Hamilton tames terrors of Istanbul's Turn 8
Saturday 29 May 2010
The drivers might only negotiate it for seven seconds, but at speeds between 153mph and 170mph they have to thread a needle that takes them through three apexes and more than 180 degrees, with forces greater than 3G.
Small wonder, then, that they all consider the Istanbul Park "Otodrom" circuit's great challenge to be the notorious Turn 8.
This is where downforce really counts, where you need as much down-load as you can get to stick your car to the road for maximum grip and cornering speed. But it's also where the bravery and commitment of a top-line driver can make up for deficiencies in his car – provided it keeps up its level of grip.
When it lets go, as Felipe Massa found out yesterday, you can either run wide on to the generous run-off area or slide sideways at 150mph and wear your tyres right through to the canvas.
Or, as Adrian Sutil discovered in the morning when he lost control of his Force India there, you can simply spear off head-first into the tyre wall. The corner has endless ways to discomfort you.
Lewis Hamilton loves the corner, and has always been very quick through it. So quick, in fact, that in 2007 he wore through his McLaren's right front tyre after overloading it by pushing too hard through there.
"You can't really follow another guy through Turn 8," he says. "That's very hard. They will have better downforce because they're running in the clean air. But if they make a mistake and you can get on the power earlier, then you can outdrag them as you finally exit the corner at 167mph again and build up to 300 on the run down to turn nine. Getting out of that final bit cleanly, really, is the key to lap time."
But with the nonchalance of a Formula One master, he then adds: "Once you've got your way to do it, frankly, Turn 8's not the hardest corner in the world."
The Turkish track is the brainchild of Hermann Tilke, the architect behind other Formula One tracks such as Sepang in Malaysia, Shanghai in China, Sakhir in Bahrain, Singapore and Abu Dhabi.
While some have criticised Formula One races for being boring in 2010 because of the lack of overtaking, the finger has also been pointed at Tilke for making the tracks too homogenised and therefore boring. Turkey is one of his better efforts, however, and though Turn 8 is not as great as Eau Rouge at Spa-Francorchamps or 130R at Suzuka, it is nevertheless one of the better corners in Formula One today.
Tilke will also be responsible for designing the new track in Austin, Texas, where Bernie Ecclestone assured everyone yesterday the US GP will take place from 2012 onwards.
The sport has historically struggled in the United States since the heyday of Watkins Glen in the Eighties, and Texas is its last chance. Tilke has to take the most challenging aspects from his best designs and create something very special there.
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