Ranked: Every Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul Park

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The Istanbul Park circuit in Turkey is expected to be announced as a new addition to the 2020 F1 calendar, as RaceFans revealed last week.

The circuit is regarded as one of the best among the new venues to be built in recent decades. As well as featuring the obligatory long acceleration zones into sharp corners which facilitate overtaking, the course features a reasonable amount of gradient and a few quick corners. The highlight of the lap is the dauntingly quick, quadruple-apex turn eight – if ever a corner deserved a proper name, it’s this one.

It held the Turkish Grand Prix between 2005 and 2011, producing a mix of highlight and lowlights during its seven-year spell. But which of those encounters was the most memorable?

7. 2009 Turkish Grand Prix

Vettel’s mistake handed Button an easy win in 2009

Mark Webber didn’t always get the rough end of team orders at Red Bull. In the closing stages of the 2009 Turkish Grand Prix the team told Sebastian Vettel to follow Webber home with the clear instruction: “Mark is faster”.

Vettel should never have been in that position to start with. He’d qualified on pole position and led the field through turn one. Then he ran wide, lost the lead to Jenson Button, and his victory hopes were ruined.

Button therefore collected his sixth win from the first seven races in what was a soporific encounter. The Brawn driver looked on course to wrap the title up very early.

But it proved his final victory in the BGP-001. The cash-strapped team had little to spend on upgrades, and their rivals closed in fast. It took until the penultimate race in November for Button to put a lock on the title.

6. 2008 Turkish Grand Prix

There was drama at the back of the field in 2008

Surely no one was more disappointed to see Istanbul vanish from the calendar than Felipe Massa, who won there three years on a row from 2006 to 2008. The latter was a notably forgettable race, though Giancarlo Fisichella caused high drama – literally – when he launched his Force India at the start.

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5. 2011 Turkish Grand Prix

The 2011 race kept the pit crews busy

A fine example of how lots of pit stops does not automatically make for an exciting race. The 24-strong field made a total of 82 visits to the pits during F1’s final visit to Istanbul. Race winner Vettel made a total of four stops in this, the fourth race of F1’s DRS/high-degradation-tyres era. Now in its 10th year, that novelty has worn off as badly as the tyres.

4. 2007 Turkish Grand Prix

Hamilton was hit by tyre failure in 2007

Massa’s second win at Istanbul was a rather straightforward affair as well. But the track’s last race to be held in the punishing heat of August did have the advantage of producing a pot-boiler of a result for the championship: Massa edged away from Kimi Raikkonen in third, while second-placed Fernando Alonso bagged more useful points.

Lewis Hamilton, sensationally leading the championship six races from the end of his rookie season, suffered a sudden tyre failure on lap 43 while on his way to third place. He came in fifth, missing out on two points which would have been very useful come the finale.

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3. 2005 Turkish Grand Prix

Raikkonen won the first Turkish Grand Prix

F1’s first visit to Istanbul should have produced a one-two for McLaren. Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya scrapped hard with the Renaults at the start, but when Alonso and Fisichella pitted early to refuel it was clear they didn’t have the longevity to challenge the silver cars.

Montoya’s run to second place unravelled, however. He lost time with a slow refuelling stop, then the lapped Tiago Monteiro ran into the back of him approaching turn 12. He made it home third, but Alonso snagged an extra two points increasingly looked like the champion-elect.

2. 2006 Turkish Grand Prix

Massa made a habit of winning at Istanbul

For the second year in a row, Alonso pulled off a damage-limiting result for his championship hopes. Ferrari choreographed the start to perfection, Massa leading away from his first pole position while title contender Michael Schumacher kept Alonso at bay.

An early Safety Car period wrecked their plans, however. Schumacher lost time pitting and Alonso nipped ahead, resisting pressure to claim a vital second. Massa claimed a joyous maiden win after a rough start to his first season at Ferrari on a day when the team won the battle but suffered a setback in the war.

1. 2010 Turkish Grand Prix

The 2010 race served up an intense scrap between Red Bull and McLaren

With refuelling finally banned, and with gimmicks like DRS and high-deg tyres a year away, the 2010 season produced some fantastic races and the closest championship fight for a generation.

Ferrari hadn’t fully got a handle on their 2010 car by this stage in the championship: Massa and Alonso trudged in seventh and eighth at the team’s 800th grand prix. But Red Bull and McLaren went toe-to-toe in this exquisitely tense encounter.

Red Bull and McLaren team mates fought hard
Webber led away from pole in his Red Bull with Hamilton’s McLaren in pursuit. Vettel, third on the grid due to a braking problem in qualifying, took early service from the Red Bull crew to deprive Hamilton of second, then went after his team mate.

This time there was no “Mark is faster”. On the 40th lap Vettel got a run on his team mate on the kinked acceleration zone leading to turn 12. He nosed past, but moved to reclaim the racing line from his team mate before he’d fully passed, and the pair collided.

This was a near carbon-copy of Vettel’s collision with Charles Leclerc in Brazil last year, with one significant exception: Both Ferraris retired in Brazil, but in Turkey Webber was able to continue and salvage third.

He followed the McLaren pair who also swapped the lead at one stage. This was contentious too, as Hamilton has asked the team if he was at risk of being passed by his team mate, and told he wasn’t, before Button took the lead away. Hamilton repassed his team mate and won a memorable race.

Over to you

What’s the best race you’ve seen at Istanbul? And do any of these match up to Hamilton’s epic charge through the field in the 2006 GP2 sprint race? 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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  • 21 comments on “Ranked: Every Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul Park”

    1. Wasn’t it a broken antiroll bar in qualifying that prevented Vettel to score pole in 2010?

      2010 was a glorious year indeed. Perfect mix of great races and drama all season long, and very pure racing (except at Germany). Looking back it was probably the best season ever since I started following F1 in the mid 90s.

