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  • Writer's pictureRhonan Colquhoun

F1: Previous classic races round Istanbul Park

So far this season the championship has been to circuits that in the past tend to provide not great racing but for some reason or another, circuits like Spain, France, Hungary and now Russia have provided some of the best races of the year. Despite not being on the F1's permanent calendar, Turkey has hosted some great races in the past.


From 2005 to 2011, Istanbul Park played host to the Turkish GP but after the 2011 Race, it dropped off the calendar much to the dissapointment of drivers and fans. The circuit made a very welcome return in 2020 with the sport concentrating on European circuits to host races as global travel was heavily restricted. For the second time in two years, it's back on the calendar and drivers are looking forward to this weekend's race as it could be pivotal in the championship fight.

ANOTHER TILKE CLASSIC: Legendary F1 Track Designer Hermann Tilke created the circuit using some elements from tracks such as Spa-Francorchamps, Interlagos and Laguna Seca to form the 14 turn circuit

Here at PitlanetoPodium, I've narrowed down three of the best races to have taken place since the inaugural race back in 2005.

2006 - Massa delivers as Alonso and Schumacher duel to the line

Coming of the back of an chaotic Hungarian GP where Jenson Button secured his maiden win in the sport, Renault's Fernando Alonso led the championship despite crashing out in the wet conditions. The Reigning World Champion had a 10 point lead over Ferrari's Michael Schumacher while Renault led Ferrari by only seven points.

During Friday's Practice session, a very young Sebastian Vettel made his first F1 appearance driving for BMW Sauber. However, the German sped in the pit-lane as he drove on track for the first time. He was only driving the F1.06 for six seconds before he was caught. He received a $1,000 fine but impressed nonetheless as he set the fastest time during the Second Practice session.

For the 14th round of the 18 race calendar, it was the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa who qualified on Pole Position - in fact it was the Brazilian's first ever Pole. He led a Ferrari 1-2 as Schumacher completed the front-row while the Renault's of Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella qualified directly behind.

As the lights went out, the four drivers got a great start but getting bunched into the first corner, Fisichella spun which caused a chain reaction for the drivers behind. Toro Rosso's Scott Speed clattered into the rear of Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren causing a puncture to one of the Finn's rear tyre. After pitting for repairs, he crashed after damaged bodywork led to an early retirement for the Finn.

LIGHTS OUT: The common phrase in F1 goes "Two into one doesn't go" and for Fisichella, this echoed true as he spun to avoid making contact with his team-mate

The second Toro Rosso of Vitantoni Liuzzi lost control of his STR1 on Lap 13 at the first corner and ended up stalling the engine. With the car stranded, the Safety Car was deployed which led to pit-stops for race leader Massa, Schumacher and Alonso. As they rejoined, Alonso managed to jump his title rival as the German was forced to stack behind Massa in the pits.

As the Safety Car peeled back into the pits, Massa led comfortably for the rest of the race - keeping a nice gap to the battling title rivals behind. After dropping back to gauge where Alonso was struggling, Schumacher launched an attack with 15 laps to go. Of the 58 laps, these were the toughest for Alonso as he was challenged each lap. This was crucial for their championship battle and with only a handful of races to go, it would considerably help Schumacher in his quest for an Eighth World Championship.

Alonso kept his nerve and as Massa crossed the line to win for the first time in his career as Schumacher hassled the Spaniard in the final few corners. As Alonso defended into the final corner, Schumacher was right on the gearbox of the Renault driver but could not find a way past. Alonso secured second and therefore extended his lead by a further two points.

VICTORY IN RED: As Schumacher's understudy, Massa impressed and showed what he could do as the Brazilian's superior speed round Istanbul would pay dividends in years to come

Button finished 'best of the rest' in fourth while Pedro de la Rosa flew the flag for McLaren in fifth. Fisichella recovered to sixth after his spin but Ferrari closed the gap to Renault given the Italian's low finish. Ralf Schumacher earned more points for Toyota in seventh while Rubens Barrichello rounded out the point scorers in eighth for Honda.

