Starting off-line could prove McLaren’s undoing (Turkish GP pre-race analysis)

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Starting on the dirty side of the track could be a problem for Hamilton

McLaren successfully gave the flying Red Bulls some rare opposition in qualifying. Can they go one step forward and keep them from victory in the race?

The start will be crucial – and history shows having both their drivers on the left-hand side of the grid could be a disadvantage for McLaren.

The start

As Robert Kubica found out in Monaco, it’s not enough to split the Red Bulls in qualifying, you have to make it count at the start as well.

And at Istanbul, just like at Monte-Carlo, it’s questionable whether starting from second on the grid offers much of an advantage compared to starting third. Yes, you’re further ahead, but you’re on the dirty side of the track.

Lewis Hamilton starts second and he would do well to copy team mate Jenson Button’s tactics from last year by angling his car sharply across to the right to get onto the cleaner, grippier side of the track – and in front of Sebastian Vettel – as soon as possible.

Button will surely do likewise to impede Michael Schumacher’s progress, and so on down the grid.

If either McLaren driver can come out of turns nine and ten within range of an RB6, their straight-line speed advantage could help them pick off their rivals. The MP4/25s were 6kph faster than any other car through the speed traps during qualifying.


Even at Istanbul, where tyre degradation is more of a concern, no driver in Q3 was tempted into qualifying on the hard tyre. Further proof, as argued here last week, that the top ten tyre rule is a complete waste of time.

So expect tyre stops to begin as soon as the midfield runners have enough space to be able to pit and come out in front of the six new cars. Unless, that is, some kind of incident in the midfield opens up a gap there for the leaders to drop into after their pit stops.

Once the pit stops being the destiny of the race could be decided in the ensuing scramble.

Michael Schumacher will not have to start the race on the tyres he spoiled with his spin at the end of qualifying, because the rules require drivers to start the race on the same set of tyres they set their best time on – which was his previous set.

Alonso in the midfield

A poor qualifying session has left Fernando Alonso with some ground to make up if he’s going to score points tomorrow.

Starting from 12th on the grid he will probably have to start his race fighting a rearguard action against 13th-placed Pedro de la Rosa.

He will have a free choice of which tyres to start and he may choose to gamble on the hard tyres. This might make sense if the conditions tomorrow are as hot as they were on Friday and tyre wear is a concern on the soft tyres. But it carries the risk of being vulnerable if the safety car comes out early.

We will also see if turn eight continues to catch out drivers in the race. For most of them it will be a case of judging when – or if – it can be taken flat-out as their fuel load decreases during the race.

Even the Red Bulls have found this corner tricky, and after qualifying Button worried that his McLaren was running too low and at risk of bottoming out in the corner – a concern in the opening laps with a heavy fuel load.

How do you expect the Turkish Grand Prix to unfold? Can Mark Webber win his third race in the row? Have your say in the comments.

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    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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    47 comments on “Starting off-line could prove McLaren’s undoing (Turkish GP pre-race analysis)”

    1. And lets not forget reliability. RBR have had more issues than most this weekend.

    2. What about the apparent brake issues of Vettel? He complained that brakes were locking up very easily and spoiled both of his qualifying laps. Will he have a chance to mend it under parc ferme conditions?

      1. that was the roll bar failure. it’s talked about on

        1. So it wasn’t a repeat of his brake problems in Spain, but it was a repeat of the same failure he had in Australia.

          I’m amazed that an F1 driver couldn;t feel the difference between a brake failure and a suspension failure.

          For that matter, they had to tell Vettel that his front wing adjuster wasn’t working. i guess he didn;t notice that his adjustments didn’t do anything there either.

          Maybe it’s just Vettel who is so insensitive to his car? I remember that other drivers (Zanardi and Senna) were able to tell wich rubber compound the tyres had that they were using. I remember Zanardi was testing tyres and he could tell they gave him the tyres of the previous season (which they used to set a benchmark)

          1. But didn’t Zanardi have to switch back to steel brakes because he couldn’t ‘feel’ the carbon ones? Wasn’t that part of the reason his F1 career part 2 at Williams was so disastrous?

