Vettel aims for Valencia hat-trick

2012 European Grand Prix Preview

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Valencia, 2011The Valencia race promoters recently ran an amusing TV ad campaign featuring a pair of grannies racing around the street complete with F1-style graphics.

You have to admire their efforts at promoting a race in a country which, at a time when economic problems are widespread beyond its borders, has some particularly acute challenges at the moment.

What makes life even more difficult for those trying to sell tickets to this race is the reputation the track has gained for producing dreadfully dull races. Not one of the four races here so far have distinguished the track as a venue worthy of holding a world championship Grand Prix.

It says a lot about the track that the most interesting thing about last year’s race was it set a record when all 24 starters got to the finish.

Valencia circuit information

Lap length 5.419km (3.367 miles)
Distance 57 laps (308.9km/191.9 miles)
Lap record* 1’38.683 (Timo Glock, 2009)
Fastest lap 1’36.975 (Sebastian Vettel, 2011)
Tyres Medium and Soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Valencia track data in full

Of the 80 F1 races rated by F1 Fanatic readers since 2008, the four at Valencia all rank in the bottom 15. Looking at the layout, this comes as no surprise. At every turn, Valencia seems to have been designed with the aim of funnelling the field into single-file traffic.

The best thing you can say about it is that made Spain’s other F1 venue, the Circuit de Catalunya, has seemed better by comparison since F1 started racing in Valencia. There are rumours the two tracks will share the Spanish Grand Prix in the future. Sadly, axeing Valencia and keeping Catalunya seems not to be an option.

If ever a venue needed a drop of rain it’s this one. But the last four races here have been held in baking weather – track temperatures hit 47C during last year’s race.

As we’ve seen already this year, this will prove critical for determining who will be able to get the best from the current generation of tyres. As last year, teams will have the soft and medium tyres to use, though of course these are both of a new construction for 2012 and softer than their equivalents from last season.

Red Bull

In recent weeks both Christian Horner and Helmut Marko have said the team is beginning to get to grips with the current generation tyres. That and Red Bull’s three pole positions in the last four races (albeit one thanks to Michael Schumacher’s penalty) may be troubling news for their rivals.

Sebastian Vettel has won the last two races here from pole position and set a new track record during qualifying last year.

Team mate Mark Webber has been famously blunt about the circuit’s shortcomings, once likening it to driving in a supermarket car-park. But the track bit him hard in 2010 when he collided spectacularly with Heikki Kovalainen and was fortunate to escape injury.

McLaren

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Valencia, 2011Lewis Hamilton has usually looked handy around the streets of Valencia but is yet to nail a win here – so far he has a pole position and three second places to show for his efforts. Coming off the back of his Canada success, this could be the year he puts that right.

However Jenson Button’s predicament must be deeply troubling for McLaren. He has been well off the pace in all of the last three races and admitted to being completely stumped by the tyres at the moment.

Ferrari

After Canada Fernando Alonso admitted the team are once again able to entertain thoughts of racing for victory having come out of their ‘damage limitation’ mode.

He’s already come close to winning on home ground once this year. However he’s yet to claim a victory at Spain’s other F1 track.

Team mate Felipe Massa needs to build on the potential he showed during much of the Canada weekend, and avoid a repeat of the spin that squandered points early in the race.

Mercedes

Mercedes didn’t enjoy as much of a benefit from their Double DRS in Canada as might have been expected. Perhaps the lower downforce level left them with less to gain from it when it was activated?

If so, the first and second sectors at Valencia, with several straights interspersed by slow corners, should provide some clues.

But Michael Schumacher will probably settle for a weekend without a fifth race-ending technical problem.

Lotus

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Montreal, 2012The warm temperatures of Valencia could offer Lotus their best chance to score a win yet – the E20 has looked particularly strong in hotter conditions. That, of course, could pave the way for an eighth consecutive different winner, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

The balance of power at the team seems to be swinging from Kimi Raikkonen to Romain Grosjean. Grosjean has closed to within two points of his team mate in the drivers’ championship.

