Lewis Hamilton says it is “terrifying” trying to drive on the low-grip Istanbul Park circuit, describing Friday practice for the Turkish Grand Prix as “s**t with a capital S.”
A new track surface was recently installed ahead of Formula 1’s return to Turkey following an absence of nine years, and the track was also washed before FP1 on Friday morning. That combined to give extremely low levels of grip that took a long time to improve throughout the day, with lap times dropping by 15 seconds but still being some six seconds away from the predicted pace.
“It was a bit of a disaster today, to be honest,” Hamilton said. “This track is such a fantastic circuit and I really don’t fully understand when they spend millions to resurface a track. I know it’s been sitting around for some time but they could have just cleaned it maybe, instead of wasting all the money.
“Now the track is worse than Portimao was when we had the brand-new surface there. So for us at least, the tires aren’t working. You can see it — it’s like an ice rink out there and so you don’t get the enjoying of the lap as you normally would at Istanbul, and I don’t see that changing.
“It’s terrifying the whole way around. It’s almost like there’s wet patches all over because you are on slicks, accelerating and it just goes so fast. It’s because you are way, way below the temperature window. These tires, they are so hard and only work in a certain window, so if you are 10 or 20 degrees (50 to 68 Fahrenheit) below, they are not working.
“For some reason this surface is so smooth — a lot of the older circuits are a lot more open between the stones, so it works the tire more. This one is super closed, flat and shiny and I guess there’s oil seeps from the tarmac. It’s s**t with a capital S.”
Hamilton ended FP2 in fourth place as Max Verstappen set the pace in both sessions, and he says Mercedes is facing a real challenge as a result of the difficult conditions.
“I’ve not changed a single thing with the car today because if the tires aren’t working you don’t really know what the balance is. It’s literally just the tires. You see other people are getting them to work. You can go from one lap to the other and you can find a second because the tire works in a couple of corners.
“You can the Red Bulls are doing really well with it and we’ve definitely got some work to do tonight to try and figure out what we can change. It will be difficult for the fans to understand but there’s fundamental things on the car you can’t change, so we’ve just go to work with what we have and try and do the best job we can.
“We’d probably still have the issues with the tires, even in the rain — they will just be stone-cold wet tires all the time but it will be exciting.”