          2. No, not the same fault as Australia – that was a lost torque drive between the front left axle and wheel.

            In fairness, Vettel doesn’t appear to have said his brakes had failed – he just mentions that he had a strange problem with them locking up, which was a symptom of the broken anti-roll bar. Anti-roll bars don’t tend to break very often so most drivers wouldn’t automatically point to it as the cause.

    3. Lacking any reliability issues,
      Webber P1
      Hamilton P2
      Vettel P3
      Schumacher P4
      Button P5
      Rosberg P6

    4. Ferrari could have similar problems, although its more of a lottery in the midfield.

      Button will definitely have to show some more grit if Schumacher gets anywhere near or ahead of him on the first lap.

      1. Even if he’s not as fast as he used to be, Schumacher is still very talented, much to Button’s expense it seems!

    5. I really fancy Hamilton for 1st to cross the chequered flag.

      McLaren has been up there with RB on race pace on previous races and now they’re doing so well in quali makes me think they might have the edge in race pace.

    6. I just hope Michael can get a podium tomorrow.

      1. Oh yes,to see Michael on the podium would be great for him and all the fans Worldwide.When you think of how many races he has won over the years,it makes you realise that we are actually watching a “Living legend” — go for it Michael:)

    7. Hasn’t Lewis had problems with overcooking the tires during the race at this circuit? If that is true it could turn out to be an interesting race for him.
      Red Bull 1-2 is what I’m hoping for.

      1. Harry Bits
        30th May 2010, 6:12

        Im glad this track has got us starting to talk about tyre wear again. I few days ago a few of us, myself included, were discussing our dislike of the Hard Compound tyres lasting for nearly the entire race.

        It’s good to see that the harder compound tyres dont work as good here as just maybe we’ll see a battel, or two, of drivers trying to race on the softs as they start to go off.

        Racing on hard tyres for the entire race just ends up in a procession of the top 10 drivers simply changing from softs to hard and no battles for the top positions.

        Plus with this track being ‘dirty’ I think we might see some good action.

      2. yeh, that’s for sure. he had that huge puncture i 07 and then in 08 he had to run a 3 stopper just t be safe. i wonder how he’ll ho on softs with the full fuel load

    8. If nothing weird happens, Mark will get away with it!! :D

    9. Is there any rule about parking on your grid slot at a crazy angle?

      1. No, but I’m sure they’ll invent one if Hamilton does it!

        1. ha, so true. so true…

      2. Like this classic start you mean:

        Perhaps there should be a rule!

          1. ahah so funny i remeber this really stupid

            1. There’s something I’ll never understand about FIA tv cameras: why the **** they use the camera just above the floor to show the start, where you can see NOTHING until they switch to the helicopter one.

              they just spoil the best part of the race with a crappy camera

        1. As long as Schumacher isn’t on pole we probably won’t see anything like that in F1.

    10. This is Hamilton’s best chance for a win. He just has to get round that first corner ahead of the Red Bull’s and the F’ duct will pull him away.

    11. Ned Flanders
      29th May 2010, 20:44

      If I remember rightly the race organisers had a road sweeper thingy clean the inside of the start finish straight last season. Presumably they will have the same thing this season, although who knows how much difference it will make.

      One things for sure- the first lap should be interesting tomorow!

    12. I personnaly don’t like so much Vettel, and à 3 in a row win from Webbo should put him back to be a bit more humbleness, no ?
      It’s Webber’s chance…

    13. As I mentioned in another post, I do think Lewis can win this one. He has always been good on race pace. But he does need to keep Vettel behind at the start!
      Let’s hope he can, and we might have a race on our hands :)

    14. I remember Rubens last year when he said something to the effect of “I prefer to be 3rd (vs 2nd) because the odd numbered grid positions were on the clean side. Of course, his clutch acted up, and he didn’t have a good start. Could similar reliability woes doom Vettel tomorrow?

