After a disastrous Monaco Grand Prix McLaren are not expecting things to get much better in Istanbul, but several minor upgrades to their car should keep them the mix for points.
McLaren will be looking to put the Monaco Grand Prix behind them going into next week’s Turkish Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton epitomised the team’s torrid start to the season by crashing out in qualifying, effectively writing off his race – and with it his hopes of defending his title – while Heikki Kovalainen consolidated the nightmare by dropping his car into the barriers in the race after running as high as seventh.
It was something of an opportunity missed too. The Hamilton-McLaren package was widely tipped to shine in Monte Carlo with the twisty street circuit masking the aerodynamic flaws of the MP4-24.
The Istabul Speed Circuit with its flowing high speed corners couldn’t be further apart from the streets of Monaco and that is why McLaren are bracing themselves for another difficult weekend.
“We go to Turkey in the knowledge that the track characteristics are a bit less likely to suit our package than Monaco,” conceded McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh.
Mercedes Benz boss Norbert Haug added: “KERS should again be a good support to improve our lap times, but nevertheless the Turkish Grand Prix will be a demanding challenge for us.”
However, McLaren, continuing their highly effective piecemeal approach to development this season – compare BMW Sauber who have been forced to make radical changes to an under performing car – will bring several minor upgrades to their car for Istanbul which they hope will keep them in contention for points.
“We are improving all the time, confirmed Whitmarsh. “We have several minor upgrades for MP4-24 and look forward to assessing our competitiveness against our rivals.”
Lewis Hamilton meanwhile, who put in a sensational charge to second place in Istanbul last year despite being forced to make an extra pit stop for tyres, is relishing the prospect of throwing his car around the undulating circuit.
“I love racing in Turkey,” he said. “It’s a real challenge because you need to attack the lap to get a good time, but you also need to be careful with your tyres – if you push too much, particularly through Turn Eight, then your tyres are going to suffer. It’s all about finding the perfect balance in practice and being disciplined in the race so you don’t overdo it.”
“I also love the fact that it’s a new circuit that has really captured the flavour of some of the older, classic tracks it’s got a bit of everything and is fantastic to drive. Also, as it’s anti-clockwise, it gives your neck a bit of a workout but you just need to make sure you’ve exercised the left side of your neck a little more than usual before getting in the car.”
Heikki Kovalainen concurred: “Turkey is all about Turn Eight the high-speed, four-apex left-hander. On a good day in qualifying, it’s flat-out and that’s a pretty good feeling when you get it right.”
“It’s also very important to look after your tyres through Turn Eight you put a lot of load through the tyres, particularly the fronts, so it’s a good idea to look after them during the race. The best place to overtake here is into Turn 12, the corner at the end of the back straight. You can get a good tow and slipstream past with KERS we should hopefully see some exciting racing.”