Fifth in Australia, fourth in Malaysia, third in China and now second in Turkey. Mark notched up his best result of the year at Istanbul Park on Sunday to play his part in the first Red Bull Racing one-two of the season. Mark also set the fastest lap of the race for the third successive Grand Prix.
“Second was the maximum I could get today,” says Mark. “I lost a load of time behind Nico after he got the jump on me at the start and by the time I’d found a way past him, Seb had enough daylight to control the race from the front.
“It was already clear, however, that Fernando Alonso’s race pace was very good in the Ferrari and I had to focus on racing him. We had a good battle.”
Mark and Fernando were never more than a few seconds apart for the duration of the 58-lap race. Then, just before half distance, Fernando overtook Mark in the DRS zone along the back straight and it took some Aussie grit for Mark to find a way back past.
“I had a new set of prime tyres for my last stint,” says Mark, “and the car felt good. On lap 51 I got a run on Fernando in the DRS zone and we were side-by-side through Turns 12, 13 and 14.
“I was ahead by the time we came onto the start-finish straight, but all the marbles off-line made the racing line very narrow. It was very slippery, but Fernando’s not in his first grand prix and we gave each other enough room.”
Once again, tyre wear was the major talking point of the race. The rubber was punished through the notoriously demanding Turn 8, through which the cars pull high lateral loads for a period of seven seconds, and there were a total of 80 pitstops in the race – a new record. Mark made four stops.
“With Friday morning being wet,” says Mark, “pitstop strategy was difficult to nail down early in the weekend. Despite there being three support races, the track didn’t evolve much and, in the end, it was pretty clear that four stops was the fastest way to go. Seven of the top eight finishers made four stops.”
This result sees Mark close the gap to Lewis Hamilton, who lies second in the world championship table, to four points and we now head to the Spain-Monaco double-header.
“I’m excited about the next few races,” says Mark. “I like Barcelona and Monaco and I hope the car will be good at both tracks. Success breeds success, but we’ve got to keep working: heads down, arse up.”