I’ve been surprised by some of the negative reactions to the new Valencia F1 track. Watching the practice sessions yesterday I found a lot to like about the circuit.
The setting is a bit more industrial than we expected but the parts where the circuit passes alongside the harbous look good and there are some interesting buildings around the track. Not least the pit building, which is an old warehouse which has been converted.
Here’s some of my thoughts on the circuit and an on board video lap with Robert Kubica.
A lot has been said about how far the track is a ‘real’ street circuit. The freshly-laid tamac is free of road makring and the usual other obstacles that litter street tracks – manhole covers for example.
Because it has largely been built from scratch the designer (Hermann Tilke) has been able to put in a lot of run-off at most of the heavy braking zones. Nico Rosberg tested the extent of one of them when he had a lurid slide at the final turn yesterday, only just missing Mark Webber’s Red Bull.
But this is still a street course which is mainly bordered by unyielding concrete barriers. Not only do these threaten to end a driver’s race if he strays just a fraction off-line, but they also make the entry into some sections unsighted, which adds to the challenge.
There were some concerns on Friday about the bridge section after Bridgestone raised concerns that the join between the bridge and the road, which differs in height by about 15mm, could cause punctures. But these fears have been allayed.
The bridge, between corners nine and ten, is one of a few truly distinctive parts of the track. The start/finish area with the sweeping turn one and the impressive pit building is another, and the blasts along the harbour front look good too.
But the later stage of the lap is stil a bit featureless – it’s all concrete walls and not much to help you identify it.
Despite that I like what I’ve seen of the track so far. It looks challenging and different. The close proximity of the barriers gives a far better impression of speed than you get at enormous venues like Istanbul, Shanghai and Bahrain.
Challenges for the drivers
The section from turns 17 to 25 (the final turn) is one of the most interesting. It’s taken flat out (see the video below) and the drivers are turning almost constantly from one bend into another.
It’s hard to think of another sequence on a current F1 track that’s quite like this. For the drivers it may pose quite a challenge in qualifying to make sure they have enough clear road ahead of them to make space for a timed lap, which is something Lewis Hamilton mentioned yesterday:
It’s very important to create a gap ahead if you want a clear lap – you can’t see ahead around the corners because they’re all blind.
Some drivers just back up into you. They take advantage of the fact they have a small gap behind them and don’t care about who’s following. They back up into you because they’re trying to create a gap for themselves, but that compromises your fast lap.
Another hazard for the drivers is the pit lane exit, which is very narrow, and entrance. Fernando Alonso was fined after taking the wrong route into the pits yesterday, cutting across part of the run-off area.
The othe challenge for the drivers is low grip levels, which won’t have been helped by the rain that fell at the track overnight, washing away yesterday’s build-up of rubber.
Onboard lap of the Circuito Urbano Valencia with Robert Kubica
The video starts with Kubica in the sweeping left-hander turn 11 shortly after the bridge. Here’s the track map:
The live blog for free practice three will be starting shortly, and we’ll be live during qualifying and the race as well.