It’s too early to call that one – Raikkonen, after all, has not enjoyed trouble-free build-ups to the last two races. But this is one of the most absorbing intra-team contests at the moment.

Force India

After a disappointing and point-less weekend in Canada, Force India are in danger of losing touch with Sauber in the constructors’ championship. Their drivers appear to be getting a lot out of the VJM05, but on its best days it doesn’t seem to be a match for a C31 or a FW34.

Sauber

Sauber were back to their early-season form in Canada: not quite on the pace in qualifying, but both drivers able to run long stints at competitive pace. This paid off handsomely, Sergio Perez claiming his second podium finish of the year.

That’s moved them ahead of Williams in the championship and they even have Mercedes in their sights now. They failed to score here last year, but Kamui Kobayashi had an excellent run to seventh in 2010.

Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso continue to slip off the tail of the midfield and into the clutches of Caterham: in Canada, Jean-Eric Vergne lined up behind both CT01s on the grid.

The team have been out of the points for the last five races and it’s hard to see that changing here, particularly given their drivers’ lack of experience on this course.

Williams

After Monaco, Williams were palpably displeased at a meagre haul of one point. In Canada both drivers crashed (Bruno Senna in practice, Pastor Maldonado in qualifying) and they left empty-handed.

The car’s good low-speed traction should mean they’ve competitive here, but their drivers will have to keep it out of the walls.

Caterham

Vitaly Petrov, Caterham, Montreal, 2012Caterham’s progress towards the midfield has been agonisingly slow, but they finally seem to be getting there. Heikki Kovalainen crossed the finishing line in Canada 13 seconds behind the midfield stragglers.

Valencia is a track which normally sees the field close up, which could help them get closer. But although the CT01 continues to improve, the team need to unlock a bit more from it to genuinely join the midfield. Their new front wing and (minor) floor update this weekend may help.

HRT

HRT showed some improved pace in Canada with an aggressively slender rear wing. Pedro de la Rosa out-qualified both Marussias, but he and Narain Karthikeyan retired early on with brake trouble.

The team will be hoping to at least see the chequered flag at their second home race.

Marussia

Increasingly concerned more with keeping HRT behind than getting on terms with Caterham.

2012 driver form

Q avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 5.71 4.71 1 11 7/7 Form guide
Mark Webber 4.86 5 1 11 7/7 Form guide
Jenson Button 6.43 10.86 1 18 7/7 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 5.71 4.43 1 8 7/7 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 6.86 4.57 1 9 7/7 Form guide
Felipe Massa 11.86 11.33 6 15 6/7 Form guide
Michael Schumacher 7.71 10 10 10 2/7 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 4.71 6.57 1 13 7/7 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 9.43 6.86 2 14 7/7 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 5.71 3.75 2 6 4/7 Form guide
Paul di Resta 12.57 9.57 6 14 7/7 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 12.86 11 8 15 6/7 Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi 10.86 8.6 5 13 5/7 Form guide
Sergio Perez 12.86 7.67 2 11 6/7 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 13.14 13.33 9 17 6/7 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 16.14 12.57 8 16 7/7 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 14.29 10.8 1 19 5/7 Form guide
Bruno Senna 14.57 13 6 22 6/7 Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen 18.57 17.5 13 23 6/7 Form guide
Vitaly Petrov 18.57 17.2 16 19 5/7 Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa 21.17 20.25 19 21 4/6 Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan 23.33 20 15 22 4/6 Form guide
Timo Glock 20.71 16.83 14 19 6/7 Form guide
Charles Pic 21 18.75 15 20 4/7 Form guide

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49 comments on Vettel aims for Valencia hat-trick

  1. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 20th June 2012, 9:53

    One of the great unsolved mysteries of Formula 1 is the question of why Barcelona and Valencia host races when Aragon does not. I would happily take a double dose of Valencia if Aragon was included on the calendar.

    While the circuit has a poor reputation, at least this year’s regulations have the greatest chance to date of extracting a decent race from the circuit.

