Turkish GP: Race Pace Analysis [FP2]
Already in FP1 the asphalt of Istanbul Park offered more grip compared to last year – and by the time FP2 rolled by, with a whole session worth of rubber deposited on the track, it proved to be even better. In 2020, when the Turkish Grand Prix made its first comeback on the Formula 1 calendar, the tarmac had been resurfaced only 10 days prior to the race. This meant that all the oils and residue from the new asphalt sat right on top of it, making the track more slippery than ever. To make things even worse, after a day of practice, both the Qualifying session and the race were wet, which turned Istanbul Park into a proper Ice Ring.
The weekend promises action before the cars even get out onto the track; Lewis Hamilton will have to serve a penalty on the grid due to taking his fourth ICE unit, which will put him outside of the Top 10. Carlos Sainz will have to start even further back due to changing all the elements on his Power Unit, just like his teammate Charles Leclerc did in Sochi. However, Ferrari believes that the performance boost granted by the ERS upgrade is a good enough compromise for the penalty, as it will allow both drivers to be more competitive for the rest of the season.
The second practice session went without any red flags or major interruptions for a change; this is also due to Istanbul Park’s lack of close walls or gravel traps, which ensures that drivers will not crash or get stuck should they go off track. It was interesting to see that Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin all did their race simulations on the Medium tyre (C3), with McLaren and Alpine opting for the Hard and Soft compounds, split between their drivers.
FP2 Race Pace Analysis
The team from Brackley confirms once again their great rise in form since Monza; like it happened in Sochi, they were the fastest paced cars on track by a good margin. Hamilton averaged 1:27.733 on the Medium tyre compound during a pretty solid stint, which put him six tenths clear of Max Verstappen who, in the Red Bull, was only able to do 1:28.339 on average. It is looking like Mercedes will be the ones to beat this Sunday (and Saturday), even with Hamilton having a 10-place grid penalty. Bottas, who might have a shot at more than just a podium here in Istanbul, was also faster than Verstappen, averaging 1:28.092 on the same compound.
On a first glance, it would appear that Red Bull has lost the edge it had on Mercedes in the first half of the season – but they have been able to control their losses thanks to both Mercedes making costly mistakes and some good old luck, like in Russia where Verstappen was able to finish the race in P2.
However both drivers struggled with balance around Istanbul Park, with Verstappen very vocal about the excessive understeer he was experiencing especially in the last sector. Due also to a difference in their setups, the Dutch driver was not able to match his teammate Checo Pérez in the qualifying runs, but he was once again able to be faster in the race pace simulations – where he was around 4 tenths of a second faster per lap on the same compound. Even with Hamilton starting outside the Top 10 on Sunday, Red Bull has some work to do if they want to stay ahead of the faster paced Black Arrows.
Mattia Binotto can be happy with Ferrari’s performance so far in the weekend – even away from the track. The Team Principal opted to stay in Maranello to oversee the development of the 2022 car project, and he will be replaced on track this weekend by Laurent Mekies, Ferrari’s Sporting Director – just like last year.
And just like last year around this track, Charles Leclerc looked fast from the get-go. Less than two tenths of a second behind Lewis Hamilton in the qualifying simulations, the Monégasque averaged a 1:28.529 on the Medium tyre, which puts him behind both Mercedes and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen – but in front of Pérez.
Starting the race from the back of the grid on Sunday, Carlos Sainz’s main focus today was race preparation. He had the longest stint on the Medium compound (21 laps total), averaging a very good 1:28.771 per lap.
It’s a solid weekend for Ferrari as of right now, but as the drivers themselves reminded us – it is only Friday.
McLaren as per usual does not like showing their cards during Friday practice. Their race pace simulations were nothing to write home about, but they did try two different compounds – the Hard and the Soft tyres. Their stints however were very short, also due to the Soft tyre high rate of degradation; Ricciardo, who was on the softer compound, only managed a 5 laps stint, averaging a 1:29.017 – while Lando Norris was faster on the Hard compound (1:28.827), but had a similarly short stint.
We should however always keep an eye on the Papaya cars come Saturday, as things – especially in Qualifying – can change pretty soon.
Aston Martin did not look particularly confident coming into the weekend – especially after the recent streak of missed opportunities.
Overall, their race pace was average, with their qualifying simulations being generally worse compared to the longer runs. Sebastian Vettel complained about the understeer he was experiencing due to what he felt was not the right setup. On the other hand, Lance Stroll did not have many complaints, and looked a bit faster with an average of 1:28.923 on the Medium compound compared to Vettel’s average of 1:29.029.
Just like McLaren, Alpine split their programme between their drivers, testing two different compounds in the race simulations. Their qualifying runs were pretty solid, with both drivers in the Top 10 and ahead of their direct competition – AlphaTauri and Aston Martin. Their race pace, however, was a bit less impressive, with Alonso averaging a 1:29.284 on the Soft compound, but Ocon significantly faster on the Hard tyres, with a solid 1:28.892.
What to expect next:
The dry conditions and the good levels of grip gave us a good Friday session, despite a bit of traffic. Looking at the simulations, it would seem that in these conditions Mercedes will be the fastest cars in both Qualifying and the Race – but they will need to have a perfect weekend in order to capitalize on this advantage, because so far Mercedes has not been spotless – and Ferrari and Red Bull are both still looking a bit too close for comfort, and will be ready to jump on the train of opportunity should Mercedes present them with a ticket.
With the threat of rain (again) and a wet Qualifying session – or even just a green track, nothing is written in stone. What is sure instead is that we are in for yet another round of this crazy season, with many battles – and not just the one at the top – inching closer and closer with every race.
Author: Toni Sokolov
Editing: Sara Esposito