2008 European GP predictions

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Kimi Raikkonen is my tip for victory at Valencia - who\'s yours?
Kimi Raikkonen is my tip for victory at Valencia - who's yours?

Yesterday I made a case for why I thought Robert Kubica would do well at the new Valencia street track.

But there are plenty of convincing reasons his McLaren and Ferrari rivals could find the Valencia circuit suits them well.

Here are my predictions for the top three in the European Grand Prix ?ǣ share your podium picks below…

We?ve read a lot about the Circuito Urbano Valencia: it?s fast for a street circuit, it?s going to be hard on brakes, it?s likely to be hot. But in the final reckoning, which team is going to make the most out of that combination?

In recent races we have seen how track temperature can strongly influence the outcome of a race. As the Hungaroring weekend progressed and got warmer, Ferrari fared better. But at the Hockenheimring it was unseasonably cool, and McLaren walked it.

Assuming Valencia is going to be hot, and with Bridgestone bringing the two softest tyres available to them, I expect Ferrari to set the pace.

Which Ferrari is at the front depends on whether Kimi Raikkonen has gotten to grips with the problems he?s had getting the most out of his tyres in qualifying. If he can qualify at the front and avoid the traffic problems that have plagued him of late, I wouldn?t bet against him to win.

Felipe Massa must be brimming full of confidence after his superb performance at the Hungaroring ?ǣ surely the best of his career ?ǣ despite being robbed of the win in the dying stages. Will this spur him on to new heights of performance at Valencia? As DoctorVee suggested recently Massa seems to do best at tracks he knows in stable conditions ?ǣ so perhaps Valencia will not be the best track for him.

The momentum is with McLaren at the moment as the silver team have won the last three races.

Martin Whitmarsh said he thought Lewis Hamilton would adapt well to the new challenge of Valencia, having seen how well the championship leader adapted to new circuits in his maiden season. Hamilton, like Kubica, seems to have an affinity for street circuits. At Montreal ?ǣ the circuit Valencia has been most frequently compared to ?ǣ he was leading comfortably until that infamous pit stop.

Heikki Kovalainen may have won last time out, but his race pace has been several tenths of a second off Hamilton?s lately.

But as ever the X-factor at street circuits is the safety car. With barriers so close to the track ?ǣ and some places were cranes cannot be used to recover stricken cars ?ǣ safety car periods are more likely at Valencia than at other circuits.

That could play into the hands of the Q2 and late Q1 brigade ?ǣ the drivers who?ll be starting the race with the most fuel, aiming to get through on one pit stop. At Hockenheim that strategy and a dose of fortune nearly made Nelson Piquet Jnr a race winner. If you?re a gambler Valencia could be the race to stake a wager on a Red Bull, Toyota or Renault to win.

Put all this together and you get a confusing picture. But I?m going to stick with my assumption that the hot weather will play into Ferrari?s hands, and Kubica will make life difficult for Hamilton:

1. Kimi Raikkonen
2. Lewis Hamilton
3. Robert Kubica

Only three people correctly named Kovalainen as the winner at the Hungaroring: Toby, MartyP and Alianora la Canta. No-one correctly predicted the entire podium.

What?s your prediction for the top three in the European Grand Prix? Make your guesses for the Valencia podium below.