    • necrodethmortem (@necrodethmortem) said on 20th June 2012, 10:42

      Motorland Aragon is not terribly spectacular, but it is definitely the best out of the many tracks in Spain and also one of Tilke’s better creations. It’s also well-located, not far from the center of gravity of Spain’s 3 biggest cities. I’m all for moving the Spanish GP there and ditching Valencia and Barcelona all together, even if that would mean yet another Tilkedome on the calendar.

      Even if something remotely interesting were to happen in Valencia this weekend, I doubt it will feel “natural”. Looking forward to be proven wrong though, I have enjoyed every race this season, apart from Monaco.

    • Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 20th June 2012, 11:16

      @prisoner-monkeys
      Double dosing Valencia, eh? Didn’t your doctor tell you overdosing sleep medicine can be lethal?

      Jokes aside, I also feel Aragon is one the biggest absences in the F1 calendar, that said, Valencia is not particularly difficult to lose a comparison when it comes to quality of the spectacle. In the $$$-driven F1 this is not a factor though.

      As far as “tracks that could replace Valencia or Barcelona” go, Portimao anyone? I have a soft spot for this particular venue.

      • necrodethmortem (@necrodethmortem) said on 20th June 2012, 11:23

        I very much doubt Spain would agree to move their GP to Portugal…

        Besides, I think Portimao is overrated. It goes up and down a lot, but that’s about it.

        • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 20th June 2012, 11:25

          And Portugal is only in a marginally better condition than Spain. Greece and Spain have been getting all of the headlines of late, but Portugal is still one of the PIIGS.

          • necrodethmortem (@necrodethmortem) said on 20th June 2012, 11:50

            And Spain’s economy is 6 times larger, it’s population is 4,5 times larger and they have a world champion, a team and a major sponsor, whereas Portugal has exactly nothing.

        • JCost (@jcost) said on 20th June 2012, 21:16

          I disagree. PortimĂŁo is way better than Valencia and I even put it above Circuit de Catalunya. But Portugal cannot afford Bernie fees at the moment, but certainly would be a good addition to the calendar that has tracks like Abu Dhabi and Valencia…

      • Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 20th June 2012, 15:01

        Haha “Tilkedome”, love it!

      • gabal (@gabal) said on 20th June 2012, 15:12

        Portimao would have been a bad idea. The most boring GP2 race ever was held there and you know the track doesn’t invite overtaking when there are under 5 overtakes in the race. It may look interesting with its ups and downs but the race there would be very processional.

        • Younger Hamii (@younger-hamii) said on 20th June 2012, 16:02

          One that mystifies me is Paul Ricard being left out in the cold; rather than being the host of the reported return of the French GP instead replace Valencia. It saves the trouble of having to add another race onto the ever increasing calendar that would increase the travel expenses for teams. I know it’s not as simple as a straight swap with the two tracks but I reckon it’ll benefit France as a whole, the FIA & motorsport fanbase in particular, having said that it’s another country’s gain rather than a country’s lost.

          • necrodethmortem (@necrodethmortem) said on 20th June 2012, 16:30

            As long as Alonso, HRT and Santander are in F1, I think Spain will want to keep their GP.

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 21st June 2012, 9:08

            @younger-hamii

            One that mystifies me is Paul Ricard being left out in the cold; rather than being the host of the reported return of the French GP instead replace Valencia.

            The French want a race back, but they can only do it on a bi-annual basis.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st June 2012, 10:27

      No big mystery there PM, Motorland Aragon is wise enough to have realized that they are not going to be making much out of paying the FOM fees for a race, that is why they are not interested in hosting an F1 race.

    • Mike (@mike) said on 21st June 2012, 13:05

      … I’m honestly surprised you bring that up, just because normally you scorn others citing practicalities such as transport around the facility, contracts and race hosting fees….

