Turkish GP Preview
Could the 2007 Formula One world championship have any more drama? We've got 21 points separating the top four drivers, the two leading teams at loggerheads and the recent schism at McLaren.
Ron Dennis must be wondering what he has done wrong. His two drivers are running one-two in the championship, and McLaren is comfortably clear in the constructors' standings. Yet he has got to work out a way of keeping Lewis Hamilton and Alonso focused on finishing the job, and ensure that egos don't rule the roost.
The drivers have had three weeks to work through their differences, after Alonso was demoted from pole position down the grid in Hungary for blocking Hamilton in a tit-for-tat maneuver during qualifying. The Spaniard was furious and finished fourth while the Englishman went on to win the race. The result sees Hamilton seven points clear.
It's been a long time since two drivers on the same team have shared such a rivalry. It wasn't a problem Dennis could have reasonably envisioned. Hamilton's success in his debut year has smashed all expectations, with 10 podiums from 11 races. Alonso, expecting the be top dog at his new team for at least this season, has had to play second fiddle behind the hottest commodity in motorsport.
Ferrari has been playing catch-up for most of the year, but the problems at McLaren may be the incentive they need to bridge the gap. If you take out the DNF at the Nurburgring, Kimi Raikkonen has gone 1-1-2 his past three starts and is starting to hit his straps. He has moved into third in the championship ahead of team-mate Felipe Massa, who missed the points completely at the Hungaroring. While the Finn, a winner here in a McLaren two years ago, seems to be back at his best, the Brazilian, who won in Turkey last year, needs to find some confidence desperately.
Again, it's a big gap back to the remainder, with Nick Heidfeld and BMW clearly the best of the rest. Heidfeld’s second podium of the year has him entrenched in fourth, 14 points clear of team-mate Robert Kubica, who was fifth in Hungary.
It's been a funny year for Renault, but Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen are currently seventh and eighth in the championship, mindful that an improving Red Bull-Renault could grab a few points in the final six races. Mark Webber has had a much improved second half of the year. He was 10th in Turkey last year and failed to finish in 2005. Team-mate David Coulthard has enjoyed more luck, finishing in the points in both races.
But again, they will all be chasing the McLarens and Ferraris, and with more drama set to play out at Istanbul, it will be gripping viewing.
Spectacular Istanbul Park is the brave new face of Formula One racing, and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone loves it. Hermann Tilke, the genius designer responsible for many of the best new circuits in the world, was at his best when he drew this one up, building a track which challenges the drivers on every bend and down every straight.
This will be just the third Turkish Grand Prix, but the circuit is already developing a reputation as a classic, taking in many of the characteristics of the world's greatest tracks. It features four different ground levels across the 5.34km of the circuit, meaning that while there aren't abundant overtaking opportunities, there are plenty of places to make an error.
The key one of these is turn eight, which has four apexes and has the drivers working hard to stay on the track while enduring G-force of close to five, in sixth gear at around 280kmh. It's been described as one of the most intense experiences in all of F1, and has claimed many victims, including Juan Pablo Montoya late in the inaugural event in 2005, a mistake which cost the Colombian a spot on the podium.
Of course, the most distinctive aspect of the circuit is that it is one of only two that runs anti-clockwise, the other being Interlagos in Brazil. It's a very short home straight into an awkward left-hander, before a long curve back right up to sixth gear and up near 300kmh. Turn four has the drivers hard on the brakes, and turning right again at a sharp angle, and then it's another sharp left, in third gear up to top speed through a left-hand kink and then into a 180-degree right hairpin.
The drivers then enter the famous turn eight, which sees them go left for what seems an eternity, and when they straighten up, they are back to close to top speed before turn nine slows them from 320kmh back to 150kmh and into third gear. It's then onto the completion of sector two and into the fastest section of the track, which features two straights separated by a lightning-fast right-hand kink. Turn 12 slows them back to double figures, winding through Turn 13 and finally 14, which leads back onto the home straight and across the start-finish line. Australian GP Newsletter