Maranello, 7th May 2008 - With no testing since the last race, I have enjoyed a quiet time at home in Monaco, although as usual, I have had plenty of contact with the factory in Maranello and I have also been going through my daily training programme. Now it's time to head for Istanbul and the fifth round of the championship, at a circuit which is obviously a bit special for me. Why? Because, it was here in 2006 that I scored my first ever Formula 1 victory and then I repeated myself last year, on both occasions starting from pole.
Apart from these two reasons to look forward to the weekend, I have to say that Istanbul Park is a fantastic track and I enjoy driving there a lot. I think we have a good car in the F2008 and I feel it can be quite strong this coming weekend. There is every reason to think we can fight for the win. Like my home circuit in Sao Paulo, the Istanbul track runs anti-clockwise and in many other ways it is a special circuit. It has some quick corners like Turn 8 and some medium speed corners, but you also have a very tricky final sector which is quite slow where you need plenty of downforce. So you need to find the right combination of speed and downforce. By far the best corner is Turn 8, which seems to go on forever. It is very challenging for the drivers and very nice to drive through when you get it right. It is really fun from a driving point of view.
I have mentioned aerodynamic downforce, but with the slow speed sections, it means that your car must also be efficient in terms of delivering mechanical grip. You also need good traction and a well balanced car, which is why finding the right compromise during free practice on Friday is so important for the rest of the weekend. Because of those long corners, tyres can have a hard time, especially on the right front, but since Bridgestone became the sole supplier, this situation has eased a bit as they bring a harder tyre than if they were competing against another manufacturer. We will have cooler temperatures this year, as the race is much earlier in the calendar, but I don't expect this to produce any unexpected situations.
Turn 12, the hairpin after the long straight is the best passing opportunity and the long back straight helps also, but it is still difficult to get past another car. There are a few more opportunities here than at some other circuits. This track is not very hard on engines and for the engine in my F2008, this will be its second race, while the gearbox will also be doing the last of its four races. This should not be a concern, as the rules in any case allow for several of the components, such as the ratios to be changed when necessary.
You do not need to be a mind-reader to work out what is my target for this weekend: I want to record a hat-trick of Turkish victories! It might be possible, but you can never be sure. At the last race, starting third on the grid, I was unable to win on a track where overtaking is very difficult. At the moment, I am enjoying a tough competition with Kimi and my second place in Spain was still a good result. But I will be trying everything to go one better this Sunday!