PRIXVIEW – Turkish Grand Prix

Features Prixview

Round sixteen sees F1 make its second trip to the Middle East and Istanbul for the Turkish Grand Prix, having been postponed by four months due to the pandemic. This races revival last year was because of the pandemic and this year replaces the cancelled Japanese Grand Prix.

Istanbul Park was built in the early 2000s in the districts of Pendik and Tuzla on the Asian side of Istanbul, is one of the few anti-clockwise circuits on the calendar which places more strain on the drivers necks. The 3.3-mile circuit takes some inspiration from places like Monza and Nürburgring but has become of the inspiration for Sochi, Austin and Buddh, in India.

Its most iconic corners nicknamed Diabolica (Turn Eight) is formed of four apexes, the corner is a fast, sweeping corner with four apexes, similar to one of the multi-apex sections of the old Nürburgring. Spectators and drivers alike raved about Turn 8, comparing it to legendary corners such as Eau Rouge and 130R.

Another tricky corner is the Turkish Corkscrew as the cars plunge down through the first corner accidents can happen and the 2006 race saw multiple cars damaged in a chain-reaction crash on the opening lap. Sparked by the Toro Rosso of Scott Speed and McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen, Nick Heidfeld, Gar Fisichella, Speed and Ralf Schumacher all needed repairs from the incident, and the Midland of Tiago Monteiro was forced to retire.

The high speed and downforce circuit should challenge drivers and teams, last years biggest challenge for the drivers was the freshly laid track surface as well as a wet weather making it challenging as drivers slid around the circuit. The race could also be multi-stop as the speed and downforce wears out the tyres.

It’s a circuit that both drivers and fans enjoy because of its challenges and opportunities to overtake, often being described by many as one of the best drivers circuits in the world.

Jarno Trulli was notable for his lukewarm feeling towards the circuit, saying that he felt the circuit was easy to learn, and that good performance was down more to the car than the driver.

Felipe Massa holds the record for most wins in Istanbul, the Brazilian took his first pole position and race win in 2006. That weekend also saw Sebastian Vettel make his practice debut, with him being fined a $1,000 fine for speeding in the pit lane only six seconds after he got out onto the track.

Massa beat teammate Michael Schumacher to pole by a tenth with his championship rival Fernando Alonso third. The top three all escaped a Turn One shunt, but while Fisichella spun prompted a chain reaction, Scott Speed collided with the McLaren of Räikkönen, causing one of Räikkönen’s rear tyres to puncture.

Räikkönen pitted for a new set of tyres, but soon faced a similar problem due to damaged bodywork; because of this he went straight off the outside of turn 4 and into a barrier, on the next lap. Massa built his lead throughout the race, in the final laps the focus was on the battle for second between Schumacher and Alonso, which went to the final corner but Schumacher couldn’t past Alonso. Massa went on to secure his maiden win.

Massa would go on to win both in 2007, from pole position despite it looking as if Raikkonen could have beaten him. The Brazilian pitted later before Raikkonen dropped to fifth because of a puncher. Damage to his front wing led to Kovalainen catching him, but the Finn was unable to pass Hamilton. Kubica lost a place to Nico Rosberg through strategy finishing eighth.

2008 would see Massa’s final win in Istanbul again winning from pole, followed by Hamilton and Raikkonen. Raikkonen had clipped Kovalainen on the opening lap with the McLaren needing to make a pit stop, Kubica took advantage to move up into third position, whilst Räikkönen was also passed by Alonso.

Hamilton led the mid part of the race going six seconds quicker when he made his pitstop on lap thirty-two, Massa pitted eight laps later with the Brazilian regaining the lead when Hamilton stopped on lap forty-five. The order wouldn’t change with Massa taking victory and moving to equal Hamilton in the drivers championship.

Vettel took pole in 2009, after dominating qualifying and beating teammate Mark Webber, with Jenson Button unable to fight for pole after Brawn overfilled his car with fuel. But the car was arguably the faster of the two, once fuel loads were corrected. The German made a strong start from pole, before giving Button the lead after a clutch problem which dropped him into the midfield.

Button then opened up the lead at the front where he remained through the pit stop stage, Vettel was on a three-stop compared to the Englishman’s one stop race. After Vettel’s final stop he managed to close the gap to Webber, bit there was no changes at the front with Button taking his sixth win in seven races.

The following years race gave the circuit one of its defining moments, battling for the lead the two Red Bull’s crashed into each other. Webber had gone into fuel saving mode as Vettel attacked through Turn Eleven getting alongside Vettel made contact with them both going into the run-off. They allowed Hamilton and Button to sail by.

McLaren showed Red Bull how it should be done Button briefly passed Hamilton a few laps later, but Hamilton regained the lead on the following lap and while they got close and narrowly avoided a collision, Button was unable to pass Hamilton who took his first win of 2010.

Vettel took his fifth consecutive pole in 2011 after going four-tenths ahead of Webber, while Nico Rosberg out-qualified Hamilton. The German then went on to dominate the race building a six-second lead by lap ten, behind in the closing stages Alonso managed to hold up Webber and diene Red Bull a one-two.

Last year’s race was historic for sport, Hamilton taking victory from sixth allowing him to secure his seventh world championship equalling Schumacher. But in mixed conditions, it was Lance Stroll who took pole becoming the first Canadian to take pole since Jacques Villeneuve at Jerez in 1997 and the teams first since Spa in 2009.