  2. Girts (@girts) said on 20th June 2012, 10:01

    I think the best thing we can hope for is a close fight between different strategies and several DRS passes. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to the weekend, I like the landscapes of the circuit and there is no better way to celebrate Midsummer than by watching F1.

  3. Slr (@slr) said on 20th June 2012, 10:28

    but their drivers will have to keep it out of the walls

    Somehow I don’t see that happening. If Maldonado does keep it out of the walls however, he could have a great weekend.

  4. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 20th June 2012, 10:31

    Ever since Bahrain I’ve feared a return to 2011 form from Sebastian Vettel, but so far it hasn’t quite materialized (even though Vettel is the highest scorer since China, together with Rosberg). This will Vettel’s best chance yet, I think. The track and the temperatures should suit the car well, and Vettel has always been impressive in Valencia. I hope Webber can take the fight to Vettel, but this is just not his kind of track. I wonder if the travels to Valencia with damage limitation on his mind, or whether these guys always believe in victory.

    McLaren struggled massively in the hot temperatures last year, and this year’s car still seems to favour cooler conditions also, although McLaren’s form book is hard to read this year. In Canada and Australia, they did well in warm-ish conditions, but in Bahrain they were nowhere. If they do struggle as badly as last year, it will be difficult to score any points, with the field so close this year. At least I expect the high temperatures to give Jenson a break from his problems of energizing the tyres (if indeed that is part of the problem).

    At Ferrari, Massa is a winner here, and Alonso can always be found at the front, regardless of track, car, or conditions. They have disappointed me a little in qualifying recently, and that could blunt their challenge for victory.

    If we are going to see an eighth winner here, my money would be on Grosjean. Schumacher may have demonstrated pace in Monaco, but he is enjoying such a disastrous run that I just don’t see it happening, and perhaps more importantly it remains to be seen how the Mercedes handles its tyres in the Spanish summer sun. Grosjean, on the other hand, seems to be in the best form, compared to Raikkonen and Schumacher. He can qualify well and look after his tyres; he now only needs a good start and a clean first lap.

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 20th June 2012, 10:46

      Ever since Bahrain I’ve feared a return to 2011 form from Sebastian Vettel, but so far it hasn’t quite materialized

      A big part of Vettel’s dominance last year was a hyper-competitive car. Although he won almost everything, the other teams started to catch Red Bull quite early in the season – they just didn’t catch him quickly enough. The Red Bull RB8 isn’t as good when compared to the rest of the field as the RB7 was, and when you look at his results – in both qualifying and the race – compared to Hamilton and Alonso in particular, it seems that the RB8 is the car that is the most sensitive to local conditions. Hot conditions suit it, but being merely warm isn’t good enough. It hasn’t got the narrow optimal performance band of the Mercedes or the Sauber, but the point where the car comes alive seems to be a few degrees higher than everyone else. We saw this in Montreal; as the temperature started to cool, the RB8 was the first car to start bleeding pace.

      • Mike (@mike) said on 21st June 2012, 13:08

        A big part of Vettel’s dominance last year was a hyper-competitive car

        I think we have discussed this enough to establish that it wasn’t nearly as super competitive as one might suggest from the stats. Look at the amount of times where Mclaren had the pace but threw it away in qual.

        I can remember for instance in Abu Dhabi, in Qual, Button and Hamilton both made mistakes on laps that otherwise would have been for poll.

    • Girts (@girts) said on 20th June 2012, 10:53

      @AdrianMorse Wow, you really deserve to have your own column in some respectable F1 media. And I agree with everything you said.

      I wonder if the travels to Valencia with damage limitation on his mind, or whether these guys always believe in victory.

      I think that basically every F1 driver tries to win each race. Heikki Kovalainen has said that, even in a Caterham, he always goes out on the track to win, not to finish 15th or 10th. I remember a lot of drivers being unhappy after finishing in unexpectedly high positions or reaching their career-best results like Fisichella after Spa 2009, Raikkonen after Magny-Cours 2002, Webber after Monaco 2005 etc. Because they felt they could have won but didn’t.

