The Formula 1 World Championship is back in Turkey’s Istanbul Park circuit after a nine year break. For all 20 drivers on track, the Friday free practice sessions were spent searching for grip, absent for a variety of reasons. The 5.338 kilometre long track, in the suburb of Tuzla, on the Asian side of the city, was recently resurfaced and is much less abrasive than the previous iteration. Furthermore, this morning, the organisers decided to pressure wash the track to remove the oil and tar that had come to the surface. Added to this was the fact the temperatures were pretty low all day, which all goes some way to explaining why even the fastest lap times were a long way off the track record of 1:24.770 set by Juan Pablo Montoya in 2005, the first time the race was run.
The first session was therefore very unusual with an extremely slippery track which was still damp in parts. Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel were third and fifth respectively, running the Hard tyre for a long time. The Ferrari drivers covered 55 laps, 26 for Charles, driving the track for the very first time and 29 for Sebastian. Best time for the Monegasque was a 1:35.507 with his team-mate posting a 1:35.620.
In the 90-minute afternoon session, the track improved gradually, as it was now completely dry and the air and track temperatures had risen, so that all drivers were significantly faster than before. Charles and Sebastian began the session evaluating the behaviour of the Medium compound while continuing with set-up work. Both drivers then switched to qualifying trim, running the Softs with which they set their fastest times. Charles posted a 1:28.731, to be second fastest, completing 45 laps and Sebastian stopped the clocks in 1:30.022, doing 41 laps to go eighth.
Charles Leclerc: “At first I was not very convinced by the grip level of the track and thought this was going to be a very bad day, but after a few laps I actually really enjoyed it, as it was a lot of fun to have such low grip. It felt like driving on ice! Seriously though, it’s not great to have a Friday like this as you don’t learn much, but in terms of driving it was good fun and we were competitive too. I don’t know how much track conditions will improve throughout the weekend so it’s good that we’ve done quite a lot of mileage today to understand the conditions and hopefully we can maximize the result tomorrow.
“The weather forecast doesn’t look great for tomorrow so I don’t know how things could be in the rain, it could be a very tricky day, but if we do everything perfectly, this could be a good opportunity for us.”
Sebastian Vettel: “Today was quite unusual, as the asphalt is very new, so it was very slippery. Of course it did get better towards the end of the day and I guess the improvement will continue over the weekend. We were quite consistent today, but it’s clearly too soon to have a comprehensive picture of where we are. It was mainly a question of finding a rhythm, and doing as many laps as possible to get confidence in the car as well as with the track.
“In the final part of FP2 we were getting faster and faster. We have not seen the real levels out there today as most people struggled to get their tyres to work. Tomorrow’s third free practice session will be very important as the track will still be evolving. The rain could be a factor also, so I expect it will be quite a busy day.”
Check out our Friday gallery from Istanbul, here.