not know the characteristics of the asphalt. Maybe we were wrong, but the information we have is very old, from years ago,” he said. “We had a completely different situation, with different tires and compounds from other cars, so it’s almost like a new circuit. We did our simulations considering this circuit as a new one, and yes, obviously we look at the 2011 databut I think that’s not very relevant, so yeah, “he continued.
“We know that Turn 8 is quite aggressive on the tires. The rest of the circuit is not so aggressive, but cKnowing in advance the characteristics of the asphalt, yes, perhaps it would be good to go a step softer“He explained.” We have a tire choice that is quite conservative considering the condition of the asphalt and the type of asphalt we have now. I was expecting a tarmac more similar to that of Portimao, where we had a smooth tarmac. Instead, here we had no grip, probably a combination of the temperature, the fact that it was wet, the type of asphalt and the selection that is quite hard, the most difficult we can have, “he apologized.
Even so, Isola does not want to hear complaints and makes it clear that what is done is done. “It was a decision that we have to accept, basically, it is already made. So there is very little we can do. But the result is this, basically very little grip. It is not a drama, in my opinion, because it is an additional challenge for the pilots. And it’s a bit hit and miss for the engineers. So, when you have this kind of situation, sometimes you have even better careers“.
The Turkish layout made problems found on another recently repaved track, Algarve, look good by comparison. The way the different drivers and teams tried to meet that challenge was made more visually appealing by the constant crossovers of the cars. It actually looked like a test in the wet, but on dry asphalt. Incomprehensible. Pierre Gasly said his first set of laps was his first rallycross experience. And for McLaren and Carlos Sainz it has been a tough day because in addition to the problems with the asphalt, the Spaniard had an electrical problem on his MCL35 in FP1.
“It was not the ideal Friday. It was frustrating to lose time in what was obviously an important first session due to the difficult track conditions we are going to face this weekend on this new, resurfaced circuit. Therefore , we had to catch up during FP 2. I haven’t had clean runs on the soft tire and the times have improved rapidly with the evolution of the track. Asphalt feels strange right nowbut that just adds excitement to see who can do it right, “commented the Spanish rider.” Slippery track! The asphalt looks strange, let’s see who can figure it out! Looking forward to tomorrow, “he concluded.
Due to the problems on the track, many teams have ridden less than they had planned. While Verstappen led the two sessions with numerous laps, Mercedes, among others, decided to ride much less. Hamilton signed only 10 laps in Free Practice 1. Given the difficulties on the track, all the teams decided to ride with the harder compounds, not wanting to sacrifice the soft ones so early in the weekend. In fact, the hard tire was used for the vast majority of the 418 laps of the session.
These factors continued in FP2 and, although they were present at a reduced level, the wet track was still noticeable. However, as the second session unfolded, there was a clear change and more aggressive riding could be seen. The fact that Verstappen’s fastest lap in FP2 was almost seven seconds faster that his best in the first training sessions defines what the first session was. Yes, Verstappen’s benchmark time in FP2 was more than three seconds slower than pole time on F1’s last visit to Istanbul in 2011 (with cars substantially slower than those of 2020), so big improvements are expected in the third session and in qualifying. Friday could be declared void for all teams, as they face Saturday with a total unknown. “The track will evolve a lot and there is a lot to learn,” said Valtteri Bottas. “It’s really hard now to make the right decisions for the race strategy.”