What 2011 comparisons tell us about Istanbul’s "terrifying" track surface

Formula 1 drivers had been chomping at the bit to experience the high-speed swoops of the Istanbul circuit with the current generation of high-downforce cars

What 2011 comparisons tell us about Istanbul’s "terrifying" track surface

Talks ahead of the opening day of practice for the Turkish Grand Prix had been of the thrills to be expected, and what a joy it would be to take Istanbul's iconic Turn 8 completely flat out.

But all their hopes were wiped away as soon as the cars were unleashed on Friday morning, as the newly resurfaced track offered up almost zero grip.

Things were also not helped by track officials trying to improve the situation and washing the circuit early on Friday morning.

That only served to make things even more difficult for everyone as the surface had not fully dried by the time FP1 started. As Max Verstappen said: "Yeah, let's not do that again."

While drivers steadily got accustomed to the conditions, even if Lewis Hamilton labelled it "terrifying", it is the lap times of the day that perhaps tell us the true story of the impact the track surface has made.

There is not much recent data to go on, but some comparisons with the 2011 season do at least offer us some basis to show how far off the current track is.

Back in 2011, Sebastian Vettel took pole position for the Turkish Grand Prix with a lap time of 1m25.049 seconds.

During this morning's free practice session, Verstappen's best lap was 1m35.077 seconds - so more than 10 seconds adrift of that Vettel lap.

Verstappen's time would not have been enough to get within the necessary 107% back in 2011, and in fact the slowest man on the grid that year - Narain Karthikeyan - would have been nearly four seconds up the road with his 1m31.564s.

As the track conditions ramped up today though, and the drivers learned about how best to get their tyres working, Verstappen got down to a 1m28.330s in the afternoon.

That was still three seconds adrift of Vettel, but at least pointed to being roughly in the ballpark of what F1 cars should be doing.

However, what we need to take into account is just how much faster the current cars should be. The huge downforce that 2020 F1 cars generate mean they should not just be matching what happened in 2011, they should be smashing those times.

Looking at some comparisons from race tracks that have featured this year and in 2011, such as the Nurburgring and Barcelona, we can see that current machinery should be lapping around five seconds per lap faster than they did back then.

German Grand Prix pole position times (Nurburgring)
2011 1m30.079s
2020 1m25.269s

Spanish Grand Prix pole position times (Barcelona)
2011 1m20.981
2020 1m15.584s

If we estimate that the cars should be five seconds per lap faster than 2011, then, with a decent track surface, the pole position time for Turkey this year should be around 1m20s.

Getting down to that level seems very unlikely right now. But, according to some team insiders tonight who are furiously trying to recalculate their expectations for the weekend, F1 teams may even struggle to get near that 2011 pole time.

Verstappen spoke for many drivers about the disappointment of not being able to push as they would have liked. "Yes, it's a bit of a shame," he said.

Perhaps the only saving grace for drivers right now is that the original plans to wash the track again overnight are understood to have been abandoned - so at least the rubber laid down today may still be there tomorrow so they aren't starting from scratch again.

shares
comments
Red Bull: Full grid for 2021 buys time for Albon F1 decision
Previous article

Red Bull: Full grid for 2021 buys time for Albon F1 decision

Next article

Pirelli learned about F1 Turkish GP track resurfacing too late

Pirelli learned about F1 Turkish GP track resurfacing too late
Load comments
Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer Plus

Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer

Earning praise from rivals has been a welcome sign that Lando Norris is becoming established among Formula 1's elite. But the McLaren driver is confident that his team's upward curve can put him in the mix to contend for titles in the future, when he's hoping the compliments will be replaced by being deemed an equal adversary

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021
What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention Plus

What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention

After a disastrous 2020 in which it slumped to sixth in the F1 constructors' standings, Ferrari has rebounded strongly and is on course to finish third - despite regulations that forced it to carryover much of its forgettable SF1000 machine. Yet while it can be pleased with its improvement, there are still steps it must make if 2022 is to yield a return to winning ways

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021
How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations Plus

How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations

OPINION: The pressure is firmly on Red Bull and Mercedes as Formula 1 2021 embarks on its final double-header. How the respective teams deal with that will be a crucial factor in deciding the outcome of the drivers' and constructors' championships, as Autosport's technical consultant and ex-McLaren F1 engineer explains

Formula 1
Dec 1, 2021
Why Ferrari is sure its long-term Leclerc investment will be vindicated Plus

Why Ferrari is sure its long-term Leclerc investment will be vindicated

Humble yet blisteringly quick, Charles Leclerc is the driver Ferrari sees as its next
 world champion, and a rightful heir to the greats of Ferrari’s past – even though, by the team’s own admission, he’s not the finished article yet. Here's why it is confident that the 24-year-old can be the man to end a drought stretching back to 2008

Formula 1
Nov 30, 2021
The downside to F1's show and tell proposal Plus

The downside to F1's show and tell proposal

Technology lies at the heart of the F1 story and it fascinates fans, which is why the commercial rights holder plans to compel teams to show more of their ‘secrets’. STUART CODLING fears this will encourage techno-quackery…

Formula 1
Nov 29, 2021
How getting sacked gave Mercedes F1’s tech wizard lasting benefits Plus

How getting sacked gave Mercedes F1’s tech wizard lasting benefits

He’s had a hand in world championship-winning Formula 1 cars for Benetton, Renault and Mercedes, and was also a cog in the Schumacher-Ferrari axis. Having recently ‘moved upstairs’ as Mercedes chief technical officer, James Allison tells STUART CODLING about his career path and why being axed by Benetton was one of the best things that ever happened to him

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2021
The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback Plus

The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback

It’s easy to look at
 Robert Kubica’s second Formula 1 career and feel a sense of sadness that he didn’t reach the heights for which he seemed destined. But as BEN ANDERSON discovered, performance and results are almost meaningless in this context – something more fundamental and incredible happened…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2021
The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver the goods for McLaren  Plus

The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver the goods for McLaren 

From being lapped by his own team-mate in Monaco to winning at Monza, it’s been a tumultuous first season at McLaren for Daniel Ricciardo. But, as he tells STUART CODLING, there’s more to the story of his turnaround than having a lovely summer holiday during Formula 1's summer break...

Formula 1
Nov 26, 2021