Wednesday 24 January 2018

Vettel hits wall as aggressive approach backfires

David Tremayne in Istanbul Park

fortune does not always favour the brave, as Sebastian Vettel learned to his cost after crashing in the first practice session at Istanbul Park yesterday.

Minutes before, Jenson Button had educated attentive girlfriend Jessica Mitchibata on the niceties of Pirelli's wet-weather tyres' wear characteristics -- yes, that's how much she loves him! -- and said that it was his intention to do the minimum number of laps on the sodden track. Not so Vettel, who was pushing hard when he got the right rear wheel of his Red Bull up the kerb on the 170 mph exit to the notorious triple-apex left-hander Turn 8, and spun hard into the inside wall. His car was sufficiently badly damaged that he didn't get to run in the afternoon, when Button was fastest.

"There wasn't much I could do to stop the car from hitting the wall this morning," the world champion said sheepishly. "But the most important thing is that I'm fine. Unfortunately we couldn't get the car ready in time for the second session, as there was too much damage. It makes things a bit more difficult, but I don't think it will be a problem. We know the track well from other years."

McLaren's softly, softly approach reaped dividends as Lewis Hamilton was third fastest, behind Button and Nico Rosberg's Mercedes, and ahead of Michael Schumacher's Merc and Mark Webber in the other Red Bull.

It was, for both McLaren and Mercedes, a promising start against their feared rival, whose car has been the fastest in the previous three races.

"I'm pretty happy with how today went," Button said with the cheerful smile of a man who knew he'd got it right.

"The car's been working reasonably well; there are always things you want to improve, but we've made some good progress and have a lot of useful data to go through. Trying to get the car to ride the bumps well into Turn 12 has been difficult, but we improved it through the session. Turn 12 is really bumpy; it's like they put a motocross jump in there!"

Slow-motion cameras captured the bucking bronco ride that both McLaren drivers had to endure, which was much rougher than Webber and the Renault drivers Vitaly Petrov and Nick Heidfeld experienced. "Turn 8 is quite tough," Button continued, "because, depending on your balance, it can damage the front or rear tyres. It's about getting the balance right, which we concentrated on today."

Hamilton was also happy, declaring: "I initially struggled a little bit with the set-up, which we can look at and fix overnight, but I was really pleased with my long-run pace; I think it was probably one of the best practice long-runs I've ever had.

"Generally, our car has a pretty good baseline. We're still in the fight and getting on the podium is my target." (©Independent News Service)

Turkish Grand Prix,

Live, BBC1, Setanta Irl, 1.0

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