2008 Turkish Grand Prix notes

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Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Istanbul, 2008, 470150

Here are my notes on the Turkish Grand Prix including how Lewis Hamilton lost the race on Saturday, what happened to the BMWs, and how much trouble Nelson Piquet Jnr is in.

Plus when was the last time we saw a pass for the lead in a dry race?

Hamilton lost it on Saturday

Despite his compromised strategy Lewis Hamilton probably would have won if he’d started on pole position – and he has only himself to blame for not doing that. Here’s how the top three finishers’ qualifying times compared to their fastest lap times in their first stint, and how much fuel they had on board:

DriverQ3 lapBest first stint lap (difference)Lap no. of first pit stop
Felipe Massa1’27.6171’26.666 (-0.951)19
Lewis Hamilton1’27.9231’26.641 (-1.282)16
Kimi Raikkonen1’27.9361’26.506 (-1.43)21

Given that Hamilton’s first stint lap times were probably increased by being stuck behind Massa, and he might have gone even faster, his qualifying lap was clearly not good enough.

Had Hamilton started from pole position he would not have lost time in the first stint stuck behind Massa while the Ferrari driver’s tyres went through their graining phase. That in turn would have probably allowed him to get out of the pits in front of Kimi Raikkonen for his third stint, saving him enough time to make the difference over Massa.

Was BMW’s dip in performance a one-off?

Robert Kubica, BMW, Istanbul, 2008, 470313

Ron Dennis said earlier this year that he didn’t think BMW could maintain the pace of development over the course of a season to stay as close to McLaren and Ferrari as they were in the opening races. Was the Turkish Grand Prix, where Robert Kubica finished 17s behind Raikkonen, a sign of that prediction coming true?

Kubica’s fastest race lap was a 1’26.780, 0.274s slower than the fastest (Raikkonen’s). However he was not able to lap close to that pace consistently – in fact that was his sole sub-1’27s lap despite spending most of the race without a car directly in front of him.

Heidfeld’s best race lap was 0.5s off Kubica’s. The same margin separated them in qualifying, again to Kubica’s advantage, despite only having two laps’ less fuel in his BMW.

So Kubica’s performance was probably the more accurate guide to the true performance of BMW. But we’ll have to wait a few more races to know if this is the start of a trend, or just a one-off.

Problems for Piquet

Nelson Piquet Jnr, Renault, Istanbul, 2008, 470313

It was a ghastly weekend for Nelson Piquet Jnr. He was seven tenths of a second slower than Fernando Alonso in the first part of qualifying, which set against his obvious speed in testing and practice has led some to speculate whether he’s cracking under pressure.

From 17th on the grid he finished 15th, only gaining places at the expense of Kazuki Nakajima (first lap retirement) and Sebastian Vettel (first lap damage). His best lap was six tenths slower than Alonso’s.

Pat Symonds actually praised Piquet immediately after the race, commenting that he’d been one of the only drivers who’d tried to defend his position from the recovering Heikki Kovalainen. The television cameras didn’t show much of that, however, other than Kovalainen passing Piquet as the Renault driver under-steered wide at turn 12.

Ye gads! Overtaking!

There were actually some passing moves made during the Turkish Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton’s pass on Felipe Massa was the first pass for the lead in a dry Grand Prix since – I think – Kimi Raikkonen on Giancarlo Fisichella at Suzuka in 2005…

Hamilton did, however, have a car that was at least a second per lap faster at the time. If a driver doesn’t have that kind of advantage they can’t even get within range to try and make the leading driver defend their position. That much was clear from Raikkonen’s inability to get close to Kubica in the first stint or Hamilton at the end of the race.

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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17 comments on “2008 Turkish Grand Prix notes”

  1. Good point on Hamilton.
    It got me thinking that, while many people are saying the 2008 Turkish Grand Prix was Hamilton’s best F1 race to date, it can only be right if we are talking strictly about the race itself… otherwise, we can’t say this was Hamilton’s best Grand Prix to date, as he threw away a possible win by missing the pole position…

  2. Judging on recent performances in GP2 and GP2 Asia, surely Romain Grosjean would be a better driver in the second Renault than Piquet, who has shown absolutely no promise this year.

  3. Robert McKay
    17th May 2008, 20:05

    “Lewis Hamilton’s pass on Felipe Massa was the first pass for the lead in a dry Grand Prix since – I think – Kimi Raikkonen on Giancarlo Fisichella at Suzuka in 2005”

    If that really is true, and I suspect it may well be (there’s certainly not a multitude of passes that you’ve missed) then that really is quite a horrific indictment on the sport. I already knew that it was the case that passes for the lead had become rare, but to put it in actual timescales like that is a shocker.

  4. William Wilgus
    17th May 2008, 21:08

    I can’t agree on Hamilton:

    McLaren supposedly—before the race—calculated the difference between the two and three stop strategies as 5 seconds. That means he would have had to make up five seconds on the track, which he clearly didn’t as he never matched Massa’s pace despite being lighter throughout. Someone reported a lap’s worth of fuel as being worth 0.01 seconds per lap. So even if Hamilton had been on a two-stop, he wouldn’t have won.