      1. @fer-no65 it was a damaged anti-roll bar which caused the problems although, to be fair to the author, initially it looked like a brake problem because Vettel was having problems with brake locking due to the abnormal weight transfer across the front axle.

      2. It was a great year, but for me 2012 pips it…just. 2005 to 2012 we were spoilt for F1 seasons (maybe with the exception of 2011, but there were a few cracking races that year) Little did we know at the end of 2012 that this would be as good as it got.

      3. Thomas Bennett (@felipemassadobrasil)
        25th August 2020, 19:06

        I also loved 2010, my favourite year car/livery design wise, and it was my first real F1 season.

      4. @fer-no65

        When it came to the championship battle, it was definitely one of the best seasons in the last 25 years. There were a handful of great races – Australia, Turkey, Canada, Britain, Singapore, Korea, etc. But overall the races were a little on the processional side.. very few wheel to wheel battles among all the title contenders.

        I thought the 2007 season was as exciting as the 2010 season, in fact it was higher it had a higher drama quotient, But I thought the 2012 season was absolutely fantastic in terms of championship battle and quality of races. If I had to rank them it would probably be – 2012, 2007 and then 2010

        1. Thomas Bennett (@felipemassadobrasil)
          26th August 2020, 11:59

          2008? Madcap year

    2. Was there for the 2010 race, and glad to see F1 back in Istanbul! The race, for us, was memorable not only as a race, but we also had to break down and buy a $100 Ferarri umbrella to save my Sweetie from absolutely cooking in the sun!

    3. Herman Tilke.
      No circuit from this guy is worth even mentioning – flat boring non-circuits.

      One possible exception – Marina bay in Singapore. Guess why?! Because it has not been built by this guy, he just took the streets in a tight city. Hurray.

    4. I am absolutely delighted to have the Turkish Grand Prix back, not least because the 2010 race was the very first F1 race I ever watched, and it was what made me a true fan! I remember knowing a little about McLaren back then, and the 1-2 result absolutely floored me. 11 years later, I’m still watching!

    5. Honestly, what are we doing here? Not ping-pong, but working on to win the championship!

    6. Ah 2010, forever will my nightmares be haunted by Fernando’s manic laughter over the radio, in the dark, in Korea.

    7. My memory of Turkey is that four apex corner, the very one now that is being copied at the USGP and the Turkish version was always the highlight of the return to Turkey each season. Then Turkey vanished and the American version of that corner has never lived up to what Turkeys was.

    8. I think the 2011 race is the perfect example of why more isn’t necessarily better.

      DRS was probably the most powerful it’s ever been that day & that combined with the tyre deg led to something like 150 on track overtakes….. None of which anybody remembers as they were all far too easy & as a result we never really saw any actual racing. It was just a lot of cars regularly swapping position in uneventful/forgettable ways that never felt meaningful.

      And the high tyre deg on top of the high number of pit stops made it a really difficult race to follow.

      1. One might call it one for the history books for all the wrong reasons @stefmeister!

        I clearly recall the 2009 race too, though it wasn’t super exciting in many ways. I guess the 2010 race was a highlight for me too.

      2. @stefmeister I thought the 2011 event was enjoyable, even though the Red Bulls were dominant. There were quite a few battles between in the midfield, Petrov colliding with Schumacher. It was an eventful race, even though it didn’t need DRS.

    9. 2006 and 2010 Turkish GP were epic.

    10. In the 2010 Turkish GP was indeed a terrific race despite being painful for the tifosi. There was also a hidden team order when Jenson was racing Hamilton he was told to save fuel though he didn’t have to.
      Hamilton in those days was a driver that could make the difference despite the near impossibility to overtake a faster car. He was breathing down Vettel’s neck and kept applying the pressure on the Red Bull drivers for the whole race (at one point he attempted an unsuccessful overtake at Vettel). He was there to capitalize on their incident and the way he regained the lead from Jenson was very impressive. He didn’t have to wait for the DRS zone or for Jenson’s tyres to drop off.

      1. I recently watched the 2008 Turkish Grand Prix and I found it decently entertaining. We saw a very good overtake by Hamilton on Massa albeit on a different strategy as well as some good battles with Kovalainen moving his way up the field, especially with the rosberg one. 2011 was very hectic but not in the best way. Will have to watch 2005,2006,2007 and 2009 in full to judge them but of course Turkey 2010 is a classic for obvious reasons

    11. @lusciousazure 2008 wasn’t too bad indeed. I think the 2007 event was the worst of all. I believe Keith himself gave the race one out of five stars at the time, which seemed about right. McLaren probably chose the wrong fuel strategy for the race, failing to capitalize on their slightly better qualifying pace to try to control the race. Instead, they only qualified 2nd and 4th, lost places at the start and were then unable to challenge the Ferraris in the race, as the Ferraris usually had a better race-pace.
      2009 wasn’t too great, but 2005 and especially 2006 were pretty epic. Not sure why the races from 2007 to 2009 were so static. The track should allow for overtaking, but maybe a lack of strategic variation made those races pretty dull.

    12. I read 7 races, several Vettel mistakes :) That Webber/Vettel crash was hilarious though especially with all the signs Vettel was making signaling Webber was crazy.

    13. “Webber, Webber, what’s your problem Webber, what’s your problem? Me say alone ramp, me say alone ramp! *Vettel and Webber hit eachother* *VETTEL SLAMS DESK IN RAGE*”

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