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Photo by Homonihilis on Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY 3.0)

The Russian Grand Prix, held a fortnight ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious. Max Verstappen came in second, while Carlos Sainz Jr rounded off the podium. Hamilton’s victory was his 100th Grand Prix victory, and allowed him to retake the lead in the Drivers’ Championship.

This weekend, we head to the Istanbul Park, in the Tulza, for the Turkish Grand Prix. Coming into this weekend, the top 3 in the Drivers’ Championship are: Hamilton (246.5 points), Verstappen (244.5 points) and Valterri Bottas (151 points). In the Constructors’, the top 3 are: Mercedes (397.5 points), Mercedes (364.5 points), and McLaren (234 points).

Ahead of today’s race Istanbul Park, here are the battles & outcomes to expect across the 58 laps…

The Circuit – Intercity Istanbul Park

Intercity Istanbul Park serves as the venue for this weekend’s race.

Designed by Herman Tilke, Istanbul Park is widely considered to be one of his best works. The 5.338 km long track is a relative oddity on the calendar, being one of the few anti-clockwise circuits. Featuring elevation changes, alongside a mix of low-medium speed corners, Istanbul Park is a challenge for drivers & teams.

The track’s best-known feature is perhaps the iconic quad-apex Turn 8 “Diabolica”. Arguably the most demanding corner on the track, due to its combination of speed, bumpiness, and multiple apexes. Putting much strain on both the car, and the driver’s necks.

The track has 2 DRS Zones, on the start-finish straight, and the back straight.

Juan Pablo Montoya holds the lap record, with a 1:24.770 set in 2005.

Things to Watch:

The skies above

Ahead of the weekend, the weather forecast for all 3 days came in at Sunny, with a 25% chance of rain.

However, while FP1 & FP2 turned out to be dry, the same could not be said for FP3. Overnight, torrential rain hit the track, continuing to pour in the morning. Leading to a wet FP3. Ahead of Qualifying, the skies had cleared, but damp patches still remained on the track.

With that said, what’s the weather forecast for today then?

A 25% chance of rain is expected throughout the day. However, there will only be a 7% chance of rain during the race, held between 3pm to 5pm local time. Meaning that dry-running is likely for today, with a repeat of last year’s race being highly unlikely.

Despite this, a morning downpour has resulted in a wet track, which could well make for an interesting start!

Overtaking

How much overtaking can we expect to see this weekend? For Formula One fans who desire to see some overtaking action, the outlook could be good….

Istanbul Park is a circuit with several overtaking opportunities, most notably at Turn 1, alongside the long run from Turn Nine to the final three corners. Prior to the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix, the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix also saw the highest number of overtakes on a dry race, with 80 overtakes.

Red Bull v Mercedes

As with every weekend this season, the big question has been: Red Bull v Mercedes. Who will come out on top on race day?

So far, Red Bull has won 8 of the 15 races so far, with Mercedes winning just 5. However, Mercedes leads in the Constructors with 397.5 points, as opposed to Red Bull’s 364.5 points. While in the drivers’, Hamilton leads Verstappen with 246.5 points, against Verstappen’s 244.5 points.

Ahead of the race, the 4 drivers start in the following order: Valterri Bottas (Pole), Max Verstappen (P2), Sergio Perez (P6), Lewis Hamilton (P11 – Grid Penalty). With Bottas being known for his slow starts this season, it is perhaps inevitable that he could be jumped by Verstappen on the run down into turn 1. Allowing Verstappen to have clean air, protecting his tyres and staying in the lead.

Further back, both Hamilton & Perez will be aiming to make up ground on their teammates. With Perez needing to hold up Hamilton to protect his teammate out in front. However, it will not be an easy task for Perez.

Based on Free Practice data, Red Bull had on average a 0.24-second deficit to Mercedes on long-runs, putting the team on par with Ferrari. As Perez will be starting behind the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, who will start in 3rd, it creates an additional set of headaches for Red Bull, beyond the overtake-friendly nature of the track.

Mclaren v Ferrari

Further behind the 2 leading teams, are the historical rivals McLaren & Ferrari.

Ahead of the Turkish GP, McLaren are ahead of Ferrari, with a 17.5 point gap separating the 2 teams. For today’s race, the 4 drivers start in this order: Charles Leclerc (Ferrari, P3), Lando Norris (McLaren, P8), Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren, P15) , Carlos Sainz (Ferrari, P20 – Grid Penalty).

Coming into the weekend, it was expected to be a close fight between the 2 teams once more. With McLaren benefitting from it’s Mercedes Power Unit & Ferrari counting on it’s performance in the corrners.

However, data from Free practice proved otherwise. While Ferrari was on par with Red Bull, being 0.24s behind Mercedes per lap on long runs, McLaren were much further behind. Being a full 0.58 seconds behind, and even falling behind AlphaTauri.

With that said and done, it appears that McLaren has a chance of losing 3rd to Ferrari this weekend. Sainz may be starting last, but with the freshly upgraded PU, he is certainly expected to carve his way through the field. Meanwhile, Leclerc being out in front could possibly lead to a podium, or even a shock win. Combined, it may well be enough for Ferrari to overhaul McLaren in the Constructors.

The Battle for 5th

Further behind the 4 teams mentioned earlier, are the 3 teams locked in a battle for 5th. Alpine, AlphaTauri & Aston Martin.

Ahead of today’s race, the 6 drivers start in this order: Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri, P4), Fernando Alonso (Alpine, P5), Lance Stroll (Aston Martin, P8), Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTarui, P9), Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin, P10), Esteban Ocon (Alpine, P12)

Between the three teams, their seasons have progressed differently. AlphaTauri started off relatively strong, with a car capable of fighting for third in the constructors. Unfortunately, the team lost ground to Ferrari and McLaren, due to a lack of double points finishes. However, the team’s fortunes have started to improve in recent races, despite falling behind Alpine.

Free Practice Data has shown that AlphaTauri has the best long-run pace in Turkey among the 3 teams. Being an average of 0.52 seconds per lap slower than Mercedes, beating out McLaren.

Meanwhile, Alpine started off slow but began showing consistency & pace post-Bahrain. With their ever-improving form allowing them to take a commanding lead in the battle for 5th, with 103 points. Such is their consistency that they are currently the team on the longest points-scoring streak. Scoring in every race since Imola.

Based off Free Practice Data, Alpine is second among the 3 teams in long-run pace. However, they sit significantly behind AlphaTauri, with a deficit of 0.90 seconds a lap to Mercedes. But things could still be worse…

On the other end of the spectrum, is Aston Martin. The team started off strongly in testing, but consistently failed to deliver the expected results. And it’s fair to say that Turkey could well prove to be the team’s lowest point of the season.

Aston Martin is third among the 3 teams in long-run pace. However, they sit even further back than Alpine. Being 1.2 seconds off Mercedes per lap. Behind the likes of Williams & Aston Martin. Needless to say, the team could be bracing for a long and painful race today in Turkey, with both drivers tumbling down the order…

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