  5. thanks for these very interesting notes but it looks to me like you are missing one major fact that might have changed the result of the race: the incident between Kimi and Heikki that left the first with a damaged front wing, the second with a puncture.
    With a 2 pit stops strategy and a bit more fuel than Massa Heikki might well have won the GP. And without a damaged front wing Kimi might have had a different race…
    Also with harder tyres (est’d +0.3s on a fast lap) and even with 10kg less fuel than Massa it is less than obvious that Lewis could have won the pole… on top of that Heikki was very fast too…

  6. Great point about the lack of overtaking Keith. The move Lewis made on Massa was enjoyable, but Raikkonen’s on Fisichella was really memorable.
    Another thing of note is that Suzuka and Turkey are two circuits where there are good overtaking opportunites. Looking back on that 2005 race, didn’t Fernando nail Michael Schumacher through 130R? If I am not mistaken, there was quite abit of overtaking that day, but Kimi’s move on the last lap was awesome.
    Back to the point of Ron Dennis suggesting that BMW Sauber won’t be able to keep pace with the top two, that is very rich coming from a man who’s team isn’t exactly dominant.
    Things havn’t really clicked for McLaren so far this year. A grid penalty for both cars in Sepang, a front wheel failure for Kovalainen, two errors from Hamilton in Bahrain, and then the ‘three stop’ scenario in Turkey.
    However you slice it, a team doesn’t win championships in that manner, its all about getting steady, consistent results every race. BMW Sauber may well have ‘struck out’ in Turkey, but their previous race weekends were very fruitfull indeed, far more so than McLaren.
    Ron Dennis should concentrate on his own teams problems, and rectify them by getting maximum points at Monaco next weekend.
    On the subject of Piquet Jnr, what can one say? Can you judge the boy after just five Grands Prix? The answer is no, and consider his team mate.
    I hope he can improve, and he needs to do it in the next few races if he really stands a chance of keeping that drive at Renault.
    Onto Hamilton’s qualifying performance, I would think that we all agree that Lewis has plenty of room to improve. He is not superhuman, he is not perfect, he is still in the process of mastering the fine art of car setup, balance, tyre choice, everything.
    What I will always remember about the greats of this sport is their qualifying performances, and how well they all managed their tyres whilst still setting blistering lap times.
    In another five years, we will have ample opportunity to judge accurately how far Lewis has progressed. Now is too soon.
    One final note, very impressed by Kovalainen’s qualifying in Turkey. Damn, for a country with such a small population, Finland really does produce some class racing car drivers!!

  7. John Beamer
    18th May 2008, 5:05

    William — try 0.1s per lap

  8. pass for lead?, 2007 Nurburgring …. Alonso against Massa, 5 or 6 laps before finish.

  9. The last pass for the lead before was during last year’s grand prix at the Nurburgring, Alonso (McLaren) overtook Massa (Ferrari) to take the win. Who can forget that little argument they had behind the podium LOL

  10. Sush: he meant a pass for the lead in a dry race, which was not the case of Nurburgring

  11. Cheers Daniel, sorry guys! i’ll pay better attention next time.

  12. They’re talking about passes for the lead during dry races, Sush. :)

    I’m with Robert McKay on this one. I knew the situation was bad but to read its been two and a half years is shocking. Fingers crossed the 09 tech regs work the magic we’re hoping for.

  13. And, like Keith pointed out, that pass only happened because Hamilton was one second per lap faster than Massa at the time, and the move didn’t decide the winner…

    Still, It’s been almost three years since an overtaking in a dry race decided the winner!

  14. Oh, and I presume he’s not counting overtaking just after the start until the first corner…

  15. But Keith, didn’t Mclaren come out to say, they were forced to make camber and tyre pressure changes to the car in order that there is a guarantee it runs safely? Wont that have an effect on the handling of the car especially during qualifying?

  16. Oliver – I’m sure it does, but I don’t think that changes my point. Massa, Kovalainen and Raikkonen all did a much better job by getting closer to their race pace in Q3 than Hamilton did.

  17. There are other views on EVERY maneouver ….. one might suggest Massa let Hamilton pass as by then Ferrari knew Hammy was on a three stop plan, wasting time and fuel trying to block him would have been counter-productive.
    It was more important for Massa to stay on HIS plan than alter it to fight Hamilton. These chats are always fun but so many “IFs”; if Kova, if Kimi, if Massa had spun out…..if Hamilton had the pole. The truth is F1 is in the doldrums right now, all too often the race is won on Saturday in Q3. Robert McKay (#3 above) summed it up:
    “then that really is quite a horrific indictment on the sport.” His remark was aimed at passing but applies to Q3 also. F1 in general has evolved into this state, it’s probably going to take a MAJOR change to restore real racing to the event.

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