Five things to know ahead of the F1 Turkish GP | 2021 Turkish GP Preview
Round 16 of the 2021 Formula 1 season will kick off this October 8 in the form of the Turkish GP. The Istanbul Park was re-added to the Formula 1 Calendar in 2020 and it provided a show in which Lance Stroll took pole and Lewis Hamilton sealed the deal for the seventh driver’s championship, equaling the record of Michael Schumacher. This time, the title deal may not be sealed but we have a great weekend ahead to say the least. We start off with the update brought to the Istanbul track which may make the data collected from the previous year pretty redundant. This may not be what title leaders Mercedes-AMG F1 would want on their plate as Lewis is set to have an engine penalty which would make him start from the back of the grid. The challengers, Red Bull Racing, would be coming with a special livery which was initially set to be showcased for the Japanese GP. Finally, mother nature rolls the dice as chances of rain loom around on Saturday and Sunday at the Istanbul Park. So without much further ado, let us look at the 5 things to know ahead of the Turkish GP.
1. Istanbul Park Track update
If you saw the last 2020 Turkish GP, you would remember that cars on the track were spinning out on the track as if they were driving on ice. Yes, part of it was due to the rain, but it was also due to the nature of the surface of the track.
For this, the FIA and F1 have taken up measures to mitigate that problem with a solution. F1 director Michael Masi explained that the track has been water-blasted ahead of the Grand Prix weekend to prevent the problems faced in the 2020 GP. This process is common in the Formula 1 world and has been used to treat tracks like the Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore.
This will also play a role in the setup choices used by the team over the weekend and to aid further grip, Pirelli has gone a step softer this year and brings the C2, C3 and the C4 compound tyres.
2. Lewis Hamilton’s probable engine penalty
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes-AMG might be facing a difficult weekend as the seven-time world champion is set to replace his power unit ahead of the Turkish GP. As Red Bull changed Max Verstappen’s engine in the last race in Russia, this puts Lewis in a tight spot as he and Mercedes would need to change the engine to remain competitive with his title rival. If Mercedes opts to change the power unit in Lewis’ car, he would have to start the race from the back of the grid with Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz, who is also facing the same penalty.
The main concern for the Brackley-based team is that a retirement due to an old engine would really hurt their chance to fight for the title. With just two points separating Max and Lewis, any mistake from either of them may become devastating towards the end of the season.
Furthermore, Max opted to change his power unit in the Russian GP, started from the back of the grid for the penalty, but came home second with a bit of luck, matured driving and an accurate call. This had really helped the Belgian-Dutch driver to stay within striking distance of Lewis. But will Mercedes be able to pull off the same weekend in the Turkish GP if they opted to change the power unit? We’ll find out soon enough.
3. The Honda tribute Red Bull Livery
One-off liveries has now become a common aspect in the Formula 1 world. They are used to pay tributes, remember milestones and sometimes hide upgrades and tech from the eyes of the camera.
This time, Red Bull is going white in an attempt to pay tribute to their engine partner, Honda who are parting ways with Red Bull and Formula 1 at the end of the 2021 season. Honda is pulling out of the Formula world after the decided engine regulations don’t align with the future that Honda sees.
The white and red livery is aimed to represent the Japanese flag, the home of Honda, and was initially scheduled to be showcased to the public at the Japanese GP. But as that got cancelled, Red Bull went ahead with it anyway and will now be seen in the Turkish GP.
The news of Honda leaving the F1 grid is a little bumming out as Honda was the only engine manufacturer not from the European subcontinent. And with the championship neck and neck with Mercedes this year, it shows that the Japanese team will leave on a high and their days with McLaren will not be ones that will be remembered.
4. The title fight tightens up
When was the last time we saw such a close battle which has dragged out for so long in the turbo-hybrid era of Formula 1? Let me help you, never. The relatively last close one was in 2018 when Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was neck and neck with Hamilton and lost the plot in the German GP.
But this time, Red Bull, along with the help of Honda, has taken the title fight to Mercedes and they have managed to make the dominant force sweat on multiple occasions this season. To paint you a picture, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are separated by just two points after 15 races.
With crashes and contacts between the two, it is clear that both the drivers are not afraid to get their elbows out when fighting wheel to wheel. Moreover with the addition of new tracks in the calendar, things just get more and more interesting for the viewers and fans of Formula 1 as the season stretches on.
In the constructor’s championship side, Mercedes-AMG has a little bit of breathing gap between themselves and Red Bull as Mercedes stands with 397.5 points while Red Bull trails by 364.5. Now, the difference might seem a little significant, but it takes one wrong step or one retirement to see that gap close up and also potentially lose the championship title.
5. Rain predicted over Istanbul Park.
This year, rain has not been good news in the world of F1 after the Belgian GP was cancelled for that very reason. But rainy conditions at the Istanbul Park brings a different memory to the fans of the Formula 1.
In the 2020 Turkish GP, the rainy conditions and the low grip track provided us an interesting race where we saw cars sliding off the track, a Perez and Vettel podium finish and also Hamilton sealing his seventh driver’s title in Formula 1.
Now the track conditions have said to be improved and the F1 is taking measures to mitigate the low grip nature of the track, but with the prediction of the rain, the drivers and the teams will have to keep a close eye on how much the grip levels would really increase. And finally, if the conditions become too appalling, the FIA might even cancel the race and all we will be left with is a build-up.
With all this in mind, we now look ahead to the weekend in Turkey where the action would start from October 8. The Istanbul Park is 5.338km long with 14 turns and two DRS zones. Lewis Hamilton currently leads the driver’s championship with 246.5 points while Max Verstappen trails with 244.5 points. This will be the second race held at this iconic track since its addition in 2020 and we look with hopes that the 2021 Turkish GP will be as intense as the previous race.