McLaren-Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have predicted that KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) and tyre-wear will be the pivotal factors in next weekend's Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul, as the pair bid to ramp up the pressure on early-season F1 2011 World Championship pace-setters Red Bull Racing.
In overhauling defending F1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel for victory in the closing stages of the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai last time out, Hamilton brought a shuddering halt to the German's winning streak in the top flight – stretching back to Brazil in November.
One of the reasons why the British star was able to sweep by so comparatively easily was – aside from being on slightly fresher tyres having cannily conserved a set during qualifying – his use of KERS whilst Vettel's system was proving rather more troublesome, and Red Bull has been urged to get its act together in that respect fast [see separate story – click here
]. Hamilton, however, is clearly hoping to punish RBR further in a race in which he tallied his first victory of 2010.
“Istanbul Park is a circuit I really enjoy,” the 26-year-old enthused. “It's a great modern track, with a real variety of corners, plenty of high-speed stuff and a place where you really feel the benefit of having the car properly hooked-up beneath you. Of course, everyone talks about Turn Eight – which is a fantastic corner – but I also love late-braking into Turns Nine and Twelve, because you can get the car into the corner while still carrying quite a bit of speed, and getting it right is really satisfying.
“I think we'll be seeing drivers working quite hard to look after their tyres throughout the race, particularly in Turn Eight, which is fast and bumpy; it's one of the most demanding corners for tyres anywhere on the calendar. This is also a circuit where KERS Hybrid will be a major benefit; most of the straights come after low-speed corners, so there's plenty of scope for using it – most notably out of Turn Ten, but also out of the final corner.
“There's always quite a big chance for passing into Turn Twelve, because it's quite easy to stay with a leading car out of Turn Ten and duck into the tow – so there's every reason to believe that the run of interesting and exciting races will continue next weekend.”
Last season, of course, McLaren claimed a one-two finish in Turkey, with Hamilton seeing off the challenge of team-mate Button following a lively late-race scrap to prevail, after the two Red Bulls had collided right in front of them and removed themselves from the reckoning. With the 2009 F1 World Champion renowned for his careful tyre-management, he hopes the Woking-based outfit may not need to rely upon luck to come away with a similar result twelve months on.
“After the race in China, I think there'll once again be a lot of focus on tyre durability and drop-off next weekend,” pondered the nine-time grand prix-winner, who triumphed in Istanbul two years ago. “Looking at the track configuration, our simulations suggest that Turkey will be a critical test for the tyres – particularly the front-right, which will be placed under considerable load through Turn Eight.
“It's a high-speed, multi-apex turn with a lot of loading, so I think we'll spend part of Friday monitoring the loads through the tyres to make sure we can achieve a safe balance for the race before we head into qualifying on Saturday.
“I don't think it's an underestimation to say that tyre-wear will probably determine every team's race strategy. It will be important to run the tyre within a safe operating window, and that's likely to determine when and how often we stop during the grand prix.
“The weather also looks like it's going to be a bit colder than we're used to in Turkey – the race is three weeks earlier in the season than it was last year – and that might also have an effect on how the tyre operates. It's going to be another interesting race.”