The Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul extended F1′s streak of exciting races to start this season. While we still had the same winner and pole sitter, that didn’t stop it from being an enthralling race in which you couldn’t predict the podium result until right near the end of the race due to predominantly the tyres.
People will undoubtedly lay blame at Red Bull’s door for being too dominant and making the outcomes predictable, but that would hardly be fair. It’s not their fault that the competition aren’t pushing them hard enough so far in the season. All they’ve done is design the best car possible under the regulations, and had drivers, one in particular that have driven them to their potential. I expect Ferrari, McLaren and possibly Mercedes to stay close to them and win multiple races this year, and not just on strategy alone, as McLaren did with Lewis Hamilton in China. We may even see Renault get back to podium clinching ways in Spain.
In other words, while Red Bull are certainly the favourites as things stand to repeat their double championship success from last year, they certainly won’t have things their own way for much longer. The other top teams have too much money and talent to let that happen.
As far as the race itself, I think it was pretty eventful, even confusing at times even for long time fans of the sport. The DRS seemed to be a bit too strong this weekend which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as it allowed multiple overtakes and re-passes from the likes of Webber and Alonso, where normally one car will get past and be done with the rival, as they won’t be able to get back into the one second window for DRS deployment.
I was happy to see Rosberg and Mercedes come back up to 5th place in the race at the end after they appeared to be struggling badly on high fuel and getting passed by everyone early on. It may be true that 6th would have been the best he could have hoped for had Button not made the mistake of only pitting 3 times instead of 4, but after his strong start I think he and the team deserved it.
Williams seemed to be stronger in qualifying pace, almost getting into Q3 with Rubens, but it wasn’t to be. Points also weren’t to be once again, another blow but at least progress is slowly being made. I hope they can finally score in Spain, but they could face stiff competition from Team Lotus, who will bring big upgrades including a blown diffuser which could find them a second in pace. They’re not just looking for their first point of the season, but ever, so both teams will be intensely fighting for that 10th place.
The other midfield teams, Sauber and Toro Rosso will also be looking to stay in the points in the next round. Kobayashi thought 7th was possible after a puncture sustained with Buemi caused him to change strategy. He made a 3 stop strategy work which was impressive and finished 10th, which is still very strong considering the car he was driving as well as having to come from the back of the grid.
The final midfield team Force India will be hoping to get back to form and into the points battle too after struggling in Instanbul. Sutil finished 13th and Paul Di Resta retired 44 laps in with mechanical failure.
Virgin had a terrible weekend. First, their upgrades including the rear wing, floor and blown exhaust system didn’t work correctly and had to be removed. Adding to this, Glock’s car had transmission issues before the race and couldn’t start. Jerome D’ambrosio drove a strong race and was the only driver to make a 2 stop strategy work. Virgin also beat HRT comfortably which is good, especially as they did it without their upgrades. They certainly can’t rest on their laurels though.
Finally, a quick mention for Felipe Massa who, if you look at the race result, you would think was comprehensively beaten by his team mate. I thought so too, but then heard that he had problems on 3 of his 4 pit stops. This cost him considerable amounts of time and then dropped him back out on track in traffic, further ruining his race. Hopefully he’ll have a bit better luck next time out in Spain.
I’m excited for the next race at Catalunya in a couple of weeks. Many eyes will be on Team Lotus to see if they really can mix it properly with the midfield.