Seven moments of F1 Turkish delight and drama

09th November 2020
Damien Smith

It’s the Formula 1 season that just keeps on giving, as Istanbul Park joins Imola and the Nürburgring as a blast from the past returning for this refreshing ‘emergency’ calendar of races. The eighth Turkish Grand Prix is likely to be a one-off comeback, but as the previous seven that ran between 2005 and 2011 highlight, this was usually a circuit to inspire momentous racing. Whether Lewis Hamilton becomes a seven-time world champion or not this coming weekend, we can expect another helping of Turkish delight – just as we used to enjoy in the ‘old days’.


Montoya loses McLaren 1-2 – 2005

The first Turkish Grand Prix at one of track designer Hermann Tilke’s best efforts occurred amidst a raging rivalry between McLaren and Renault, in a one-off season marked by a ban on tyre changes – and the subsequent and sudden loss of form for Michael Schumacher and his Bridgestone-shod Ferrari. Fernando Alonso had built an early points lead for Renault, but Kimi Räikkönen’s Adrian Newey-designed McLaren – like the French team, running on the more competitive Michelins – was now flying. Kimi won in Turkey quite comfortably, but team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya dropped a clanger after Tiago Monteiro’s Jordan hit him while being lapped. The moment caused Montoya to flat-spot a tyre and with two laps to go, he ran wide through the long Turn 8, allowing Alonso to snatch second place, ruin a McLaren 1-2 and help the Spaniard keep Räikkönen at bay in their title duel. The honour would soon be Alonso’s as he claimed the first of his back-to-back world championships.


A first for Massa – 2006

One race after Jenson Button finally broke his F1 duck in Hungary, it was Felipe Massa’s turn in Turkey as he took a deserved maiden victory for Ferrari – although he did have some help from team-mate Schumacher. First, Michael made a mistake in qualifying that gave Massa the edge in the race when, during a safety car interlude, the seven-time world champion was forced to queue in the pits behind his team-mate before taking fresh tyres. Schumacher compounded a difficult weekend by ‘doing a Montoya’ and running wide at Turn 8, allowing Alonso to inherit second place just as he had a year earlier. It only consolidated the Spaniard’s points advantage, as Schumacher contemplated a crossroads in his life: we didn’t know it yet, but his incredible time at Ferrari was nearing its end.


Hamilton’s ripped tyre blows his podium – 2007

In the midst of his incredible rookie season, surely the greatest yet seen, Lewis Hamilton arrived for his first Turkish GP with a slender seven-point lead over McLaren team-mate and now double world champion Alonso. As Massa won from lights to flag for a dominant Ferrari, ahead of new team-mate Räikkönen, Hamilton looked all set to at least consolidate his points lead with a podium third – until a delaminating right-front tyre ruined his day. Lewis did well to keep his car on track and get back to the pits for fresh rubber, then salvaged fifth place. But Istanbul Park was clearly a lucky hunting ground for Alonso, who once again was the beneficiary of others’ bad luck. His finished third to inch two points closer to his young team-mate in their fascinating, unexpected and increasingly fractious duel. As they squabbled, Räikkönen was about to launch a title charge that would ultimately succeed in stealing from both not just the scene, but the whole movie.


Massa’s Istanbul hat-trick – 2008

It’s easy to forget just how good Massa was before Alonso switched to Ferrari and the Brazilian’s slow decline into mediocrity began. Out of his 11 F1 wins, three were claimed in Turkey and in 2008 he grabbed an Istanbul hat-trick with another commanding lights-to-flag win from pole position, once again undermining team-mate, reigning world champion and points leader Räikkönen. By the end of the season, Massa had fully got the better of the Finn – and came a Timo Glock pass away from becoming world champion himself, only for Hamilton to overtake the German Toyota driver at the final corner in Brazil to snatch the fifth place he needed to take his first title. For about 40 seconds, race winner Massa had thought the title was his, only for the gut-wrenching reality to slowly dawn.


Vettel is winded – 2009

This race marked the final win of Jenson Button’s stunning run for Brawn GP, his sixth from the first seven races, as the team formerly known as Honda rolled through its incredible one-season existence and on to remarkable double title glory. But at Istanbul Park, Button required a surprising ally to aid his drive to victory: the wind. A sudden gust unsettled Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull on lap one and, as the German struggled to control his ‘tank-slapper’, the Brawn swept past. Bizarrely, given it was still only June, the Brit wouldn’t win again that season, but kept totting up the points to secure an unforgettable title.


Red Bull’s crazy collision – 2010

If there’s one moment for which the Turkish GP is best remembered (to date), it’s this one – when Red Bull team-mates Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber collided while fighting for the lead. Vettel had the momentum up the long back straight and pulled alongside as they headed for Turn 12. But as his car nosed past, he edged right – and Webber was not about to cede ground. An already bubbling rivalry boiled over, with Vettel making crazy signals for the cameras as he walked away – even if most pointed the finger at the German as the one to blame. Picture Hamilton’s grin as the collision played out ahead of him, and a first victory for eight months fell into his lap – although new team-mate Button still made him work for it, in the best grand prix in Turkey we’ve seen so far.


Vettel’s retribution – 2011

Twelve months on, the Red Bull pendulum had swung decisively towards Sebastian Vettel, as the new world champion led Webber to a team one-two. Alonso at least gave them a race in his Ferrari, but this was one of 11 victories that season for Vettel, who was now the undisputed king of F1. Nine years on, he’ll arrive back at Istanbul Park in a rather different frame of mind. The crown slipped long ago and now just getting out of Q2 on Saturday afternoon will be a bonus.

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

  • Formula 1

  • F1 2005

  • F1 2006

  • F1 2007

  • F1 2008

  • F1 2009

  • F1 2010

  • F1 2011

  • Sebastian Vettel

  • Mark Webber

  • Lewis Hamilton

  • Kimi Raikkonen

  • Michael Schumacher

  • Felipe Massa

  • Juan Pablo Montoya

  • Fernando Alonso

  • Jenson Button

  • Brawn

  • McLaren

  • Ferrari

  • Red Bull

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