In wet conditions the race proved to be one of strategy, Stroll held the lead at the start with the slow start by Max Verstappen dropping him to eighth. But Turn One once again caught the midfield out with the two Renaults colliding, Daniel Ricciardo sending Esteban Ocon into a spin.

Hamilton went on to win the race from Pérez by a margin of half a minute, securing his seventh title.

Facts and figures

Round 16 of 22
Race Formula 1 Rolex Turkish Grand Prix 2021
Venue InterCity Istanbul Park, Tuzla, Istanbul, Turkey
Configuration 2005 Grand Prix
Circuit Length 5.338 km (3.317 mi)
Laps 58
Race Distance 309.396 km (192.250 mi)
Lap Record 01:24.770 (Juan Pablo Montoya, McLaren-Mercedes, 2005)
Most wins drivers Felipe Massa (3)
Most wins manufacture Ferrari (3)

Fast facts

  • Sebastian Vettel got a speeding ticket nine seconds into his F1 practice debut in Istanbul in 2006.
  • The 2011 race saw the record set for number of pit stops and overtakes since 1983.
  • Lance Stroll recorded the first pole position of his career at Istanbul Park in 2020. Felipe Massa is the only other driver to record his maiden pole here, doing so in 2006. Massa also took his first win at the track that weekend, the first of three consecutive wins for the Brazilian at the circuit.
  • Winning from sixth on the grid in 2020, Lewis Hamilton became the first driver to take victory in the Turkish Grand Prix has not started from the front row of the grid.
  • In the eight Istanbul Park races held so far, 2011 is the only year in which the Turkish Grand Prix polesitter has gone on to win the title in the same year. Sebastian Vettel took pole position for the event in 2011 and went on to be crowned World Champion for a second time later that year.

Event timetable





P1 12:30-13:30 10:30-11:30
P2 16:00-17:00 14:00-15:00


P3 13:00-14:00 11:00-12:00
Qualifying 16:00-17:00 14:00-15:00


Race 16:00 14:00

What happened in 2020?

Lance Stroll took a surprise pole position in mixed conditions having taken the gamble on inters midway through Q3 in a session where teams struggled with both wet weather and the new track surface. Conditions were far from ideal with three red flags due to drivers making mistakes.

Max Verstappen looked like the man to beat, by on his final lap got caught out by the conditions. Daniel Ricciardo out-qualified both Mercedes in their worst qualifying of the season, Lewis Hamilton struggling in the wet trailing teammate Valtteri Bottas for much of the session struggling with grip and tyre temperature.

Despite it being one of the most difficult races of his career Hamilton went on to take victory and his seventh championship. The world champion had dropped thirty seconds behind race leader Sergio Perez when he decided to switch to slicks, this allowed him to pas Perez on lap thirty-seven going onto victory.

The only man who could have stopped Hamilton Valtteri Bottas had a disastrous afternoon, finishing the race fourteenth on a weekend he needed to outscore Hamilton by seven points. The Finn appeared to struggle with the conditions spinning five times.

While Verstappen had a spin early on while battling Perez costing him the chance of victory, he also made a poor start and hen in the closing stages lost position to the McLaren’s. A strong drive by Carlos Sainz saw him take fifth, half a second ahead of his former teammate.

Race Result – 1) L. Hamilton, Mercedes, 01:42:19.313, 2) S. Perez, Racing Point – Mercedes, +31.633, 3) S. Vettel, Ferrari, +31.960

What to watch for?

One of the problems last year was the newly resurfaced track coupled with wet weather made both qualifying and the race the track was slippery making handling difficult that should be easier now the tarmac has been down for a year.

This weekend will again be about Mercedes v Red Bull in the championship, both teams you need to think to be able to perform at the same level. But the biggest question in my mind if as we have seen in the past whether Lewis Hamilton can use the momentum from Sochi to start building in towards his seventh title.

This race is one where overtaking is possible, but the big issue for all the drivers will be getting the tyres to work on the out lap. We know overtaking is possible around this circuit so there is the potential for great racing, but the straight-line speed and braking are going to be important. However, we know the dirty air can make following hard through the corners.

Turns One & Two can be a pinch point on the opening lap as we see the track narrow and sweep downhill. Drivers need to be warry of the first few corners on the opening laps, the midfield has known to bunch up. There remains a possibility of a safety car in the opening laps.

The midfield battle is going to be again between McLaren and Ferrari, we know McLaren have had two really strong races and I believe Istanbul can be one where they can beat Ferrari. You need to think with five races after this weekend we need to start thinking about who has a chance still in the top end of the constructors, if McLaren continue what they have been doing I think they could become very difficult for Ferrari to beat.

This weekend it’s going to be I think about assessing the grid with six races remaining in the season, we know there will be a lot to play for.

2011 vs 2020 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap


01:35.077 01:28.330 01:48.485 01:57.485 01:50.293 01:47.765 01:42:19.313 01:36.806


+3.593 +1.874 +22.448 +30.472 +24.683 +22.716 +12:02.245 +7.103


01:38.670 01:26.456 01:26.037 01:27.013 01:25.610 01:25.049 01:30:17.558 01:29.703


White Hard (C3)

Yellow Medium (C4)

Red Soft (C5)


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