Five under most pressure in Turkey shootout
27 May, 2010
May.27 (Daniel Chalmers) All Grand Prix races are important no matter what. However some are just more important than others for certain drivers. We look at five drivers who will go to this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix under more pressure than normal.
Felipe Massa – This is a critical weekend for Felipe, and it’s likely that he will be the focus of a lot of media attention. Istanbul is his favourite track where he has won three times (2006, 2007 and 2008). So far this season he has struggled against Fernando Alonso. You start to get the feeling that Alonso is starting to get custody of the team, and that Massa is in the process of edging further towards the dreaded number two position.
Therefore it’s important that Massa makes an impact on Alonso on his favourite track. If he can’t give Alonso a stern examination at one of his strongest tracks, then you have to wonder where he will test Alonso. He needs to remind Ferrari that they possess two world class driving talents and not just one.
Massa needs to remember that despite an ordinary start to the season, it is still reasonably close between them points wise due to Alonso’s recent errors.
He should also take some inspiration from how Webber has turned the tables on Sebastien Vettel in the last two races.
This could be a crossroads race in Massa’s championship challenge, and battle with Alonso. If Felipe is comfortably beaten then it’s going to a long uphill struggle to fightback. In contrast if he owns the Istanbul circuit again then it’s very much game on and Alonso won’t have a firm grip on the Ferrari garage just yet.
Fernando Alonso – The Spaniard has shown great speed and ability so far this season. However it’s been punctuated by silly errors, which you don’t usually expect from a driver famous for his consistency. It’s going to be important for him to have a clean weekend, and try and take the challenge to the Red Bulls.
He is fortunate that despite a mixed start to 2010 he is only three points off the championship lead. On the other hand you sense that Alonso is a cat starting to run out of lives. He can’t afford another weekend of dropped points.
The problem he has is that he is desperate to win a third championship, after a difficult year at Mclaren, and two fruitless ones at Renault. Due to this he is over driving a little bit.
These recent mistakes have also made the Ferrari faithful a bit restless. Alonso will need to prepare himself for heavy criticism in the Italian press if he throws away another opportunity for a big result.
The Turkish GP also represents the opportunity to potentially kill off the threat of his team mate. If Alonso can dominate Massa on one of his strongest tracks, then it’s very conceivable that it will not only destroy Massa’s confidence, but also give a clear message to Ferrari on who they should be relying on to deliver the championship.
Sebastien Vettel – In the first four races Vettel had the measure of Mark Webber, although it was always close between the pair.
Two races later Webber has stepped up to another level , and Vettel simply had no reply in Barcelona or Monaco.
Now Webber is more confident than he has ever been in his career, and carries a massive amount of momentum with him to Istanbul.
Therefore there is now immense pressure on Vettel to reply and jump to new heights himself. It’s time to see what Sebastien is made of.
What makes things harder for Vettel is that he is a favourite of the F1 media (and Bernie), and has always received high interest. So far in his F1 career he has mainly received high praise from the media. If he loses to Webber for a third race in a row he will face an awful amount of scrutiny, and the pressure will mount up.
This season certainly represents a great chance for Vettel to win the championship. Of course there is the argument that he is still very young and that his time will come.
On the other hand it could be that he has an uncompetitive car for the next ten years. In F1 opportunity is a very fickle thing, so when you have a chance you have to grab it.
Vettel has to halt Webber’s momentum and regain control before it becomes unstoppable. This is agruably the biggest challenge Vettel has faced so far, and a test of how great a driver he really is.
Even if Red Bull do dominate in Turkey, the Vettel /Webber battle is becoming incredibly compelling.
Vitaly Petrov – Whilst it’s clear that he has potential, particularly after that 7th place finish in Sepang, the heat is now on for him to deliver consistent results. The main issue for him is the man on the other side of the garage.
So far this season the biggest gap between team mates has been at Renault. Kubica has out-scored Petrov by 59 points to six. In qualifying it’s been a complete thrashing, with Kubica being a second quicker on average which is simply too much.
If Petrov is to generate interest from other teams he has to at least challenge Kubica and give him something to think about, and beat him on occasions.
His seat is definitely under pressure. With Renault’s recent upturn in form there is no doubt that there will be high calibre drivers within the team’s grasp for next year. Petrov needs to be scoring points consistently to stay with the team.
This weekend the minimum has to be to reach the top 10 qualifying shootout, and scoring points in the race. This is the lowest Renault’s car currently deserves to be.
Jenson Button – In Monaco Button lost his championship lead, after a great start to the year. However look beyond those two races where difficult conditions and tyres decisions were key, Button has been decidedly average at times.
In Monaco Button never really looked comfortable, and in Spain he was nearly a minute off Lewis Hamilton before Lewis had his crash.
It’s important that Button doesn’t continue to let the momentum of his strong start slip away from him. As well he won’t want to fall further down in the championship order, or risk Hamilton overtaking him on points, which would shift the psychological advantage within the Mclaren camp.
Last year in Istanbul Jenson was in a class of his own, and one of his most dominant victories to date. It’s also a track that should suit him considering the amount of punishment the tyres take at this track.
Therefore this is a track where Button ought to be right up there with Hamilton giving Red Bull a hard time.
If he is a similar distance behind Lewis as he was in Spain then no doubt questions will be asked.
Overall it’s going to be a fascinating Turkish GP weekend. Who out of these five drivers will leave with the biggest smile on their face? And who will get out of their car with a downcast look on their face? Stay tuned…