One of the more exotic locations of the Formula 1 series set in the only country in the world that lies on two continents, the Turkish Grand Prix is held in the Istanbul Park Circuit, also one of the newest, most technologically advanced racing circuits in the Formula 1 championship series. Making its debut in 2005, it has proven to be a quite interesting part of the Formula 1 series, and becoming a challenging circuit at that.
The Istanbul Park Circuit is a state-of-the-art circuit designed by Hermann Tilke, who himself set the standard with the Bahrain, Sepang and Shanghai International Circuits. Unlike his previous designs, Tilke says he contoured the track according to the hills and dips of Istanbul Park and designed the circuit according to the lay of the land, making the circuit unique with its four different ground levels. Tilke also famously declared that he wished to challenge the drivers on this racetrack, and was successful in that many drivers find themselves spinning off at certain expansive corners at crucial moments in the race.
Found in Pendik, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus Strait, the Istanbul Park Circuit is also unique and challenging in that it is one of only two circuits in the Formula 1 championship that is raced counter-clockwise. The track is 5.34 kilometers long and is raced for a total of 58 laps. Of its sixteen corners, Turn 8 is popular for having the most drivers spinning out of the sweeping corner, compared to the Nürburgring.
Other parts of the Istanbul Park Circuit, despite the uniqueness of the track as a whole, have also been observed by drivers nonetheless to be similar to famous features in old race tracks. For example, one turn is nicknamed the “Turkish Corkscrew,” after comparisons with Laguna Seca’s own famous Corkscrew, while another part of the course recalls Eau Rouge and has been hilariously dubbed the “Faux Rouge.”
Kimi Räikkönen was the Turkish Grand Prix’s inaugural winner for McLaren-Mercedes, with rival Fernando Alonso coming in second. The fastest lap ever on this circuit was performed in that 2005 race, by third-placer Juan Pablo Montoya, clocking in at 1’24.77, and has yet to be beaten.
Brazilian Felipe Massa won his first ever Formula 1 grand prix in Istanbul in 2006. Also winning in his homeland, at the Brazilian Grand Prix, in the same year, it is noted that Massa seems to have an affinity for counter-clockwise race courses, since the Interlagos circuit is the only other circuit in the Formula 1 series to run in the opposite direction. Because he won his first Formula 1 Grand Prix in Istanbul, Massa has declared that Turkey holds a special place in his heart, even cheering on both the Brazilian and Turkish football teams, São Paulo FC and the Fenerbahçe.
Drivers, crew and spectators arrive at the Ataturk International Airport, which is 30 minutes away from downtown Istanbul and an hour from Istanbul Park. There are few hotels on the Asian side of the Bosphorus Strait, which still carries the mystic and oriental ambience of Constantinople and a great place to soak up the culture of the city.
Getting to the circuit has improved drastically from the Turkish Grand Prix’s inaugural race. The traffic going to the racing circuit was so bad right before the scheduled games began that the local government actually restructured their motorway to allow shortcuts.
It is also possible to stay at the European side of the Bosphorus, where there are many hotels. Several public buses that were consigned to go specially to Istanbul Park for the Turkish Grand Prix come from both sides of the Bosphorus Strait, just leave earlier if you’re to come from the European side of the city, where the more modern buildings and malls are.
The main grandstand at Istanbul Park seats 25,000 individuals, but makeshift stands can be constructed and appended to natural ground stands to accommodate more than 155,500 spectators. Turkish grand prix tickets in the grandstands are priced as gold, silver and bronze sections, according to the audience view. There are no special favourite areas yet, but since the circuit is as bumpy as the ocean, the grounds of the track are at different levels and there are many seats with breathtaking views.