Formula One's annual summer break ends this week as the teams head to Istanbul for the Turkish Grand Prix on Sunday 28 August. Situated on the Asian side of the Bosphorous and 55 miles outside of the city, Turkey's Otodrom made its debut on the Formula One calendar last year with the Herman Tilke designed track leaving an indelible impression on the drivers, teams and fans alike. With just five races to go, the season is moving into its closing stages and the WilliamsF1 Team is keen to prove its capabilities and end the year on a positive note.
Mark and Nico have been called to duty just once while taking advantage of the three week break. Mark made a trip to Iceland on behalf of the Baugur Group, parent company to Hamleys, where he visited a children's hospital before heading to one of the city's major shopping centres for a playstation and pit stop challenge. Nico made an appearance for Philips at a rain-soaked Rotterdam for the Bavarian City Racing event, which featured high speed demonstrations and a spot of doughnutting in front of a 250,000-strong crowd. Mark and Nico then enjoyed some time out to re-charge their batteries ahead of the final five races. Mark elected to remain at home in the UK to continue preparations for his Tasmania Challenge, he was also kept busy with the stag-do and wedding of his best friend, for whom he was best man. Nico, meanwhile, opted for a beach hideaway in Europe for a short break with friends combined with an intensive training programme.
Despite the August testing ban, the team has worked relentlessly at its Grove headquarters over the past three weeks in preparation for the remaining rounds of the Championship. Work undertaken in both of the team's wind tunnels has culminated in various upgrades for the FW28s in time for this weekend's event, specifically revised barge boards and engine covers. Component modifications will be minor for Turkey, as the team has elected to concentrate on improving reliability.
The purpose-built Istanbul Speed Park is an entirely different technical proposition to the previous race held in Budapest. A modern circuit measuring just over 5.3kms per lap, the Otodrom is a challenging blend of long and short straights, interspersed with eight left- and six right-hand corners. Each turn places different demands on the car and the driver, no more so than turn 8 - the notorious triple apexer which is taken at speeds reaching 250km/h and which places between 4 and 4.5g of lateral loadings on the drivers 58 times during the course of the race. Turkey also features some interesting gradient changes which, while not upsetting the balance of the car, must be taken into consideration during set-up. Although last year's anticipated high temperatures never materialised, ambients are expected to reach the 40°C mark while track readings could climb to 55°C this weekend. As such, engines will require additional cooling capabilities and tyre selection will also be affected accordingly. Like San Marino and Brazil, Turkey runs in an anti-clockwise direction which creates additional pressures - notably for the tyres, and particularly for the right front, as well as for the drivers' neck muscles. Measuring 20m at its widest, and with extensive braking zones, the circuit also provides plenty of overtaking opportunities which should guarantee a compelling race on Sunday.
Mark Webber: "I'm certainly looking forward to getting back in the car after the break and it's good to be resuming the season in Turkey as last year's inaugural Grand Prix was a great hit with fans and drivers alike. It's a track that provides a good challenge for the driver as it has a great mixture of straights, corners, crests and hills. Istanbul is also a fantastic city to spend a few days in prior to the race and hopefully I will be able to explore some more of the historic sites. Last year, we visited the World War I graves at Gallipoli, which was a very moving experience.
It's hard to predict how competitive we'll be next weekend but I hope we'll have an uneventful raceday so we can demonstrate our potential to run strongly towards the front. Obviously there hasn't been any testing during the break, but the boys at the factory have been working hard so we should be well prepared as we head into the final part of the season."
Nico Rosberg: "I hope things will change for the team because luck just hasn't been on our side recently. Our car has definitely shown progress in recent races, particularly in Magny-Cours and at Hockenheim where we really made some good steps forward, so I hope this carries through. We haven't been able to test before Turkey but I know the guys in the factory have been working really hard. I've had a great break between the two races, catching up with friends and just relaxing. As for Turkey, it's a great track. I did ok there last year in GP2, my car broke while I was in the lead in the first race but I then came from last through to 3rd despite the rain in the 2nd race. Overall, I just hope we have a good race this weekend because everyone deserves it."
Sam Michael, Technical Director, WilliamsF1: "Istanbul is a medium downforce track where aerodynamic efficiency is important. The circuit combines a varied mix of long straights and sweeping turns, the most notable being Turn 8 where the driver will pull lateral acceleration for over eight seconds. Such sustained loadings are tough on the car and the tyres so Bridgestone are well prepared for that. We expect it to be quite hot in Turkey at this time of the year and we'll probably see track temperatures around 50°C. In terms of aero upgrades, we have some new barge boards for the FW28s and we'll be reverting back to the engine cover used in Hockenheim for this race. Strategy will most likely be a two stop."
Chris Jilbert, Principal Engineer, F1 Race Engineering, Cosworth: "Istanbul Park is challenging for the drivers and the intense heat means that cooling the engine can be difficult. Both Cosworth CA2006 engines carry over for this event and we will be working with WilliamsF1 to maximise the duty available following the premature conclusion to the Hungarian Grand Prix. Dusty track conditions will be a far cry from those seen in Hungary, but let's hope that the racing is as entertaining."