Motor racing: F1 drivers praise grippy Istanbul track after 2020 'ice rink'

Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing in action during the second practice session ahead of the Turkish grand prix. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ISTANBUL (REUTERS) - Formula One drivers hailed the Istanbul Park circuit's grippier surface on Friday (Oct 8), saying the Turkish Grand Prix track was fun to drive again and very different to last year's wet and slippery "ice rink".

Turkey returned to the F1 calendar in 2020 after nearly a decade away with a resurfaced track that lacked grip in wet conditions.

The drivers were unimpressed and organisers reacted to the criticism ahead of this weekend's Turkish Grand Prix by water-blasting the asphalt to make it more abrasive.

Mercedes' world championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who last year called the track "terrifying" and joined other drivers in comparing the surface to ice, said after lapping fastest in Friday practice that the track was "much, much different".

"I didn't really know what to expect when we went out there today but, Jeez, so much more grip than we've ever had before," said the seven times world champion who smashed the track record.

"It's intense how much grip there is out there, which is awesome.

"So it's made it a much, much more enjoyable track to drive, much more like it was before (years ago)," said the Briton, who will be taking a 10-place grid penalty on Sunday for exceeding his season's engine allocation.

Hamilton's Red Bull championship rival Max Verstappen, who was off the pace in Friday's practice, said the track was now "super-nice".

McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo said the track was "completely different" to last year, adding his car was a lot quicker than in the 2020 race.

Istanbul Park, which hosted F1 between 2005-2011, offers good opportunities for overtaking but weather forecasts have shown rain is expected this weekend and strong winds posed a challenge for some drivers on Friday.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said the track was "a lot grippier" than last year and Ferrari racing director Laurent Mekies commended officials for their work on the circuit.

"I think all the drivers have enjoyed a much higher grip level compared to last year. We'll see how it will evolve during the weekend but certainly we are in a much better place than last year," Mekies said.

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