Grand Prix Diary 2011 Part 4: Turkey

Wolfgang Wilhelm
Grand Prix diary 2011 part 4: Turkey
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D he is the Grand Prix of Turkey such a race to which you fly with mixed feelings. There is a dance of death on the racetrack. No spectators, no atmosphere. The route is not that bad, but it doesn't really come across on TV or on site. No trees, no bushes, no green, just asphalt surfaces and brown sand around them.

Even six years after the inauguration, it still looks like the construction site. One of those many soulless GP arenas of modern times. The spectators sit kilometers away. It doesn't help that you can see half the distance from many grandstands. As a local fan, I expect action. To do this, I have to get closer. Those who want to see as much of the route as possible are better off staying at home in front of the television. All curves are free.

Istanbul itself is the other extreme. Just a great city. The flair that the Otodrom lacks is delivered up close here. Her colleague Bianca Leppert is in Istanbul for the second time. Tobias Grüner has given up the races that he doesn't like. There are more and more. He had skipped in Malaysia and China before.

In Turkey it must also have something to do with the fact that the distance between the hotel and the route is 50 kilometers and you have to get up early. Our Swiss colleague Roger Benoit has plenty of time to puff his cigars in traffic jams on the Bosporus bridges. The Cuban tobacco industry is happy.

Turkish economy is booming

The Otodrom is actually already on the outskirts of the city. Istanbul is growing eastward at breakneck speed. In the first year we drove through open country. In the meantime, almost everything on the way to the track is paved with industrial facilities, office buildings and residential ghettos. This is also a sign of economic growth.

The Turks did something better than the Greeks. In a Spiegel article about the country I read the nice final sentence: At some point Turkey will no longer beg to come to the EU, but the EU will kneel down for Turkey to come.

We commute between the continents every day. Our hotel is in the European part and we have to be in the Asian part. There are only two bridges over the Bosporus. A tunnel is still being built. We have been hearing that since 2005. So you can imagine how big the traffic jam is in the morning andis in the evening. Fortunately only one way in the morning. Into town. It also makes sense.

Why people still drive into the city in the evening is still a mystery to me after seven years of GP Turkey. When do these people leave Istanbul again? Sometime between midnight and five in the morning? On the way home to the city, you can choose the traffic jam. Either south or north bridge. A little tip: you can get back to the European part faster on the north bridge. Even if the way is a little further.

Visit to the doctor in Turkish

I arrive in Budapest with a cold. It grows into a decent ear infection on Thursday night. For the second time in 31 years of Formula 1, I have to see a doctor. Once a German doctor cured an eye infection in Buenos Aires in a very unbureaucratic way. It is a long time ago. In 2011 history repeats itself. I am lucky. A hospital is just around the corner from the hotel. 100 Turkish Lira cash on the table, the doctor immediately sees what's going on, prescribes medication and 15 minutes later I'm on my way to the track.

Incidentally, the drugs come from the same companies as in Germany, are just called differently and cost just a third. One should ask the local cartel office how it can be that the pharmaceutical freaks are allowed to call up such fancy prices here. They also work with profit margins in Turkey - despite the significantly lower price. No wonder that our health system is down.

Vettel crashes, Ecclestone asked

The Grand Prix begins with rain, wintry temperatures and a crash of Vettel. The world champion just watches in the afternoon. Like us. The bad weather in connection with the empty grandstands depresses the mood.

Bernie Ecclestone will not come until Saturday. He is a sought-after man because the GP Turkey contract is expiring. The Formula 1 Pope is surrounded by cameras and microphones. We get an exclusive appointment on Sunday morning. When we set a time, he says: 'Be on the track at nine o'clock in the morning.'

Seldom laughed like that. The race will not start until three o'clock local time. When asked when he'll show up on Sunday, Bernie says mischievously: 'Around half past ten.' For the rest of the weekend, not much happens on the racetrack either. Vettel delivers his usual one-man show. Behind that, 82 pit stops and 88 overtaking maneuvers confuse the TV viewers.

Last crossing of the Bosporus

Shortly before midnight, after our work is done, we break down our tents and drive back to Istanbul. This time over the south bridge. There is actually hardly any traffic. In both directions. Which leaves the question unanswered as to whether all the people who drive into Istanbul will ever get out there again or will simply be swallowed up by the Moloch.

We get the feeling that we arepassed one of the two bridges last time. Bernie Ecclestone had already announced in an interview that Turkey could have the Hungary treaty. But that is still far too expensive for the Turks. As a rule, this means that there will be no more Grand Prix next year. What will happen to the racetrack? Bet there will be a housing estate in five years?


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