Since the teams last did battle at the Hungaroring they’ve all had two week’s compulsory down-time.
Before the break Jenson Button pointed out that the rules can’t prevent them from thinking about F1 – and his team is the one with the deepest thinking to do. Can they mount a resurgence and get his championship challenge back on track?
It’s difficult to read who will have the upper hand at Valencia. Red Bull are clearly the form team, but the street layout lacks the kind of high-speeds bends where the RB5 is super-effective.
The stop-start nature of the Circuit Urbano Valencia could well play into McLaren’s hands – certainly there is enough of a run to the first corner for KERS to play a starring role.
The one thing we can say with certainty about the second running of the European Grand Prix at Valencia is that it will have a different winner, as 2008 victor Felipe Massa remains in recuperation.
In his place comes Luca Badoer, in his first F1 race for almost ten years. It’s fair to say expectations of the 38-year-old are not very high, but whether he sinks or swims it will still be a story.
Pretty much the only remarkable thing about last year’s race (aside from Massa’s controversial pit stop) was how the new venue produced such a dull race – in fact, F1 Fanatic readers voted it the worst of 2008.
I’m not prepared to write off the track on the strength of just one race. Part of the problem last year was how dusty the area was, making it difficult for drivers to go off-line in an attempt to pass. I hope we’ll see a better show this year.
Drivers to watch in Valencia
Luca Badoer – Will he do enough to justify a second outing as Massa’s stand-in?
Romain Grosjean – Assuming (a) Renault are allowed to race and (b) Grosjean takes Nelson Piquet Jnr’s vacant seat as is widely expected, how will the rookie fare alongside such an experienced team mate? Really this is a test of whether Piquet’s accusations about Briatore are true – if Grosjean can put up a better showing against Alonso the Piquet camp will have egg on their faces.
Lewis Hamilton – Second here last year, can he win two in a row on a track where the MP4-24 should be strong?
Mark Webber – Needs to keep chipping away at Jenson Button’s lead while not letting Sebastian Vettel get the better of him. As always, keep a close eye on the Red Bulls in qualifying.