Will Gray

Tech Talk: How to beat Red Bull in Turkey…

Will Gray

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The Istanbul circuit receives near unanimous praise from drivers up and down the grid - but what does it take to be fast around this track and how could F1's current pacesetters Red Bull be beaten?

The combination of various different corner types, long straights and short braking zones requires a compromise in set-up, with a medium-speed first sector, the awesome high-speed turn eight followed by long fast stretches, and finally a tight and twisty section to finish.

With Red Bull's car seemingly coping well with all track elements it's hard to see them being beaten this weekend, but there are a couple of key areas where their rivals, particularly McLaren, may be able to close the gap and potentially steal an advantage...

Smooth circuit

The flow of the circuit is naturally smooth, with non-aggressive kerbs, so it benefits cars and drivers that respond well to a smooth style (like Jenson Button) more than those that work better when an attacking aggressive approach is needed.

On top of that, the circuit has been resurfaced this year and although newly laid tracks often see bumps finding their way through, if the tarmac does remain smooth it will limit suspension travel throughout the lap - and that could offer a key advantage to the opposition.

Most leading teams have put more aerodynamic focus on the diffuser than Red Bull, and on bumpy tracks that can hurt them because the diffuser is very sensitive to ride height changes. More aggressive designs (like McLaren's) can stall due to momentary ride height changes, reducing airflow speed under the car and reducing downforce, and are difficult to get air re-attached. On a smooth circuit, there is less change in ride height over the course of the lap, so the diffuser can work harder for longer.

Lewis Hamilton believes this will put the McLaren "back in its element" in Turkey and explained: "It loves smooth, fast circuits, where the aero can really work over the car through the long, fast corners. It should feel fantastic to drive."

Turn eight

The long, fast, triple apex is a bit of an unknown quantity this year, because it will be the first time the cars have gone through it with a full tank of fuel - so drivers will have to learn how much they can push through it, and the forces on the tyres could be strong.

The longest high-speed corner on the calendar, it puts 4G through the driver's neck for around six seconds each lap. Again, learning how to get this corner right for qualifying could gain precious tenths of a second, and appreciating how to alter the approach to it as fuel loads decrease will be an important element in the race itself.

"You throw the car into the first apex and then just feed it through with very precise throttle and steering inputs," Button explained. "When you get it right, it feels absolutely fantastic - you really can pull a lot of speed through that corner."

Tyre graining

Taking care of tyres on high-speed corners will also be crucial to outcome of the race, but this time it is not turn eight that is so important - it is turns 12 to 14, where Bridgestone believe there will be significant tyre degradation potential.

"The left-right-left turns 12-14 are the lowest speed areas, straight after the highest-speed straight," said Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport. "This combination is a breeding ground for tyre graining."

The Red Bull cars have traditionally suffered strong tyre graining in high temperatures and although they appear to have solved that problem this season the Istanbul circuit will be perhaps the toughest test for them so far this year.

Overtaking

Red Bull may be introducing their version of the F-Duct in Turkey, but even if they do, their rivals are a step ahead already, having all tried out initial versions in previous races. McLaren, of course, introduced the concept, so theirs is working perfectly - and on this circuit, that could be significant.

The track is wide, up to 20m wide in some places, with plenty of late braking zones for overtaking and Button added: "If you can follow a car out of turn 10, you've got a really good chance of getting a tow and having a look up the inside into turn 12 or even turn 13."

And remember, turn 12 and 13 are where graining could be an issue - so if a car is having to nurse its tyres in that area, they will be even more susceptible to a passing move.

Mercedes are planning some "major and very challenging" upgrades for Turkey, and McLaren seem extremely confident that the smooth flowing circuit will help them close the gap to Red Bull. Ferrari, also, will bring back their F-duct and hope to take a step back in the right direction.

Whether any will gain enough to overhaul Red Bull, though, is anyone's guess...

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