Select Reverse: Five memorable moments from the Turkish Grand Prix
Istanbul Park Circuit has been a fixture on the Formula 1 calendar just eight times prior to this season; take a quick look at the highlights.
5. 2005: Inaugural Turkish Grand Prix and Kimi Räikkönen's ice cool victory
Just after the Istanbul Park Circuit was finished being built in August 2005, the F1 circus descended upon its freshly laid asphalt for the very first time. With no prior data or experience to reference, teams and drivers were awash with anticipation as they entered Turkey’s debut race weekend.
Photo credit: McLaren
In an era which saw McLaren fighting for the World Championship all season long, their very own Kimi Raikkonen claimed pole position by over two tenths of a second with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya sitting P4, split by the two Renaults of Giancarlo Fisichella and Fernando Alonso. Just half a second separated the top four, promising for an interesting race.
Through the midst of multiple accidents and five total retirements across 58 laps, Raikkonen emerged victorious after a commanding performance from lights out to the checquered flag, while Montoya narrowly missed out on second place after contact with the Jordan of Tiago Monteiro on the penultimate lap, and having to settle for third place instead.
Nevertheless, McLaren finished their weekend in Turkey with 16 points, both drivers in the top five championship positions, and second place in the Constructors’ Championship for the team as a whole.
4. 2006: The title protagonists scrap to the finish line
After making its debut one year earlier in 2005, Istanbul Park Circuit was already a fan favorite. It was a track where anything could, and did happen, and 2006 would be no different.
Photo credit: Ferrari
Off the back of the Hungarian Grand Prix three weeks earlier, Renault’s Fernando Alonso and Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher were separated by ten points in the Drivers’ Championship, with an even smaller margin of just seven points separating the two teams in the Constructors’ Championship.
Fast-forward to Turkey, where Schumacher out-paced his title rival and qualified in second place, ahead of Alonso by a mere three-hundredths of a second; things were already looking tight.After another chaotic grand prix in Istanbul, the closing stages of the race were approaching and still no clear winner could be determined. Alonso was barely holding onto second place, with Schumacher hot on his heels in third. It was a fight that had been brewing all race long and climaxed in the final two laps.
The Ferrari and Renault scrapped it out through the last few corners, after which a drag race to the finish line ensued with Alonso just managing to fend off Schumacher, who was but a car’s length behind; an iconic battle between two of the sport’s greatest names, and a race that helped secure Alonso as the 2005 World Champion.
3. 2020: Lance Stroll claims maiden pole position in treacherous conditions
During a season which was upended by the outbreak of COVID-19 and its consequent restrictions that led to numerous cancellations and substitutions on the F1 calendar, the Turkish Grand Prix found itself returning to the schedule after an absence of nine years.
Photo credit: Jen Ross
For many drivers, this was their first time racing at Istanbul Park Circuit, with only a handful of the more experienced drivers having competed there in years gone by. One such driver was Lance Stroll in the then-vibrant pink Racing Point; the team rebranded into Aston Martin Formula One Team for 2021 onwards, bringing the iconic British manufacturer back to F1 for the first time in over six decades.
Prior to arriving in Turkey, the circuit had been freshly repaved, meaning there were no rubbered-in sections of the track and very little grip. Practice and qualifying were dizzying affairs, to the point where a series of local rental cars were somewhat comedically deployed on Saturday night, to drive around the track in the hopes of creating a better racing line for the grand prix on Sunday.
To make matters worse, qualifying was held in the wet. Conditions were dreadful across all three sessions, with the greasy track proving to be a worthy opponent of its visitors. In a wild turn of events, the third and final qualifying session saw Lance Stroll launch his car onto provisional pole, with each driver behind him failing to replicate his time; the young Canadian had just earned his debut pole position in F1.
2. 2006: Felipe Massa takes maiden pole and victory in F1
The thrilling last lap battle between Schumacher and Alonso wasn’t the only highlight of the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix, and it definitely couldn’t overshadow the accomplishments of a certain Brazilian.
Photo credit: Ferrari
Ferrari driver and teammate to Michael Schumacher, Felipe Massa made his F1 debut in 2002 with Sauber, before transitioning to the Scuderia in 2006. Prior to this fortuitous move, Massa had endured three difficult and unyielding seasons with Sauber, finishing thirteenth, twelfth, and thirteenth respectively in the Drivers’ Championship.
After moving to Ferrari though, his results began to improve. Having previously been destitute of a win or podium in F1, Massa sent shockwaves through the motorsport community in Turkey when he secured not only his debut pole position, but also his maiden victory. The Brazilian was considerably emotional throughout the weekend, having just completed two major milestones for an F1 driver.
Massa went on to win his home race at the season finale Brazilian Grand Prix, his first podium and victory on home soil. 2006 was the start of an illustrious career with Ferrari, that would ultimately lead to Felipe Massa becoming one of the most recognized names in F1 and all of motorsport.
1. 2020: Lewis Hamilton secures record-equaling seventh world title
The 2020 Turkish Grand Prix was fruitful not just for Lance Stroll, but also for reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton. Having utterly dominated the first half of the season and been met with little competition, Hamilton and Mercedes were walking away with the championship at some considerable pace.
Photo credit: Mercedes
With three rounds still to go, the championship was decided and concluded in spectacular fashion at the Turkish Grand Prix. Due to the aforementioned tricky conditions, positions were swapped back and forth all race long, with the final order still being fought over in the last corner.
Having been gifted positions from those who fell victim to track conditions, and fought past those who hadn’t, Hamilton was all-conquering in Istanbul, securing his seventh World Championship title and equaling the record set by Michael Schumacher in 2004. The man from Stevenage broke numerous records in 2020, statistically qualifying him as the greatest driver of all time.
What will happen next in Turkey?
Though only having hosted eight races over the years, the Turkish Grand Prix has delivered some truly iconic and unforgettable moments. Could we see Istanbul return as a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar? What events will transpire in this year’s grand prix that will end up in articles just like this, ten years from now? Who will prevail, Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen?