Pirelli boss admits he didn’t know the track had been recently resurfaced; Formula 1 drivers struggle to find grip.
On Friday afternoon, after the Formula 1 cars completed practice for the F1 Turkish Grand Prix at the Istanbul Park Circuit, the organizers got some Renault Clios together and let them run around the circuit, hoping that they would put down some rubber so that the F1 drivers would have some grip on Saturday.
The track on Friday was not just green, it was ridiculous.
“Don’t think I’ve ever felt such low grip in the dry before,” said Haas F1 Team’s Kevin Magnussen, the bravest of the brave in modern F1.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was quickest on Friday.
“We did well to react to the conditions out on track,” Verstappen said. “It is very slippery out there, but at the end of the day we just have to adapt to it. I think we are all still about five seconds off where we should be and I hope it’s not going to rain because then we may actually need spikes!
“I don’t think softer tires would have made a difference, we did go faster when going from a hard to a soft, but it’s just the grip on the tarmac.”
There were two reasons for the situation. Istanbul Park was resurfaced less than two weeks ago. On top of that, the weather was very cool. And it didn’t help that the organizers decided to wash the track overnight.
“The new asphalt proved to be extremely slippery,” said Pirelli’s F1 tire boss Mario Isola. “We have a level of grip that is lower than expected. When we selected the tires, we didn’t know about this idea of the circuit resurface, all the track, so the characteristics of the new tarmac are different from the old one. That means that we decided for the three hardest compounds we have in our range.
“It’s a bit challenging for drivers, but they’re all the same tires and at the end they have to work with what they have. I believe it is quite difficult if it is going to rain because of the bitumen and the fact that you have some oil that is coming on the surface when it is raining, so we have to pay attention if it is wet. We don’t have support events here so obviously the level of rubber we are able to put down on track is less than usual and this is another element they have to consider in strategies and track evolution.”
It has been nine years since F1 was last at the track and much has changed, not all of it for the better. Although there were plans to have a crowd, it is interesting to note that photographers were warned not to go into the empty grandstands because they were not entirely safe because they have not been used for such a long time.
The word is that on Sunday there will be a big contingent of government officials present for the race, as they are believed to be angling to fill the empty slot of the F1 calendar left by the withdrawal of Vietnam in 2021.