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Formula 1

Not just Red Bulls colliding – Istanbul’s other F1 moments

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
10 min read

What comes to mind when thinking of Formula 1 at Istanbul?

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber’s Red Bulls colliding while fighting for the 2010 race lead? Definitely.

The amazing quadruple-apex Turn 8? Absolutely.

What else?

We delve into the Turkish Grand Prix’s previous seven-year tenure on the calendar to celebrate some memorable moments that didn’t feature Red Bulls bouncing off each other.

McLAREN’s 2005 woes in a nutshell

Formula 1 Grand Prix, Turkey, Race“What happened on the last lap then? Because Montoya was second…”

Inaugural Turkish GP winner Kimi Raikkonen wasn’t impressed to learn that his 2005 title rival Fernando Alonso had finished second to him, rather than third behind Juan Pablo Montoya in a McLaren 1-2.

McLaren had comfortably the fastest car for much of the 2005 season, but spent it playing catch-up thanks to reliability problems, Renault’s fast start to the year, and quite a few Montoya misadventures.

It all meant that a car capable of a lot of 1-2 finishes only ever scored one – in Brazil that September, on the day Renault driver Alonso wrapped up the drivers’ championship in third behind them…

At Istanbul a month earlier, Raikkonen still needed every point he could get as he tried to close the 26-point (in the 10-for-a-win era) gap to Alonso. So Montoya managing to convert his fourth on the grid to second between Raikkonen and Alonso in the race, despite a scary pitstop with a jammed fuel hose, was pleasing for McLaren.

Then with two laps to go, Montoya was sent spinning at the final corner as Tiago Monteiro’s lapped Jordan hit him from behind. He rejoined still ahead of Alonso, only to slew wide at Turn 8 thanks to diffuser damage and lose the place.

Montoya was adamant the incident was all Monteiro’s fault, saying “those guys, they never look”.

Monteiro countered that Montoya hadn’t done himself any favours.

“Montoya passed me and just came back in front of me in the braking zone,” said the Jordan driver. “We talk so many times about not moving in the brazking zone and that’s the first thing he does, two laps from the end, when he’s fighting for second…”


Formula 1 Grand Prix, Turkey, Sunday RaceMost of Istanbul’s grands prix featured a first lap shunt at its Interlagos-style plunging opening S-bend. And most of those first-lap shunts involved Giancarlo Fisichella in some way.

As Renault team-mate Alonso backed out to avoid being pincered by the Ferraris at the start in 2006, Fisichella braked abruptly in avoidance and spun into Nick Heidfeld’s BMW.

Several semi-related shunts broke out in the background, one of which Jarno Trulli triggered by emerged unscathed from, while another featured the unusual combination of Scott Speed’s Toro Rosso wiping out Raikkonen’s McLaren.

Turkish Grand Prix crash 2006

One year later, it was Fisichella’s turn to cause a shunt but escape it as he punted Trulli at the same spot.

The following season was the most dramatic. Now at Force India, Fisichella launched himself over Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams at the first corner in an incident he was certain Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Bourdais caused.

Other Fisichella adventures in Turkey included a weekend of brake-related misery on his final appearance in 2009, being the car that launched a loose drain cover in 2007 (though it was the following Rubens Barrichello’s Honda that came off worst) and getting a three-place grid penalty in 2008 because he left the pitlane at the start of Friday morning practice while the red light was still on.


Anthony Davidson, Turkish GP, 2007 F1 The shortlived Super Aguri team only made one Q3 appearance – with Takuma Sato in the 2007 season-opener in Australia. But his team-mate Anthony Davidson came gloriously close to a repeat in Turkey five months later.

Ninth fastest in Q1, he then held eighth in the final moments of Q2 before being edged back to a still glorious and equal-career-best 11th on the grid.

“It was an incredible lap and one that you dream of doing when you are doing private testing,” Davidson said at the time.

“It was way over our expectations, but we keep doing this every now and again here at Super Aguri.

“It is amazing to be that high up on the grid this far into the season when we haven’t done anything to the car, and haven’t had the budget to do it.”

That was as good as it got: going off the road to miss the standard Istanbul first-corner shunt dropped Davidson down the order and he finished 14th.


Formula 1 Grand Prix, Turkey, Sunday PodiumThe 2010 Turkish GP was famous for the Red Bulls colliding. But afterwards there was also a hint of intra-team tension among the McLarens that took a 1-2 as a result of that clash.

Jenson Button challenged team-mate Hamilton heavily for the lead just after the Red Bull wipeout, getting ahead into the final corner before being repassed at Turn 1. And it happened after the drivers had been urged by their team to save fuel.

Hamilton’s apparently unhappy demeanour post-race suggested he was displeased by that sequence of his events, though he insisted on playing it down.

“The communication wasn’t clear for me,” said Hamilton. “When they suggested ‘save this much fuel’ it was not easy to save that much fuel unless I went particularly slowly.

“I tried to reach that target and in doing so, Jenson all of a sudden just appeared from nowhere and he was up my tail and then there was nothing I could do.”

Button’s take: “We were both told to save fuel but it is always difficult to know how much.”


Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Turkish GP 2006, F1From 2006-08, Felipe Massa was unbeatable at Istanbul.

But the first of those victories – which was also his first in F1 – could so easily have been lost to team orders.

Massa stunned Ferrari team-mate Michael Schumacher with a big gain on his final Q3 lap to snatch a maiden pole. “Could I have made up the three tenths Felipe made?” Schumacher mused afterwards. “I’m not sure, honestly…”

Schumacher probably felt he needn’t worry too much at that stage, with Massa openly admitting he was ready to hand the lead to his team-mate next day as Schumacher tried to chase down championship rival Alonso.

