Great city, not so great track – Steven on Valencia

From the stands

Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Valencia, 2011

Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Valencia, 2011

The European Grand Prix was the worst race so far this year, according to F1 Fanatic readers.

Was it more exciting in person? Guest writer Steven Smith, who was visiting his 25th race outside of Britain, gives a view from the stands.

I travelled to Valencia for my 25th overseas Grand Prix visit. I decided to skip Friday practice and left home very early on Friday morning, arriving in the city at midday.

I checked in to my centrally located hotel, and after lunch set about looking around the city. The cathedral was perhaps the most impressive place, and from the top of the tower the cars could be heard in the distance as they practised.

Nowhere in the city was there anything promoting the race. It certainly is not as “jumping” as, say, Montreal.

But the set-up is very convenient: from my hotel it was a short walk to the underground station, then the track was just six stops away.

I arrived at a thinly-populated circuit and found my seat in grandstand M6, on the outside of the track just near turns eight and nine, with a gorgeous beach right behind us.

The cars appeared from the right at 300kph, then putting on the brakes for the tight right turn towards the bridge, and the left flick onto it.

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Valencia, 2011

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Valencia, 2011

Practice was pretty uneventful apart from Michael Schumacher making a mistake near the end, when he left his braking just a little too late and had to do a quick spin to get back on track.

The catering at the track is best described as expensive. A half-litre bottle of water, much needed in the high temperatures was ??3 (??2.69). In the shops just outside the track you could buy a 1.5l bottle for just one Euro!

Happily, you could get your ticket scanned, leave the circuit and return, which meant it was possible to get lunch outside on the beach front. Far more choice, and far better prices than inside the track.

Qualifying went as expected and I left the circuit straight afterwards to search for some merchandise.

It took a long walk down to near the start line to find a single small tent. This was something of a missed opportunity for the organisers, as there were plenty of other people searching.

Sunday morning saw a busy GP3 race, with British drivers James Calado and Alexander Sims filling the top two places. The GP2 race afterwards was a more typical Valencia procession, though it gave Sauber reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez his first win in the category.

I didn’t bother with the F1 drivers’ parade. From experience I know the drivers themselves are too busy chatting to others on the trailer to pay attention. It gave me time for lunch back on the beach.

The race itself was never going to be the most exciting Grand Prix. But the buzz from the crowd whenever Fernando Alonso was doing something was good.

The biggest one being as he lined up for his final pit stop – which we knew was going to critical in his battle with Mark Webber .

Valencia, 2011

Valencia, 2011

For a fan of the British drivers like myself, the best bit was watching Jenson Button pursuing Nico Rosberg early in the race.

I spent a final night in a great city. On the flight home, some of the Lotus crew looked the worse for wear – they’d obviously enjoyed a good time post-race on Sunday once they had packed everything away.

This is a guest article by Steven Smith. If you want to write a guest article for F1 Fanatic you can find all the information you need here.

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27 comments on Great city, not so great track – Steven on Valencia

  1. BasCB (@bascb) said on 7th July 2011, 9:12

    So I guess Valencia really looks like a nice Idea but a chance missed to make that Idea work then.

    As it will be on the calendar for quite a while, I hope the Valencia organisers look at feedback from visitors like this and take their chance at luring in a good crowd to make it a fun event to come back to.

    • ajokay (@ajokay) said on 7th July 2011, 10:17

      I hope they don’t. Because if they continue to not advertise it and overprice everything at the venue, no-one will go, it won’t make even less money, and they’ll drop the track completely.

    • Steven said on 7th July 2011, 13:05

      It has just three more years on it’s current 7 year deal. So may be gone sooner than you think. Let’s hope so, and we can all go back to Austria too a proper race track.
      Why should Spain get two races anyway?

  2. unocv12 said on 7th July 2011, 9:19

    Abu Dhabi is another.

    In Abu Dhabi, they put lots of money in, tried to make something special. Day to night race over the dusty desert. Flanked by the modern city. A hotel next door and an are so you can watch from OVER the track. and then a horrible track ruins the place completely

    • Andy W (@andy-w) said on 7th July 2011, 15:39

      I still have a bit of a soft spot for the Abu Dhabi track, I just think its a shame that Bernie gave them the last race of the season spot as it really doesn’t flatter the track. Move this race to the start of the season (not the opener that should stay at Melbourne, but maybe around the same time Turkey) and I think it would give a far more enjoyable race….

      The last race of the season needs a great track and for my money thats Brazil, the track itself produces tension and drama that lives up to it being the final race of the season.

      • Andy W (@andy-w) said on 7th July 2011, 15:40

        P.S. As for Valencia… the sooner its dropped the better in my book, its a lovely city (have visited a couple of times, but never seen a GP live there) but the races it produces are the definition of dull…

  3. TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 7th July 2011, 9:27

    I went to Valencia in 2008 and it was easily the worst circuit I’ve ever been to.

    The views were terrible, I spoke to people who had bought the most expensive seats and the grandstand had been moved a lot further for the track because of run off area.

    Also a lot of people had trouble getting merchandise and food as everything is separated into zones and you can only get into one zone with your ticket.

    I’ve heard it’s got better since the first year but I won’t be going back again like I would be with Spa, Monaco, Hockenheim and Silverstone.

  4. Prisoner Monkeys said on 7th July 2011, 10:01

    I actually think I’d prefer to go to Valencia or Abu Dhabi than to go to somewhere like Spa or Silverstone. It’s my experience that you go to races for the atmosphere, but you can’t really tell what is happening on-track most of the time. So I’d rather go to one of the dull events and get good coverage on television of the better races.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 8th July 2011, 11:59

      But you would probably want at least a nice atmosphere around the track, I guess.

