Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has slammed a recent resurfacing of the Turkish Grand Prix circuit as a waste of money that had turned a once-thrilling lap into a “terrifying” experience.
The circuit is hosting F1 for the first time since 2011 and drivers said the new asphalt and cold conditions had turned it into an ice rink.
Max Verstappen topped two slippery practice sessions while Hamilton started his bid for a record-equalling seventh world title with a surprisingly lowly fourth place.
On a day when Renault’s Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo also struggled, Red Bull’s Verstappen clocked 1 minute 28.330 seconds on the 5.338km Istanbul Park circuit in the afternoon, after also leading the way in the morning.
“This track is such a fantastic circuit, and I really don’t fully understand when they spend millions to redo a surface,” said Hamilton.
“They probably could have just cleaned it maybe, instead of waste all the money,” added the Mercedes driver.
“It’s like an ice-rink out there. You don’t get quite the enjoyment of the lap as you would normally get off 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…”
Hamilton won the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix and the track had a reputation as a driver favourite before it was dropped.
“The older circuits… it’s much more open between all the stones, so it works the tyre more, whereas this one is super closed and flat and shiny and I guess the oil seeps from the Tarmac, I guess, or whatever they put down,” he said.
“It’s s*** with a capital S.”
Charles Leclerc was second in the afternoon practice, 0.401sec back for Ferrari, with the Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton following with a deficit of 0.575 and 0.850, respectively.
Many cars spun and drivers complained about the slippery tarmac, and the morning session was red-flagged early on after Leclerc destroyed a bollard.
Ricciardo, currently fourth in the drivers’ championship, had a poor couple of sessions, finishing 18th in the morning and only improving to 15th in the second.
Hamilton is 85 points ahead of Bottas with four races left and in the first Istanbul race since 2011 on Sunday can draw level with former great Michael Schumacher on seven world titles.
He needs to be 78 points ahead after the race to complete the milestone.