The Turkish Grand Prix at the Istanbul Speed Park marks the next stop on the 2008 Formula 1 calendar.
The race was introduced to the sport in 2005, with the inaugural race won by the team. The event takes place at the Istanbul Speed Park in the Tepeören - Tuzla area near Istanbul, on the Asian side of the Bosporus river.
Following his accident at the Spanish Grand Prix, Heikki Kovalainen will be required to pass the mandatory FIA fitness checks, which are required after any concussion, before participating in the race. These will take place at the Istanbul circuit on Thursday 8th May.
Following a solid result in Spain, what are your thoughts ahead of the Turkish race?
Lewis Hamilton: "Qualifying was surprising close in Spain, both at the front of the grid and in the midfield. Whilst there are clear chances to overtake at the Istanbul Speed Park, it is going to be vital to qualify well. The balance of the car felt good in Spain, and this is really key at Turkey because of the high speed corners. You need to have a stable balance to be quick through them, such as turn three. You also need a very stable car through turn eight, to ensure you conserve your Bridgestone Potenzas and that you are able to carry speed through there. This section of the track is key as you can gain a lot of time."
Turkey is one of the anti-clockwise races, can you outline any impact this has on the driver and the Bridgestone Potenza tyres?
LH: "On the tyres, the issue is more turn eight. This is where tyres can suffer on the track and you have to be careful to ensure you don't scrub them. The anti-clockwise direction doesn't really have an effect. The majority of the tracks we race at during the year are clockwise, so it is inevitable that the right side of your next gets stronger. As a result, you do need to prepare the left side of your neck a little bit more to make sure that it doesn't weaken over the course of the race weekend. I have spent some time doing this with my trainer since Spain so it shouldn't be a problem."
Do you enjoy racing at the Istanbul Speed Park?
LH: "I do, it is a fantastic circuit. It is quite demanding, particularly through turn eight, but it provides a good challenge. I always look forward to the race and hope to improve on last year's result. I also hope to have Heikki alongside me for the race so we can get a good joint result for the team, I know he has a final check at the track on Thursday so we will have to wait and see until then."
It is a few days since we last caught up with you, how are you feeling now?
Heikki Kovalainen: "I am feeling good, the stiffness in my neck has pretty much gone and I have been back training. I left Spain on Thursday and went back to Finland, where I have spent some time working with the team doctor at our facility there on ensuring I am fit for the race. Initially during the week we were doing some light training before starting on my full programme just before the weekend. Lewis will also be here over the weekend doing his training before the race. Next stage for me is the fitness test at the track in Turkey on Thursday with the FIA. I can't wait to get back into the car and race with the team next weekend, but at the end of the day that decision is out of my hands, the FIA will make it based on safety grounds only."
After an accident of that scale, do you have any doubts about getting back into a Formula 1 car?
HK: "None whatsoever, I want to get back racing as soon as possible, since the accident at Barcelona it has been my only focus. Everyone involved in the sport, the FIA in particular, is always working on improving safety for the drivers, but Formula 1 is a risky business. You know that as a driver, but you don't think about it. If you worry about things like that, you lose focus; I guess it is just not in my psyche."
Can you talk us through the famed turn eight at the Istanbul Speed Park?
HK: "Turn eight is made up of four corners, one corner after another just turning left, left, left and left, with four apexes. To get it right you have to hit one apex, then just lift a little bit at the right point and then you can go full throttle again for the next. It is not easily flat out, but it is almost flat out and the line is so crucial, that is one reason why it is so challenging and drivers like big challenges so I guess that is why we enjoy it so much. Also, it compresses in the middle of the corner, it dips a little bit and the car quite easily bottoms out. This is why you sometimes dust coming from the bottom of the car."
The circuit is also known for its elevation changes, is this something that has an impact on set-up?
HK: "It is definitely one of the circuits that has more up hills and down hills, also there are some apexes that are on the brown of the hill and are blind. There are also parts of the circuit that are very flat, so it doesn't have a big effect on the set-up as it would be too much of a compromise. It does mean you pay attention more to your driving lines and trying to maximise when you go on the power over these hills, trying to maximise your own technique. Going over the crest of hills is the same as in a road car, you get that sensation with your stomach, but you get used to it as you do more laps over the course of the weekend."
What is the track like for overtaking?
HK: "Its good, it has a number of places with straight line speed going into some slower corners and this means there are opportunities to overtake. I think the best place is at the end of the back straight. It is very long and you can outbrake."