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Trackside Tipster

Trackside Tipster: Turkish Grand Prix

Engine uncertainty for Hamilton, Perez potential and why Aston Martin could be strong. Here are some tips for this weekend in Istanbul.

Trackside Tipster: Turkish Grand Prix

F1 heads to the fast and flowing Istanbul Park Circuit with the two title contenders separated by just a few points. Trackside Tipster takes a look at who the circuit should suit and tries to spot where some of the surprises could come from in this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix.

Close to call but is Perez worth a punt?

The nature of the Istanbul circuit makes this weekend a particularly tricky one to call for the race win – 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 medium-speed and high-speed corners, of which Istanbul has plenty, but Mercedes can bring it back in the twisty sections, so that could take the balance back to the middle.

Max Verstappen is a slight favourite, particularly given the fact that rain is in the air again – because that means Mercedes could follow the route Red Bull took in Russia and change Hamilton’s engine, putting him at the back of the grid.

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

Perez won in Azerbaijan and after a mid-season glitch he was in contention for a podium in Russia, despite a slow pit stop. A gamble to stay out on slicks in the late rain shower dropped him down the order, but he is fired up to bounce back.

Track detail

Track detail

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Pick the pole sitter

Past history gives little guidance at Istanbul. The race dropped off the calendar in 2011 and only returned last year, when colder temperatures and new tarmac made for a constantly changing low grip surface and the race ran in the rain.

The only current drivers to have won at Istanbul are Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren, 2005), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren, 2010 / Mercedes, 2020) and Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull, 2011). At least that shows they have a good handle on the track.

However, one trait stands clear – and that is that seven of the eight races have been won from the front row of the grid (the exception being last year’s wet event). Of those, only two have not been won from pole.

Could Aston Martin be worth a shot?

Aston Martin started on the back foot this year, when new aero regulations harmed their car more than most. They have since recovered but blow 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 earlier in the season Vettel podiumed at Azerbaijan, which has the longest straight on the calendar.

Turkey is renowned for some fast flowing sections – which seem to suit Vettel’s driving – and the Mercedes engine in the back could give them the power to go for a good run this weekend.

Last year, when competing as Racing Point, they had a blinder – albeit in odd conditions. Stroll and then team-mate Sergio Perez qualified 1-3 on a damp track. Stroll led half of the race before falling back but Perez finished second.

Turning on the temperature

Last year’s race was 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 tyres in 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 track temperatures cooler and the surface is going to be slippery.

That means the teams that can get heat into their tyres more easily could be at an advantage, with the double bonus that they will also not suffer so much from the tyre degradation caused by the slippery track.

Ferrari is that kind of team, so could be one to watch. Charles Leclerc has bedded in his new power unit and found it to be fast in Russia. To get the same, Carlos Sainz needs to take a penalty though, so that could put him out of contention.

A view of the track

A view of the track

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Williams shooting for a points pairing

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

In the second car, Nicholas Latifi has never managed to match his highly talented British team-mate but he too has scored points twice in the last five races. With a Mercedes engine, the pair could be a good shout here for a double points score.

Cantering into the distance?

Calling winning margins is tricky in F1, as so much can depend on what a team decides to do. This track is punishing on tyres, however, so the leader is likely to not want to push harder than the minimum needed to stay ahead.

The average winning margin here is just over 10 seconds, but that has swung from Hamilton’s 31.633s advantage last year (extended due to the changing conditions) down to Felipe Massa’s narrow 2.275s win in 2007.

The last race, in Russia, saw Hamilton win by a massive 53s margin after a crazy late rainstorm. However, going back from there, this year’s victory 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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