Eight Turn Eights
Istanbul’s Turn Eight: Brilliant corner, rubbish name. With that in mind, I went in search of some more of Formula One’s turn eights. Some are unexciting affairs, some are mere parts of larger complexes and some are similarly lumbered with the unimaginative moniker of Turn 8. However, there are some absolute gems and, in no particular order, I present my eight favourite turn 8s…
1. Rivage – Spa Francorchamps
Eau Rouge, Pouhon and Blanchimont might hog the limelight but the off camber nature of the Rivage hairpin comes into it’s own when Spa’s notoriously unpredictable weather turns wet. Braking distances become harder to judge and a bumpy braking zone further complicates the situation. “It is fairly straightforward but because it goes downhill, it is off camber and you have to be careful not to run too much speed because otherwise you’ll slide off,” explains Lewis Hamilton, a fact he demonstrated last year when he found time for an excursion through Rivage’s gravel trap on the way to an otherwise impeccable victory.
2. Leeukop Bend – Kyalami
A bit of an oldie now: The Leeukop (”Lion’s Head”) Bend hasn’t been seen in Formula One since the 1985 South African Grand Prix – the circuit undergoing major changes before it briefly rejoined the calendar in the 90’s. Leeukop was a long, tricky right-hander, effectively a wide-radiused hairpin. However, to complicate matters for the drivers, both the apex and exit were blind at entry while the exit also featured a big bump in the track which drivers needed to avoid in order to get the power down quickly and smoothly. More importantly, getting the corner right made or broke the lap time as it opened on to the 1.5 km long straight. Already robbed of power by the circuit’s high altitude (almost 1500 metres above sea level, twice as high as Interlagos) the straight was also steeply uphill for its first third, meaning any time lost through Leeukop would be impossible to regain until the next lap.
3. Virage du Portier – Monte Carlo
The corner before the drivers head into the famous tunnel, Portier is essential to get right as it leads on to the circuit’s fastest straight. Deceptively straightforward (the barriers encroach on the natural exit line) the corner’s most iconic moment probably came during the closing stages of the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix. Ayrton Senna had absolutely dominated the Monaco weekend and was heading for a certain victory when he understeered into the Portier barrier with just 11 laps remaining – cue shots of a frustrated Senna striding away from the scene. Prior to that, team mate Alain Prost, who had been held up behind the the Ferrari of Gerhard Berger, had been trading fastest laps with Senna. Had Senna pushed his car too hard? McLaren chief mechanic Neil Trundle suspected that a slow puncture may have been to blame. Whatever the reason, the team never saw Senna again until the next day as he came to terms with the loss.
4. Curva Piratella – Imola
Tamburello may be its most infamous corner but after the former Formula One circuit was tamed in the wake of the tragic 1994 Grand Prix, the Curva Piratella was left as the undisputed star of the show. A challenging 180 km/h left-hander, Piratella is approached up a hill before dipping back down again. The crest results in a blind exit, meaning drivers must choose their trajectory perfectly. It’s difficult to pick out the braking point and even the best drivers can slip up here – Michael Schumacher went off in a big way when he lost it going over Piratella in 1995. Eight years later, Piratella nearly punished the German again as he ran wide, putting two wheels on to the grass on his way to victory.
5. Woodcote Corner – Silverstone
‘Isn’t that the final corner?’ you might ask, “and surely Silverstone has more than 8 corners?” No not that Woodcote. I’m talking about the original 160 mph and no run-off corner (before a chicane and later the Luffield complex interfered). The corner that was then the 8th of only eight corners. Serendipitously, with the new pitlane and start-finish straight in use this year, Woodcote once again becomes turn number 8. The current incarnation, however, is pretty much a ‘point-and-squirt’ corner, accelerating hard out on to what used to be the start-finish straight. In contrast, the pre-1975 corner was a whole different matter as after Abbey Curve it was a flat-out sprint to Woodcote. This allowed for thrilling finishes to races as cars slipstreamed down the straight and then battled to be the last to brake for the mighty corner. For example, James Hunt’s victory in the 1974 International Trophy were he slipped his Hesketh down the inside of Ronnie Peterson’s Lotus to take a stunning win. However, Woodcote was also dangerous due to its bumpy surface. The events of the 1973 British Grand Prix, in particular, were to lead to the corner being tamed. On the opening lap, Jody Scheckter lost control at Woodcote, the car bouncing back into the middle of the road as the main pack arrived. Eight other cars were involved in the shunt prompting the race to be stopped while the wreckage was cleared.
6. Curva Parabolica – Monza
Another final corner and again preceded by a long straight and the scene of even more slipstreaming battles. Is there a better final corner to decide a motor race? After the long fight over a tow from the Ascari chicane, whoever brakes later and deeper into Parabolica could, in theory, come out the other side ahead. Too quick and braking too late is a different matter. The most celebrated of the slipstream battles was the 1971 Italian Grand Prix. Ronnie Peterson led most of the race and he started the last lap in the lead. Francois Cevert overtook Peterson entering the Lesmos. On the approach to the Parabolica for the last time Peterson prepared to retake the lead under braking but Peter Gethin dived on the inside of both Peterson and Cevert. Peterson and Cevert let Gethin through and a pack of five cars sprinted towards the finish line. Just 0.61 seconds separated the five of them. However, Parabolica also has its dark side and was the scene of the deaths of Wolfgang von Trips and Jochen Rindt (along with 15 spectators in the former accident.)
7. Degner – Suzuka
Originally a single corner, Degner was reprofiled as a twin apex complex before Formula One came to town. Strictly speaking that therefore makes it Turns 8 and 9 but as it’s the former that causes drivers trouble, I think I’m okay. Often overshadowed by the high speed 130R or the Spoon Curve, Degner may never-the-less be one of the toughest corners on the calendar. With little room for error, drivers negotiate the tightly radiussed apex of Degner 1 before hitting the brakes as soon as they reach the exit in order to tackle Degner 2. “For Turn 8 you brake down to fourth again,” explains Rubens Barrichello. “If you ride the kerbs, the car has to be very soft, otherwise it jumps out. And if you go straight on at Turn 8 it’s very difficult to rejoin the track again for Turn 9.” Last year in free practice, it claimed Lewis Hamilton and nearly caught out Jenson Button too, possibly as a result of the McLaren’s low ride height. The year before it was the turn of Mark Webber to crash out in free practice before Jaime Alguersuari and Heikki Kovalainen provoked two of the qualifying session’s three red flags as Degner bit back.
8. Turn Eight – Istanbul Park
Which brings us to Istanbul’s corner. One of the longest corners of the season taking a full eight seconds from corner entry to corner exit with the car travelling 600 metres at a top speed of 270 km/h. Drivers experience an average lateral force of 4.3 g during those eight seconds, with a peak of 5.2g. Then there are the bumps on the racing line which will make it challenging for the drivers to take the turn on the ideal line. But I’m sure you’ll hear enough about all of that before the weekend is out…
Credit: Mark McArdle