2010 - McLaren team-mates tussle as Red Bull's collide

Fresh from a two week break, Turkey was the seventh round on the 2010 calendar and followed on from the Monaco GP which was won by Red Bull driver Mark Webber. The win for the Australian driver had taken him to the top of the championship albeit tied with team-mate Sebastian Vettel on 78 points. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso sat in third while McLaren's Jenson Button was within striking range in fourth. In terms of the Team's Championship, it was Red Bull leading the way with McLaren and Ferrari not far behind.

Wary of the threat behind, Red Bull vowed to push on while Webber aimed to take his third consecutive Pole and Victory. Alonso headed into the weekend upbeat as Ferrari had won three of the five past Turkish Grand Prix's while McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was hopeful of securing his first win of the season in hopes of keeping up with the top four in the title fight despite lying seventh.

The big shock come Qualifying was that Alonso would be starting outside the top 10. The Spaniard lost time on his final lap after touching the white line which caused his F10 to slide. Webber secured Pole ahead of Hamilton while Vettel settled for third despite posting the fastest times in both previous Q1 and Q2 sessions. Button qualified fourth ahead of the Mercedes duo of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg.

TENSION BUILDS: Admist the heat rising from the track and cars, the five red lights are about to go out

Off the line, the Red Bull's were quick and wheelspin for Hamilton allowed Vettel to nip into second - only for the first few corners as the McLaren driver sailed round the outside of Turn 3 to retake second behind Webber. Schumacher briefly jumped Button but the Brit overtook the Mercedes with ease as Hamilton, who had repelled the attack from Vettel, was on the prowl and had closed up on Webber. By lap 15, the duo took their fight to the pits but a delay for Hamilton allowed Webber to maintain his advantage.

It was a double blow for Hamilton as Vettel had been able to undercut the McLaren by stopping a lap earlier to now make it a Red Bull one-two. The Red Bull's led both McLaren's as the four drivers bunched up as Webber was trying to save fuel. The weather was now adding an exciting element and spots of rain started to appear on the on-board cameras.

As the four drivers continued to run line estern, Vettel was starting to feel the pressure from the McLaren duo behind. Onto Lap 40 and in the slipstream of his team-mate, Vettel made his move after the Turn 11 kink which broke up the straight. Webber moved to the middle of the track as Vettel slid up the left-handed side of his team-mate but then, contact was made.

There were scenes of absolute disbelief on the Red Bull Pit Wall with Team Prinicipal Christain Horner and Chief Designer Adrian Newey dumbfounded by what they had just seen. Contact between the drivers sent Vettel spinning several times in the braking zone of Turn 12 before coming to a halt as Webber continued on but front wing damage meant that the Aussie would have to pit the following lap.

BOILING POINT: The number one rule in Motorsport is to never make contact with your team-mate but both Vettel and Webber broke that rule in 2010

This left the two McLaren leading the way with Hamilton ahead of Button but tensions were starting to rise. The management of fuel was now a big concern for the McLaren drivers and both were told to start saving. Race leader Hamilton started to notice that Button was closing in and it looked like his fellow Brit wasn't doing as much fuel-saving as he was. However, Button was able to get alongside Hamilton into the final complex and the heart rates of everyone within the McLaren garage rose dramatically.

Button briefly took the lead which Hamilton was not expecting his team-mate to do. He fought back and reclaimed the lead back into Turn 1. As Button backed off to save fuel, Hamilton coasted to the flag to take his first win of the season while Button made it a McLaren one-two as Webber recovered to third.

BACK IN THE GAME: A one-two finish had resulted in McLaren taking a haul of 43 points while Red Bull only secured 15 with Webber's third place and just a point between the teams

Schumacher headed Rosberg as the Mercedes duo took fourth and fifth and a good haul of points while Renault's Robert Kubica managed to stay ahead of Three Time Turkish GP Winner Ferrari's Felipe Massa. Alonso recovered to eighth while Adrian Sutil and Kamui Kobayashi rounded out the top 10.