But Schumacher instead found himself behind Alonso in the race when he had to queue behind Massa in a pitstop under an early safety car. And despite ample efforts that included a drag race to the finish line, that’s where Schumacher stayed.

Had he made it to second, Massa would’ve moved aside. Instead, he got his first win.

Beating new team-mate Raikkonen to pole then set up a repeat in 2007, while in ’08 he completed the hat-trick as title rival Lewis Hamilton was forced onto a compromised strategy, more of which in a moment.


Sebastian Vettel, BMW Sauber, Turkish GP 2006, F1Then aged 19 years and 53 days, Vettel became the youngest driver to participate in a grand prix weekend when he made the first Friday practice appearance of his BMW Sauber test deal in 2006.

He started the day being mocked for getting a pitlane speeding fine nine seconds into his F1 career. He ended the day fastest in second practice.

And it all happened just four weeks after he suffered a hand injury in a monster World Series by Renault crash at Spa.

Friday practice times were as deceptive as ever back then. But regardless of the fuel load or programme Vettel was on, it was mighty impressive.

“It has been difficult for me as I didn’t know the circuit and have had only one proper Formula 1 test,” he said.

“However, I felt very comfortable, I was able to deliver some information and on top of it all it was great.”


Lewis Hamilton, puncture, Turkish GP 2007, F1Hamilton’s pursuit of the Ferraris in 2007 was wrecked by a right-front puncture, the consequence of the loads going through the tyres with his Turn 8 pace. He recovered to fifth.

A year later, Hamilton and McLaren said Bridgestone insisted he had to use a three-stop strategy because his driving style was putting too much load through the tyre in the same place and it couldn’t guarantee the rubber would last if he used the two-stop plan everyone else favoured.

“They made us do a three stop as it was the safest route to go,” Hamilton said. “That put us in not such a strong position to win the race.”

Bridgestone disputed this, suggesting it had actually mandated particular stint lengths for a two-stop.

Either way, Hamilton went into the race on a strategy McLaren was convinced was only just going to be good enough for a top-five finish.

But a battling race meant he actually managed to finish a relatively close second to winner and title rival Massa.


Formula 1 Grand Prix, Turkey, Sunday RaceRound seven of the 2009 season in Turkey was business as usual for Button. A sixth win from seven races, his Brawn much faster on race day than the rival Red Bulls despite Vettel denying him pole, and team-mate Barrichello taking himself out of the picture with an abysmal start and multiple collisions.

But, remarkably, considering the race was held on June 7, it was Button’s very last win of the year. And he’d only score two more podium finishes.

As Red Bull really hit its stride, the realities of Brawn’s post-Honda financial situation hit home, and the pack dramatically closed up as teams wrong-footed by the double diffuser loophole at the start of the year got their act together, Button was left scrabbling for points and nervously watching his advantage dwindle.


Vitaly Petrov, Michael Schumacher, collision, Turkish GP 2011, F1Istanbul ended up being one of the few F1 circuits where Michael Schumacher raced but didn’t win. And his four appearances there were bookended by similar collisions into the final complex.

He was an innocent party in 2005 as Williams driver Webber dived inside while trying to unlap himself following an early puncture and sent the Ferrari spinning.

But six years later Schumacher turning in as Vitaly Petrov’s Renault overtook his Mercedes was frankly a bit scruffy. “I guess it was mostly my mistake,” said Schumacher, accurately.

It wasn’t all bad for Schumacher at Istanbul. Fourth place ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in 2010 was a good effort and a praiseworthy ‘best of the rest’ result amid McLaren and Red Bull superiority at that point in the season.


Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren, Turkish GP 2008, F1There weren’t many highs from Heikki Kovalainen’s two years with McLaren, and 12th in Turkey certainly wasn’t one of them.

But it might just have been his best drive for the team.

Two weeks after a brutal crash at Barcelona, he pulled off a 1.4s improvement on his second Q3 flying lap to grab his first front row start in F1.

“He will win races this year and in the future and he really deserves to. He’s an extraordinary chap” :: Martin Whitmarsh on Heikki Kovalainen in 2008

Kovalainen’s fear of a slow start from the dirty side of the grid proved well-founded, but he thought he’d got away with being sandwiched between Raikkonen’s Ferrari and Robert Kubica’s BMW at Turn 1.

He hadn’t. He’d got a left-rear puncture. But it was a subtle one, and he didn’t realise until just as the safety car for Fisichella’s first lap mess withdrew.

That left him 30s behind the back of the bunched-up pack, and laden with fuel as McLaren put him on a ‘run as long as you can and see what happens’ strategy.

Despite some rapid pace and a string of excellent overtaking moves, it didn’t quite get Kovalainen back into the points as he finished 12th.

But McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh was certain his number two would’ve beaten Massa to the race win in a straight fight even after his poor start, predicting Kovalainen would’ve jumped into the lead by running long at his first stop.

“I’ve never known him as disappointed as this,” said Whitmarsh. “He really felt he could win this race and as the race panned out, I think he knows he could have won it – and it eluded him. And that’s disappointing.

“He put himself in a position to win a race and he will win races this year and in the future and he really deserves to. He’s an extraordinary chap.”

Whitmarsh was right about Kovalainen being a lovely bloke. But in the end a lucky Hungary win later that year was as good as it got for him in F1.

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