Double Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso has been demonstrating how not to make friends and influence people after quipping that so low are the crowd numbers in Istanbul for the Turkish Grand Prix, come the end of the weekend he will likely know all of the spectators by name.
It is understood that only 40,000 tickets have been sold for one of the less popular events on the annual F1 calendar – when the Istanbul Park Circuit can cater for a capacity of 120,000 – and when the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, whose place Turkey has taken on the 2009 schedule, could regularly boast entrance figures of up to 300,000, the Spaniard suggested that it was something of a waste.
Though his joke may not have been received well by the local media, they perhaps had the last laugh as the man from Oviedo was able to qualify just eighth in his Renault – two tenths shy of the two Ferraris just in front of him – despite once more running with easily the lightest fuel load in the field [see separate story – click here
“I have mixed feelings from this qualifying session,” admitted the 27-year-old, who has three times finished the Turkish Grand Prix up on the podium and never taken the chequered flag outside of the top six. “Q2 was really difficult and we only just made it through to Q3 in tenth position, but our level of performance and lack of pace meant we could only manage eighth on the grid, which is a bit disappointing. Unfortunately I will start from the dirty side of the track, which will make the start of the race difficult, but I hope that I can challenge for some good points in the race.”
Still, Alonso will begin the grand prix some nine places higher up the order than under-fire team-mate Nelsinho Piquet, who again underwhelmed with only the 17th-fastest time, after lapping almost six tenths of a second slower than the sister car in Q1 and enduring a brace of spins along the way, albeit the latter one caused by braking woes.
“I knew I had a brake problem from the beginning of qualifying so I was being cautious,” revealed the young Brazilian, “but it wasn't easy as the track was so slippery. On the last run the problem got worse and I spun off. However, I will remain positive as this is a track with good overtaking opportunities, and hopefully we can have a strong race.”
“Nelson dropped out of qualifying after losing a brake duct which overheated his brakes and caused him to spin,” confirmed the Régie's
executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds. “We had hoped for a slightly higher position for Fernando after second qualifying, but bearing in mind our fuel load we are not in a bad position for the race.”