The result for McLaren moved them ahead of Red Bull in the Championship by a single point while Ferrari fell back after a hugely dissapointing 800th Grand Prix for the Scuderia. With the win, Hamilton moved to third in the championship while Vettel dropped from joint-first to fifth.

2020 - A slippery track surface, rain and a record-equalling race

Due to the worldwide pandemic and restrictions on global travel, the sport was relaying on circuits mainly in Europe to host races enough to make up a world championship calendar. A return to Turkey, it's last race held in 2011, made a very welcome addition to the calendar and it was crunch time in the title fight. The 14th round of the 17 race calendar saw Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas the only drivers who could secure the title but Hamilton's impressive form over the season had opened up a 85 point lead and Bottas had to win to keep the fight going.

As it had dropped off the F1 calendar and hadn't been properly used as a race circuit for a number of years, a number of changes and upgrades were made to the circuit and this included a resurfacing of the entire track. Throughout the Practice, the drivers struggled for grip and therefore tyre temperature as the cool conditions and tramac used to lay the track played key factors. The final Practice session, which took place Saturday morning, was held in wet conditions nd the rain would stay until the Qualifying session.

The first part of Qualifying was delayed by 45 minutes as conditions showed slow signs of improement. Eventually taking Pole Position would be the Racing Point driver of Lance Stroll who took a shock maiden Pole. It was the first Pole Position by a Canadian driver since Jacques Villeneuve in 1997. Red Bull's Max Verstappen qualified in second while Sergio Perez lined-up in third in the second Racing Point. As for the Mercedes duo, Hamilton managed sixth while Bottas finished in ninth.

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD: On difficult days when weather has a part to play, anyone can spring a surprise

Come race day, the conditions were still not ideal and as the lights went out, the drivers cautiously moved from their grid spots. Stroll kept the lead while team-mate Perez moved up to second however behind the Racing Point drivers, Renault's Esteban Ocon and Bottas spun at the first corner. Hamilton meanwhile was sat in third while an amazing start by Sebastian Vettel saw the Ferrari driver shoot up to fourth after starting in 12th. Hamilton lost a few places as he slid off the track but recovered to sixth while Bottas languished in last place.

As the rain died off, the track was still wet and Stroll had taken full advantage and built up a lead of nearly 10 seconds to Perez wh was being hassled by Verstappen. The Dutchman was right on the back of the Racing Point but driving along the kerbs unsettled his Red Bull which sent him spinning. Elsewhere, Bottas was spinning as well as the Finn could not find pace or grip. Onto Lap 32, Stroll still maintained the lead but his gap to Perez had shrunk - in the less damp condtions, the Canadian was starting to struggle.

Stroll pitted and fitted a new set of Intermediate tyres while Red Bull's Alexander Albon now found himself behind Hamilton after a costly spin. By keeping his tyres in the optimum range, Hamilton had closed in on race leader Perez and in the final sector, he overtook the Mexican to take the lead. Stroll was unable to find grip in his new tyres and lagged behind the Ferrari drivers of Vettel and Charles Leclerc.

With only a few laps to to go, Hamilton comfortably led by 25 seconds ahead of Perez who would have Leclerc and Vettel breathing down his neck in a matter of no time. Hamilton was set for the championship as Bottas languished way down in 14th.

Crossing the line to win the Turkish GP by 29 seconds, Hamilton was confirmed as the 2021 Drivers Champion and in that he equalled Michael Schumacher in achieving his Seventh World Championship. A record that many thought that could not be equalled, had just been achieved. The fight for second continued and a costly dive by Leclerc with a few corners to go gifted Vettel a shot to snatch second from Perez. On the drive to the line, Perez was able to hold on as Vettel rounded out the podium.

A RECORD EQUALLED: Hamilton now sits amongst other legendary drivers but the Brit can stand tall, not many are as successful as he is

Leclerc finished fourth and just missed out on the podium while Carlos Sainz finished fifth for McLaren. Verstappen headed Albon in sixth and seventh while Lando Norris claimed eighth for McLaren. Stroll finished down in ninth as Renault's Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top ten.

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