Istanbul Park: The Ultimate Track Guide

Formula 1 first raced in Turkey in 2005, and returned to the country in 2020, nine years after the last race at the circuit. Here’s everything you need to know about Istanbul Park!


FIRST F1 RACE 2005
TRACK LENGTH 3.317 miles
NUMBER OF LAPS 58
NUMBER OF TURNS 14
MOST POLES Felipe Massa (3)
MOST WINS Felipe Massa (3)

Situated around an hour’s drive from Istanbul, Istanbul Park hosted the inaugural Turkish Grand Prix in 2005. Construction work began on the circuit in September 2003 and was completed just prior to the first F1 race in 2005, at a cost of over $200 million. The anti-clockwise circuit was designed by Hermann Tilke, with many considering it to be his best work. The circuit is well-liked by drivers, with the multi-apex Turn 8 being a particular highlight.

Formula 1 raced at Istanbul Park seven times during its first stint on the calendar. While the first race was won by Kimi Raikkonen for McLaren, Felipe Massa would go on to sweep the next three poles and wins at the track; this being the only circuit at which he would win three times in his career. In the following years, Jenson Button would take the last win of his title-winning season here in 2009, while Red Bull team-mates Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber had a famous collision in 2010.

There was plenty of interest in the first Turkish Grand Prix in 2005, with packed grandstands. However, by F1’s last visit to the circuit in 2011, attendance had dwindled – not least due to extortionate ticket prices. In 2007, Bernie Ecclestone announced a new deal to keep Formula 1 racing in Turkey until 2021, after purchasing the circuit himself. But this proved not to be the case, and the 2011 race was the last to be held at the track.

Car rental company Intercity purchased the circuit in 2012. Though the track remained in good condition, events at the circuit were few, with the last major racing event being the World Rallycross Championship in 2015. Instead, the premises has been used as a car dealership in recent years.

After months of speculation, the return of the Turkish Grand Prix was confirmed on 25th August 2020. It was announced as one of the final four rounds of the 2020 season, along with two races in Bahrain and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. It had been hoped that the Istanbul race would be run with fans in attendance but, in early October, the local government confirmed this would not be possible. The 2020 Turkish Grand Prix was the the fourteenth round of the season held on 15th November. In the race, Lewis Hamilton claimed his seventh World Championship title. 

In April 2021, it was announced that the Turkish Grand Prix would appear on the calendar for a second successive year. Due to travel restrictions, the Canadian Grand Prix could not take place as planned, so Istanbul Park agreed a deal to take the slot of the Montreal race on the calendar. The 2021 Turkish Grand Prix was set to take place on 13th June. However, travel restrictions made the race unfeasible and the event was indefinitely postponed on 14th May. It was replaced by the Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring. 


FAST FACTS

  • Sebastian Vettel made his first appearance at a Formula 1 race weekend at Istanbul Park in 2006. He drove for BMW Sauber in Friday practice.
  • Rubens Barrichello set a new record for most F1 race starts at the 2008 Turkish Grand Prix. It was his 257th start, one more than former record holder Riccardo Patrese.
  • Kimi Raikkonen recorded McLaren’s 120th pole position at the 2005 Turkish Grand Prix. They were the third team to reach the milestone, after Ferrari and Williams. One year later, at the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix, Raikkonen became the 55th driver to have started 100 Grands Prix.
  • Fernando Alonso has had the most podium finishes at Istanbul Park, having finished in the top three on four occasions. Read more: F1 Track Stats – Istanbul Park.
  • There was controversy during the podium ceremony at the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix. The presenter of the winner’s trophy was referred to as the “President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”. A complaint was filed by the government of the Republic of Cyprus, and the FIA subsequently fined organisers $5 million.
  • There were 79 overtakes in the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix – the highest number ever recorded in a dry Formula 1 race, tying with the 1983 United States Grand Prix West.
  • As well as the most overtakes, the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix saw the most pit stops of any dry race in Formula 1, with 82 stops being made by the drivers. In fact, in the last sixteen years, only the 2011 Hungarian Grand Prix, 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix, 2014 Brazilian Grand Prix and 2015 Hungarian Grand Prix have featured more pit stops.

2020 TURKISH GP RECAP

For the first time since 2006, Formula 1 raced at Istanbul Park for the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix. Low grip levels produced an action-packed weekend, in which Lance Stroll took pole position and Lewis Hamilton was crowned World Champion for the seventh time.

From the start of the Turkish Grand Prix weekend, it was clear that the newly resurfaced Istanbul Park would be tricky to navigate. Drivers slipped and slid their way through the three practice sessions, with the teams unable to really get up to speed. Overnight rain ahead of Saturday’s action produced a memorable and hectic qualifying session. Q1 was stopped due to heavy rain, while Romain Grosjean spun off when the session resumed, bringing out the red flags again. Q2 and Q3 were similarly damp affairs, with Lance Stroll ultimately securing his maiden pole position with Racing Point. The Silverstone-based team started with both cars in the top three, with Max Verstappen alongside Stroll on the front row.

On Sunday, the cars crawled from the starting grid. Stroll and Sergio Perez led the opening stages in 1-2 formation for Racing Point, while Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were the biggest gainers in the chaotic opening turns, racing into third and fourth. Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Ocon made contact, with the Mercedes spinning and all but ending the Finn’s championship hopes. Hamilton ran wide, allowing Vettel, Verstappen and Alex Albon ahead. Stroll pulled out a nine second lead, as Verstappen attempted to pass Perez. Unable to make the move, the Red Bull spun and dropped down the order to sixth. Albon and Bottas joined Verstappen in spinning over the next laps, with Bottas extending his spin count to three. Lando Norris pulled off an audacious move on Williams’ George Russell, before the leaders made their stops. Stroll stopped, but Hamilton’s strategy worked out, with the Mercedes harrying Perez for the lead of the race. Ferrari had a strong race, with both Vettel and Charles Leclerc running in the top five. Leclerc passed his team-mate, and took third place from Verstappen. Polesitter Stroll dropped further down the order on his intermediate tyres, while Hamilton had a pit stop in hand at the head of the pack. Hamilton went on to win the race and with it secured a record-equalling seventh World Championship victory. There was drama yet to come behind, as Leclerc attempted an overtake on Perez for second place. The Ferrari driver locked up, allowing team-mate Vettel to take his only podium finish of the 2020 season.


TURKISH GRAND PRIX POLESITTERS AND WINNERS

YearPolesitterTeam On PoleWinnerWinning Team
2005Kimi RaikkonenMcLarenKimi RaikkonenMcLaren
2006Felipe MassaFerrariFelipe MassaFerrari
2007Felipe MassaFerrariFelipe MassaFerrari
2008Felipe MassaFerrariFelipe MassaFerrari
2009Sebastian VettelRed BullJenson ButtonBrawn GP
2010Mark WebberRed BullLewis HamiltonMcLaren
2011Sebastian VettelRed BullSebastian VettelRed Bull
2020Lance StrollRacing PointLewis HamiltonMerecdes
2021Valtteri BottasMercedesValtteri BottasMercedes