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Page last updated at 06:33 GMT, Sunday, 7 June 2009 07:33 UK

David Coulthard column

David Couthard
By David Coulthard
BBC Sport in Istanbul

Sebastian Vettel
In the previous four Turkish Grands Prix the driver on pole has then won

Red Bull cannot afford to miss another opportunity if they want to close down pacesetters Brawn Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel snatched pole position from championship leader Jenson Button in Istanbul but now he will have to make it count.

Red Bull are already ruing their missed opportunities; chief amongst those is not seeing Vettel, who is 28 points behind Button, finish in Malaysia and Monaco.

Missed chances are very costly in a championship when your main rival is finishing well in all the grands prix.

Red Bull cannot afford to rely on Button having an engine failure or getting involved in an incident and not finishing the race.

They have to start winning races again after Vettel's victory in China and they need to have both cars claiming the lion's share of the points if they are going to claw this season back. Of course, there is still a long way to go this year but Red Bull's pace alone simply cannot compare with Brawn's at the minute.

Having said all that, the Turkish GP is going to be the closest race of the year strategically as the teams are so evenly matched in terms of the fuel they have on board.

F1 Mole Blog
F1 Mole

We know that Vettel has enough fuel for 15 laps and Button won't have to stop until lap 17

The outcome of the race is likely to hang on the start. If Button gets the jump on polesitter Vettel then he will be home and dry, and it is game over for Vettel.

On the other hand, if Vettel can lead into Turn One then he has a chance to build at least a three-second lead by the time he has to refuel.

The other story of the weekend so far is Lewis Hamilton's failure to get through the first phase of qualifying for the second race in a row.

After crashing out in Monaco, the world champion just didn't get it right in Turkey despite pushing his McLaren as hard as he could.

Hamilton lines up on the grid in 16th, two places behind his team-mate Heikki Kovalainen and it is very unusual for him to be out-qualified by the Finn.

Hamilton can choose to hide his head in the sand and keep on churning out the company line about the next development and the next upgrade.

But instead I think he is being fairly honest about the situation and he has already started talking about 2010.

The reality is, he will not still be the world champion at the end of this year.

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton is 42 points behind Button

These are difficult days for McLaren and I simply do not believe they are going to be able to develop their way out of this problem.

In the past, the team have been able to develop and produce a completely new car to transform their performance.

Whether that is an option to rescue 2009, I don't know but what I do know is that they will not be able to develop themselves out of this hole.

I've just never seen anyone upgrade an existing car and turn it into a race winner from the position McLaren are in.

Under normal conditions they are fighting for seventh and eighth place and that is nowhere near enough to think that they can challenge the big boys any time soon.

Hamilton suggested after qualifying that he was already turning his attention to next season but I don't think McLaren can totally set their sights on 2010.

You have to continually evolve the current car because that is all part of understanding what will work in the next campaign.

Can McLaren win a race this season?

Well, on pace alone I don't see how they can develop their car into a pure race-winner, having said that in any given season, even Jordan would win the odd race.

David Coulthard won 13 Grands Prix in a 15-year F1 career. He is a BBC Sport pundit and a consultant for Red Bull. He was talking to BBC Sport's Sarah Holt.

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see also
Vettel beats Button to grab pole
06 Jun 09 |  Formula 1
Turkish GP qualifying as it happened
06 Jun 09 |  Formula 1
Turkish GP qualifying photos
06 Jun 09 |  Formula 1
Hamilton already looking to 2010
06 Jun 09 |  Formula 1
Turkish Grand Prix starting grid
03 Jun 09 |  Results
David Coulthard column
23 May 09 |  Formula 1
David Coulthard column
10 May 09 |  Formula 1
David Coulthard column
26 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
David Coulthard column
19 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Coulthard on Hamilton row
04 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
David Coulthard column
28 Mar 09 |  Formula 1

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