‘Give whoever asphalted Istanbul Park a medal’

Date published: January 1 2021 - Jamie Woodhouse

Charles Leclerc Istanbul Park Turkish Grand Prix

Red Bull driver programme boss Dr Helmut Marko said the people responsible for resurfacing Istanbul Park deserve a “medal”.

For the first time since 2011, the Turkish Grand Prix returned to Formula 1 in 2020, a late addition to the calendar after the original schedule was wrecked by the global health pandemic.

Istanbul Park has always been a favourite among Formula 1 fans and drivers, and the circuit was even given a new layer of asphalt before the race weekend. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, as it turned out, that new asphalt had zero grip, meaning the drivers may as well have been trying to drive on ice.

And once the rain fell, that mayhem only intensified with Lance Stroll making the most of the conditions on Saturday to take the first pole position of his career, while in a chaotic and highly entertaining race Sir Lewis Hamilton delivered a masterclass to go from P6 to victory in the wet and secure his seventh World Championship.

Maybe it was not for the right reasons, but without doubt the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix ranks right up there among Formula 1’s most iconic races – and Marko thinks those who put the new asphalt down deserve a “medal”.

“I would also like to say: the people who asphalted in Istanbul should be awarded a medal,” he said in conversation with Motorsport-Total.com and Formel1.de.

Hamilton was actually one of the most vocal drivers in terms of criticising the track.

“This track is such a fantastic circuit and I really don’t fully understand when they spend millions to re-do a surface of a track,” he said after Friday practice at the event.

“I know it’s been sitting around for a long time but they probably could have just cleaned it maybe instead of wasting all the money, and now the track is worse than Portimao was when we had a new surface.

“None of the tyres for us at least are working and you’ve seen it, it’s like an ice rink out there, and so you don’t get quite the enjoyment of the lap that you would normally get at Istanbul.

“It’s terrifying the whole way around, it’s almost like there are wet patches all over so when you’re on your slicks you are accelerating and then it goes, so fast.

“And that’s because you are way, way below the temperature window, these tyres are so hard and they work in just a certain window, so if you’re 10 or 20 degrees below then they’re not working, 20 degrees over they’re not working.

“And for some reason this surface is so smooth, a lot of the older circuits it’s much more open between the stones so it works the tyre more, whereas this one it’s all super close, flat and shiny.

“It’s sh*t with a capital s.”

Istanbul Park Turn 8

However, Marko still cannot understand what the best drivers in the world were complaining about.

“I don’t understand how the best drivers in the world can say that was undriveable,” he said.

“Those pictures, they were sensational. And it was the same for everyone. On the slippery asphalt, a Williams doesn’t slide that much more than a Mercedes because the grip is simply not there. For me, that was a super moment of tension.”

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