While Vettel led from start to finish, he was the only driver not to be involved in the overtaking battles that characterized the race, just as had been the case in China three weeks ago. His teammate, Mark Webber, passed Fernando Alonso to claim second with less than 10 laps to go. At the end of the 309.396- kilometer race, the top three were distanced by just 10.075 seconds.
The top five finishers used a four-stop strategy for the first time this year. Jenson Button conceded two places in the closing stages of the race, finishing sixth after a three-stop strategy forced him to run on P Zero Silver (hard compound) tires that were seven laps older than those of his teammate. However, Jerome d’Ambrosio drove a two-stop strategy, while Kamui Kobayashi used a three-stop strategy to help propel him from last on the grid – after a technical problem in qualifying – to a point-scoring 10th place finish.
The abrasive surface, relatively warm ambient temperatures of 64 degrees and 86 degrees on the track, as well as the exceptionally demanding Turn Eight at Istanbul made it one of the most severe tracks in terms of tire wear that Pirelli will run on all year, according to Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsports director.
“We obviously develop tires that have to suit 20 different circuits this year, and the demands of Turn Eight in particular mean that Istanbul Park is definitely at the upper limit of what we are working with in terms of tire wear,” says Hembery. “So we’re pleased that the tires stood up to the challenge so well, giving the teams plenty of scope to utilize different strategies. We actually thought that Vettel could have won the race with three stops, but the comparatively short pit lane layout here in Istanbul meant that the performance advantage of an extra stop outweighed the 20 seconds or so spent in the pit lane. With the pace he had, Vettel could afford an extra stop, and that was clearly the decision taken by plenty of other teams as well.”
In qualifying, Vettel had set the fastest lap time in the race’s history; the festivities included Pirelli President Marco Tronchetti Provera, who was meeting and greeting all of the drivers. The opening round of Formula One’s feeder series – GP2 and GP3 – also took place over the weekend at Istanbul Park, with Pirelli’s P Zero tires enjoying a successful start as the first races of the season got underway alongside the Turkish Grand Prix.
The GP2 and GP3 drivers were both equipped with medium slicks because of the specific characteristics of the track; a medium-abrasive surface, dramatic gradient changes, two long straights and 14 challenging corners including the multi-apex Turn Eight.
“Because of the circuit’s fast and demanding layout, a tire with extremely versatile features was required,” explains Mario Isola, Pirelli’s racing manager.
“Our medium slicks were the best option to tackle this track, which is considered a benchmark when it comes to testing both drivers and cars,” he says. “Adding to the challenge of the track was the weather, with light rain at the start of the weekend. So our P Zero wet tires saw some action too, providing the GP2 and GP3 drivers with excellent grip on a wet and slippery track.”
“It was a very interesting race,” says former Pirelli test driver and GP2 competitor Romain Grosjean. “I think nobody knew what to expect from the tire degradation and there were many different strategies, which proved interesting for the show. As we decided to change only the rear tires, I had to push hard to stay on top of the car and manage my rubber up to the end, keeping tire wear under control.”
“We are very satisfied with the performance of our GP2 and GP3 tires during this first round of the season,” says Isola. “Throughout the weekend we had to face extremely variable track and weather conditions. We received very positive feedback from the teams and drivers about both our wets and medium slicks, which enjoyed a warm welcome at the Istanbul track.”
The P Zero tires now head to Barcelona, Spain for the May 20-22 second round of the GP2 and GP3 season.
For more information, visit www.us.pirelli.com.