Nick Heidfeld has admitted that he is hoping BMW-Sauber proves capable of putting the 'dismal performance' it displayed in Monaco just under a fortnight ago firmly behind it in this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul – with expectations high that the team's new 'multi-level' diffuser will prove to be the springboard for a significant step forward.
After qualifying just 17th and 18th around the narrow, tortuous streets of the glamorous Principality – where both had previously finished up on the podium – Heidfeld and team-mate Robert Kubica fared little better on race day, with the former taking the chequered flag a lapped eleventh out of the 14 finishers, and the latter dropping out 29 laps in due to mechanical woes.
That is a far cry from this time last year, when Kubica was increasingly staking his claim as a genuine title contender and BMW was similarly flying high in the constructors' standings. Twelve months on, there are but six points on the board – all courtesy of Heidfeld – equating to eighth spot out of ten in the chase for the crown. The Polish-German pair came home respectively fourth and fifth around the undulating, technically challenging and physically demanding Istanbul Park Circuit in 2008 – a like result this time around would be a tonic indeed.
“I hope our dismal performance in Monaco proves to be a glitch,” Heidfeld underlined, “and that it was down to that particular circuit being unsuitable for our car. After all, there were signs of a forward trend at the previous race in Spain, and the next update is ready for Istanbul – also including a double-diffuser.
“The Istanbul circuit has some extremely good sections – particularly turn eight, of course, which is quite a challenge, [being] very long, fast and with several apexes. For the long straight with the right-hand kink you need a good top speed. It's a vast city, very international and fascinating.”
“The track in Istanbul is totally different to Monaco,” concurred Kubica. “It is a very modern race track with a couple of high-speed corners. The most famous high-speed corner there is the left-hander turn eight. Of course, we hope to perform better in Istanbul than in Monaco.”
Aside from the new diffuser that it hopes will turn its ailing fortunes around, there are a raft of other developments due to come on-song for the Munich and Hinwil-based outfit's underperforming F1.09 challenger this weekend – and head of engineering Willy Rampf is well aware that they need to produce a considerable effect if the season is not to degenerate into an effective write-off.
“After the race in Monte Carlo we had an in-depth look at the tyre problems,” explained the German. “For the race in Turkey, Bridgestone is providing the soft and hard compounds, which are hugely different. The harder of the two compounds in particular will pose a challenge for the engineers.
“The Istanbul Park Circuit is run in an anti-clockwise direction and is as varied as it gets. It has slow sections where good traction is crucial, but there are also fast parts such as the spectacular turn eight with its four sections, which has to be taken in a single line at around 250km/h. Overall, the track makes stringent demands on the car's balance. After the disappointing outcome in Monte Carlo, we hope to come away with a positive result here.”