I’ve had a busy time travelling to and from Maranello since the last Grand Prix, last week to work on preparation for Istanbul on the simulator and yesterda, I went back to Italy to take part in a football match for the Telethon charity, of which Luca di Montezemolo is president. Playing with me on the Telethon team were Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella and there were lots of former professional football players, actors, singers and VIPs. Then today, I flew to Turkey for the next round of the world championship and it’s one I am really looking forward to.
Istanbul is a special track for me, as I have won three times in a row out of the five times we have raced there. I enjoy it a lot and I am looking forward to this weekend to try and do it again. Last year, when our car was not so competitive, I still managed to finish sixth, so I am hoping for something better this time, even if we have seen that the opposition is very strong at the moment. I can’t really explain why I have always been strong at Istanbul Park, but there is something about the track characteristics that seems to suit me in a similar way to Bahrain or Sao Paolo: I just click with these places and I feel very comfortable driving there. The most interesting part of the Turkish track is Turn 8, which is basically four left hand turns all taken as one, which puts quite a strain on your neck and upper body as it probably generates the highest lateral G-forces of any corner on the calendar. This year, in the early stages of the race, we will also have to tackle it with a much heavier car because of running on full tanks, which means it will be much slower than usual. But that is something we have experienced at all the races this year and while in qualifying Turn 8 is difficult but you are pretty much flat out, in the race you will have to back off the throttle. This season, in the early laps, we have seen that we can be 6 to 7 seconds slower per lap than in qualifying.
After running very competitively in Monaco on Bridgestone’s softer tyres, in Istanbul we will be back to their Medium and Hard compounds: the engineers have been pushing very hard to get to the F10 to make these tyres work better for us than they did in Barcelona for example, so I expect we will have made some progress. Also, the asphalt in Istanbul is the most abrasive we will have encountered so far this season, resulting in higher tyre degradation and that fact, combined with the higher temperatures we can expect this weekend, should see us work the tyres better.
All rounds of the championship are equally important in terms of the points on offer, but this weekend’s race has a special significance for everyone in the team and back at the factory. It will be the eight hundredth Formula 1 World Championship event in which the Scuderia has taken part, dating back to the first race of 1950 in Monaco. For me, it will be the sixty ninth time I put on the red fire suit and step into the cockpit of a Prancing Horse car and it is fantastic to be part of that history, part of the most famous racing team in the world. This is my job, but I never forget how special it is to drive for Ferrari. Although it will be nice to celebrate this milestone with the team this weekend, in Formula 1 it is the present and the future that matter, so the best way to celebrate the 800 would be to have a perfect weekend, ending with a great result on Sunday afternoon.