Watch: Rental Cars Lap Turkish Grand Prix Track to Rough Up ‘Shit’ Surface Before F1 Race

Well, that’s one way to break in new tarmac.

byKristin V. Shaw|
F1 photo


Formula 1 hasn’t raced in Istanbul for nine years, and the Turkish Grand Prix organizers decided to gift drivers with a resurfaced track four weeks ago. With no prior support races, which would have normally broken in the new tarmac, yesterday’s practice laps were interesting. Or, as Lewis Hamilton put it after his session, "It's shit with a capital S."

To try to rough in the track, race officials tried something unusual: sending everyday rental cars out for hot laps after the practice sessions yesterday. McLaren technician Lee Mathurin shared a video of cars seen lapping the circuit on Friday night, first spotted by WTF1.

"It's terrifying the whole way around," Hamilton said to ESPN. "It's almost like there's wet patches all over because you are on slicks, accelerating and [the loss of grip] just goes so fast. 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.”

Thus, the rental car rough-up. Unfortunately we'll never know if it worked or not, because it immediately rained on Saturday during qualifying.

It wasn't just drivers and race teams fuming about the track's condition—Pirelli wasn’t a fan of the resurfacing timeline, either.

Pirelli's head of F1 and racing at Pirelli Mario Isola told the tire company didn’t know about the resurfacing until it was too late to change their plans for the Grand Prix. The tire maker showed up with their three hardest tire compounds when the cars needed the exact opposite. The newly smoothed-out surface made it difficult for the tires to get up to temperature, adding a new layer of complexity to the driving. The result was a whole lot of sliding and spins on the track today, though Isola remains sanguine about it.

“It’s not a drama, in my opinion, because it’s an additional challenge for drivers,” he said. “And it’s a bit of unpredictability for the engineers. So when you have this kind of situation, sometimes you have even better racing.”

Meanwhile Scuderia AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly actually had a good time it, unlike Hamilton: "I must say this morning was quite shocking. I enjoyed it. it was really fun, but it felt more like rallycross rather than Formula 1. But it does feel different than what we’re used to feeling in general, so it was a pretty fun way to discover this track."

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