x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Turn Eight gobbles up Vettel in wet practice

A wet track helped the notorious Turn Eight at Istanbul circuit claim Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull as he later watched Jenson Button and McLaren-Mercedes dominate practice for the Turkish Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel sits in his car waiting to practise. After crashing, he sat in the garage watching the rest of the practice.
Sebastian Vettel sits in his car waiting to practise. After crashing, he sat in the garage watching the rest of the practice.

ISTANBUL // Deemed as the calendar's most challenging corner, Turn Eight at Istanbul Park claimed a new victim yesterday as Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing's world champion, careered into a barrier on his exit during a wet first practice session at the Turkish Grand Prix.

Jenson Button topped the day's time sheets in the afternoon ahead of Nico Rosberg of Mercedes-GP and Lewis Hamilton, Button's teammate at McLaren-Mercedes. But it was the absence of Vettel from the second session that could prove crucial going into tomorrow's race.

"I can't think of the last time Sebastian has gone off," said Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, after watching the sport's youngest world champion run wide, lose control of the car on the sodden artificial grass and skid into the barrier on the opposite side of the track. "He was just unlucky and unfortunately it did quite a bit of damage; he managed to hit about every corner of the car."

As the sun appeared for the first time, the track began to dry and the remainder of the 24-man field returned to the track. Vettel watched on from his team garage.

"Rather than cobble together a car for second practice, we decided it was important to rebuild the car carefully in preparation," Horner said. "He missed out on running time, but he has saved a few tyres, and you never know he might need them."

Vettel, who leads the drivers' championship following victories in two of the first three races of the season, played down the importance of missing the second session.

"It makes it a bit more difficult, no doubt," he said. "But I don't think it will be a big problem. We know the track quite well from the past years. I'm still confident and everything is open."

Button, who won here in 2009 and finished second last year, said he was "relatively happy" with his outing in the afternoon, even though Turn 12 is proving to be a problem for his MP4-26.

"My feet are hurting a little bit," he said. "It's bumpy. It's like they put a motocross jump in just before the corner. Trying to get the car to ride the bumps well is something that's been a little bit difficult, but we're trying our best and we've improved a little bit."

Norbert Haug, the Mercedes vice president of motorsport, said he "would not read too much into" his drivers' positions, despite Rosberg finishing less than 0.6 seconds behind Button. Teammate Michael Schumacher was fifth.

Said Haug: "Are we potential winners? Not yet, but we are working on it. There is a lot of potential there."

Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was fastest in the morning session.