      From what Steven (and TommyB89 and Asanator) write, there was not that much fun in being at the GP.

  5. Dan Selby said on 7th July 2011, 10:21

    That’s bizzare logic there, PM.

    You’d rather pay a few hundred quid to go to a bad race?!

    I think you’d be better off going to a good race and maybe pick up a Fanvision or something?

    • Fixy (@fixy) said on 7th July 2011, 10:36

      You’d rather pay a few hundred quid to go to a bad race?!

      I think he would because at a race you can only see small part of the action happening.

      I think you’d be better off going to a good race and maybe pick up a Fanvision or something?

      That of course would help. You would see the whole race like at home whilst also watching it in front of your eyes.

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 8th July 2011, 13:51

      It does kinda make sense.

  6. Dan Selby said on 7th July 2011, 10:38

    I’m just talking from experience, really.

    I saw Silverstone ’09 and it really was a very dull race, indeed.

    I’ve seen plenty of good racing at Brands Hatch, and I know which i’d rather.

  7. F1 98 said on 7th July 2011, 10:50

    We need red bull ring not valencia

  8. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 7th July 2011, 12:06

    25th race? How have attended more race then him & how many?

    • Steven said on 7th July 2011, 12:48

      I went to my first overseas race in 1990, and have done one or two a year every year since.

  9. Stephen Jones (@aus_steve) said on 7th July 2011, 13:38

    good article! crappy track it seems..

  10. TED BELL said on 7th July 2011, 15:34

    Prior to seeing this race on SPEED TV I was sort of “ho-hum” about it. An OK track I guess but nothing really stood out for me here in past events. This year I thought the place looked so much better with the way the track, burms and walls had been painted. The combination of colors and how the cars look at this years venue made me have a change of opinion. I now like what I see and suggest other tracks also make an attempt to enhance the visual end of it. Singapore comes to mind. Fantastic location , one of the best but with less than great on track appearance.

    • f1alex said on 7th July 2011, 15:51

      But that still leaves one big problem: The quality of the racing.

      Remember Bahrain last year? They had the runoff areas painted and looked pretty good, but if the racing’s bad at the circuit, no amount of paint can make it better. I’d much rather have a track that’s dull to look at but produces exciting races than a circuit that looks amazing but produces boring races. Abu Dhabi’s probably the best example of the latter.

      • TED BELL said on 7th July 2011, 20:43

        We can only wish and hope for quality racing results. The game of Formula One is a game of varying parameters thus making prediction of results nothing more than wishful thinking. We want to be entertained by the challenge of both man and machine so why not present it in the best way possible, a track that tests the limits of car design, technology and driver skill while at the same time be a venue that showcases the natural environment and has presentation worthy of Formula One.

  11. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 7th July 2011, 17:47

    Lovely article. I really enjoyed reading it.

    Does anyone else get the feeling that Valencia is the modern day version of Phoenix (for the track, not the city!)? It seems no-one gets excited about going there, the track is awful and without character, and the races are always boring.

    As much as I enjoyed reading your article and as well written as it was, you certainly didn’t sell it to me. But don’t take that personally, because this event is basically unsellable. I know I won’t be wasting my time visiting.

    • Steven said on 7th July 2011, 19:09

      Damon. Thanks for your comments.
      Strangely Valencia isn’t what I would actually call a bad track in the way that it looks, and is fitted in around the port area. They have actually have done a fair job of “finding” a circuit in amongst the buildings and water. Sadly it just does not allow the opportunity for much in the way of overtaking with modern F1 cars. The corners and straights do not fit together.
      I certainly wasn’t trying to sell it to you. Just offering my view on a foreign circuit for those who may wish to perhaps go there in the future. I certainly would not rush back.
      If I was selling a circuit to you. It would have to be Montreal. Now that place is worth going to. Again and again.

      • damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 8th July 2011, 3:12

        If I was selling a circuit to you. It would have to be Montreal. Now that place is worth going to. Again and again.

        Strangely enough, I’ve not read anything from spectators recommending me to visit, but it’s perhaps in my top 3 or 4 Grands Prix I’d love to visit.

        And once again, I know you weren’t trying to sell it to me, but the same feeling of “I had the time of my life at the Grand Prix” doesn’t really come across. And that’s nothing to do with your writing, but entirely the fault of the event itself.

        I agree with you that it’s nearly a perfect setup; with the beach and city so close to the track, but despite the huge crowd, to me it seems to have no character. Even Barcelona is more exciting! :P

  12. refikb said on 8th July 2011, 11:25

    I was is Valencia as an exchange student from Feb 15th to July 5th. F1 GP was the reason for me to choose Valencia. I was only able to see qualifying on saturday, with a discount ticket, (weekend pack was over my budget) but i have not watched the race live on tv. Why? Because i knew the race would be another snooze-fest, firstly because of the predictable qualifying results, and predictable race and track conditions. On paper, Valencia has all the good bits for a perfect gp, track layed out around a marina/harbour area, a great beach just right beside the track, so visitors can stay longer for a short holiday, and it can appeal to more people, maybe even the whole family.

    But; the track layout is not so great for racing. It’s almost as if it was generated by a computer from a number of different variables and equations. No ondulations on track surface, every meter of the barriers and walls look the same, so there are no visual cues about what’s going on. So, maybe it’s good for business, but not for racing.

  13. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 8th July 2011, 13:53

    I’d still he tempted to go to Valencia. Neither Spanish track excites me a great deal but they are fairly accessible.

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