    15. In GP2 and GP3 today the second-placed went to lead in first corner and also to win.

    16. does anyone know what webber and vettel were talking about in the press conference when vettel said he should have gone out first?

    17. Nice analysis Keith.

      I picked Webber for pole, but I’m betting both RedBulls to finish out of the top five (reliability), though no ill-will to Webber who is impressing everyone, most of all his teammate who seems to be developing a permanently sour facial expression. I also picked Alonso for 4th, d’oh.

    18. Webber or Hamilton for the win (I don’t have a favorite between the two). I’d love to see Schumi on the podium, too. If for nothing more than to show that older drivers can still have the grit and talent for chance to win.

    19. Mr. Zing Zang
      29th May 2010, 21:45

      Webber will be attacked by Hamilton continuously throughout the race. He wont even get to focus enough to take turn 8 properly.

      1. that’s if Vettel doesn’t overtake him at the start!

    20. Incidentally, if Webber wins he will be the first driver to win 3 consecutive races from pole since Alonso won 4 in a row from pole from Spain-Canada 2006.

    21. Re Schumacher’s tires. The way I understand it, even if those had been his fastest lap set of tires that he (presumably) binned at the end of Q3, he wouldn’t be required to start the race on them if deemed to be unsafe by the team and Charlie Whiting. It will be interesting to see how this scenario is dealt with if it ever does happen.

      1. It would be hist first set of softs from Q3

    22. Alot of interesting things in qualifying.

      1. Webber said he was “heavy” in his last Q3 run ( Q&A) and in the press conference that he was in better shape for race pace (I think he meant as opposed to Vettel). I think there is something in this “heavy” thing in respect of the switch to high fuel and ride height.

      2. I think Button was faster than Hamilton over a lap on this track and that his use of tyres is already showing himself better for the race. Button says he has his ride height too low for the race though, but it could mean he comes on strong in the latter half of the race. He would be ruing having no refueling strategy opportunity.

      3. I think Webber had Vettel covered right up to Q3 where Vettel had more pace (even though the times say the opposite). That “heavy” comment might have been the difference.

      Webber looks colder than I’ve ever seen him.

      1. Hey man…..nice analysis.

        Maybe becoause Webber was heavier so the McLarens were close to them. As it is, it is not possible to change ride height so this may be a trick by Red Bull to sort of manipulate (they are smart actually) their ride height.

    23. The Red Bulls favor me but if Vettel to win he needs to take down Webber on the first lap or else he will not be able to do it then until Mark makes a mistake.
      Glad to hear that Schumi will start the race on clean tyres but is there any damage to his car. It was nice to see him that he was helping the marshal while his car been recovered.Now the question remains whether Hamilton can beat the Bulls, my answer NO cause they are fast & secondly he starts on the dirty sides of the road & may find Schumacher alongside him down to turn 1!Hope Kobayashi finish in points tomorrow he did a good qualifying.

      1. I forgot to mention , turn 8 with heavy fuel loads will be a challenge tomorrow & I won’t be surprise if some drivers get caught there as Schumacher did on Saturday.

    24. I’d say Hamilton-Button-Webber…..Vetter to DNF

    25. “Qualifying – Webber beats Hamilton to Turkey pole”

      This headline on the F1 site… well it just doesn’t read very gracefully does it.

      I’m thinking that Lewis is due a win, if, if, if, if…

    26. Instead of the question on which side Hamilton and Button are, it’s more inportant how far the run to the first corner is.

      As we saw in Spain, the F-duct is a serious aid in overtaking cars from the start.

      In Spain Hamilton didn’t have a good start, but he got away reasonably. When the speeds went up his f-duct started to pay out and he started closing up to the Red Bulls mighty fast.

      1. True. It’s a short run to turn one here and I don’t think that’ll help them much.

    27. i guarantee hamilton demolishes his tyres mid race

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