Drivers want Istanbul to remain

Date published: May 6 2011

Formula One drivers hope they will not be competing at the Turkish Grand Prix for the last time this weekend…

Formula One drivers hope they will not be competing at the Turkish Grand Prix for the last time this weekend.

Doubts were raised that Turkey may not host a race next year, after the head of Istanbul’s Chamber of Commerce Murat Yalcintas – citing an increase in the fee to stage it – last month expressed reservations it could continue.

Turkey joined the F1 calendar in 2005 but the race has attracted poor attendances due to high ticket prices and difficulty of access to the venue on Istanbul’s Asian side.

Although Istanbul’s six-year contract to host the race is due to expire this year, drivers want to keep coming back.

“I would miss it, definitely, as it is a place that you have some better results than you expected. It is a good place, but we will see how it is going to be,” Felipe Massa said.

“It is a track you always like to come (to). You always have a good result, good feeling and we will miss it if we are not coming here next year.”

Massa has a particular fondness for it, as he won three straight races at Istanbul Park from 2006-08, all from pole position.

“It is a very special place for me. I won three times, especially the first time it was a big fight with Fernando (Alonso) and Michael (Schumacher),” Massa said. “In 2008 I had a big fight with Lewis (Hamilton).”

Hamilton won at Istanbul last year and the Briton is hoping more success this Sunday can close the gap on Championship leader Sebastian Vettel. The German F1 Champion leads Hamilton by 21 points after three races.

“It’s got some great high speed corners and quite a nice mixture of corners,” Hamilton said of Istanbul’s track. “Of course it would be a shame to not have the Grand Prix on the calendar.”

Istanbul’s Turn Eight is the longest of the season at 640 meters and is particularly thrilling for drivers to test themselves against.

“We love to race at circuits that are challenging and exciting for us, so fingers crossed it will be here (next year),” Hamilton said.

Yalcintas, who represents the backers of the race, said on his Twitter account last month that Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone doubled the asking fee from $13 million to $26 million, and that Turkey’s Ministry of Finance considered the amount too high.