Istanbul Park is one of the best of the modern tracks with a great first sector which has lots of long, smooth corners. The first corner is quite tricky because there is a blind apex and you begin to turn in before you can see the inside kerb. Then you go up the hill through turn two, which is a very long corner and on the opening lap of the race it’s quite exciting with a bit of action as the cars run alongside each other.
In the middle of the lap, you come to turn eight, which is a four apex corner taken at about 260 km/h. The biggest problem is not so much the line to take, but the bottoming of the car because there are a lot of bumps. With the current cars it’s nearly a flat-out corner, so it’s not really a big challenge, although it will be on the opening lap when the tyre pressures are quite low and the car is heavy on fuel. One thing you have to watch is the right front tyre, which is under a lot of stress and can grain quite a lot because of this corner.
After turn eight you go downhill on the approach to turns nine and ten, which make up a chicane that suddenly goes uphill. You can carry a lot of speed in, but if you’re not careful you can lose it on the exit because it’s very easy to run wide – as Vettel did last year on the first lap. Sometimes you have to change your line, especially if you’re racing someone, and you can sacrifice entry speed to try and get on the power early on the exit. It’s a strange corner and one I always give a lot of respect to because you never get the perfect balance through it.
The best chance to overtake is the last section of the lap into turn 12, which is after the long straight and heads into that ‘mickey-mouse’ section. You can run side-by-side, but you are always limited by traction and front-end grip. Unless someone makes a mistake it’s quite hard to get past.
As for the car set-up, it’s a compromise between the first and last sector of the lap. If you choose a high-speed set-up where you’re good aerodynamically for the first sector, you sacrifice mechanical grip so you lose that traction and braking stability, which is especially important in the final sector.