ISTANBUL - A red-letter day for Formula One glamour team Ferrari this weekend provides the perfect occasion for Felipe Massa to rekindle his Turkish Grand Prix love affair.
Sunday's seventh round of the season will be the scuderia's 800th Grand Prix, a milestone no other team is close to matching, and the Italians would dearly love to celebrate in style.
Massa could be just the man, even if rampant Red Bull look the runaway favourites after taking pole position in every race so far.
The Brazilian, fifth in the championship and 12 points adrift of his Spanish teammate Fernando Alonso, has not won a race since 2008, having missed much of last year due to life-threatening head injuries in Hungary last July.
Three races ago he was leading the standings but now needs to get back at least on level-pegging terms with Alonso, who won the season-opener in Bahrain.
Istanbul Park, out near the city's second airport on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, has favoured the little Brazilian like no other driver since the country first hosted F1 in 2005. Two years ago, after winning there for the third time in a row, Massa quipped that he was ready to apply for Turkish citizenship.
"It's a great memory," he told the Ferrari website (www.ferrari.com) this week. "It's a track I love to race, I enjoy driving this track and I won three times in five races.
"It gives me even more motivation to go there. to push harder and fight for victory.
The circuit, running anti-clockwise like his beloved home Interlagos track, also gave Massa his first Formula One pole position and first victory in 2006.
"I believe we can bring a good car," Massa said. "It's a great pleasure for me to be a small part of these 800 Grands Prix for Ferrari. I will try my best to go to Turkey to fight for victory."
Alonso, the double champion who has already stamped his authority on the team, will be a big threat but Red Bull could again be just too fast for any rivals.
Australian Mark Webber will be going for his third win in a row while German teammate Sebastian Vettel, level at the top of the standings on points but behind on race wins, is another Turkey lover. Vettel started on pole last year and could well walk away with the championship lead. Red Bull have started every race this year on pole, and Istanbul has historically smiled on the top slot. - Reuters