      • Mike (@mike) said on 21st June 2012, 13:10

        Agreed. Was a brilliant summary.

        Although ever since they stuck Velcro on Grosjeans car and the corresponding Velcro on someone else’s car the first lap has been a sticking point.,….

        Get it…. Velcro, Sticking point…. Oh never mind… -.-

  5. kowalsky is back said on 20th June 2012, 11:21

    i am going to valencia. The reason why. I need to see the f1’s up close, because the last time at istambul park was a big disapointment. I was so far away from the cars, i didn’t get the speed sensation even at 8 corner.!!! The track is fine, but you are just too far away, with those huge run off areas.
    In valencia you have a very fast track and you are close to the action. I hope i regain some of the love i lost in istambul.
    I don’t expect a very exciting race, but i have the need to feel the speed back again. Always at a reasonable price.

    • Thecollaroyboys (@thecollaroyboys) said on 20th June 2012, 23:42

      That’s one of the good things about the usually maligned Singapore circuit; you can get right on top of the cars, get tyre rubber in your hair and dust in your eyes. It’s far from cheap though. I guess that it’s the same with Monaco.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st June 2012, 10:32

      As you write Kowalsky, with the rate fairly low, and good access, I wonder why there’s not more people going to visit. After all, hearing/feeling those cars up close AND having a beach next door should give a lot of exitement.

      And the race not being exiting is not that important, as you hardly have much chance to follow the order anyway when your there! Hope you enjoy the weekend.

  6. jochenrindt78 (@jochenrindt78) said on 20th June 2012, 11:39

    I’m bored just thinking about this race…could this year be the one with a flicker of excitement? probably not…
    So many good tracks around and we have this tourism based nonsense thrust upon us, the last sector is quite excitng but the rest is completely pedestrian. I only hope that Jenson can get some points out of the event…

  7. marcusbreese (@marcusbreese) said on 20th June 2012, 12:47

    This must be one of the few tracks where Massa has won and Alonso hasn’t…not that it’s likely to affect their order this weekend. I fully expect Massa to achieve sixth at best, and probably nowhere near that.

    • AlonsoWDC (@alonsowdc) said on 20th June 2012, 21:50

      Istanbul and Interlagos being the others if you don’t want to include Massa’s after-the-fact penalty given win at Spa 2008.

      So technically that’s four and quite a lot of circuits, really.

  8. Tim Katz (@timkatz) said on 20th June 2012, 12:54

    I don’t what it is about Valencia. It should produce a decent race, other formulae have had good races here. Just not Formula 1.
    The track and its environs don’t generate glamour or excitement though, do they? Once the cars cross the bridge, it feels as though they are driving into an industrial wasteland. I half expect them to be waved to a stop while a lorry laden with cement bags reverses across the circuit.
    Charles Pic for the win. Everyone else will fall asleep.

  9. vickyy (@vickyy) said on 20th June 2012, 14:13

    You got to feel for Schumacher, Classified : 2 out of 7!!!

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 20th June 2012, 14:47

      Yeah, I’m not a fan, and I can’t say I feel for MS if I’m honest, but I do think that he will have some better days where he has pace and reliability and some better points paying days. It just has to average out that way, no? I will be amazed if the classification ratio doesn’t start to improve. I think his day will come when he ends his Sunday with something to show for it other than disappointment. And while since MS’s return I have wished for NR to best him, I would much prefer he do it by beating a ‘healthy’ MS, and on the track, not one handcuffed with unreliability, shuffled off to the garage prematurely.

  10. antonyob (@antonyob) said on 20th June 2012, 14:20

    The perspective of good track bad track is mostly from the viewpoint of Televesion> When you go to races you never see that much anyway, you’re lucky if you see 1 or 2 overtakes and unless you get the headphones for the local commentary you dont even necessarily know who’s won till you check your phone ! Im going to Valencia next year should it be on and im going cos you can get close(ish), the track is next to a great town and beach plus it will be sunny!

  11. Oskar (@oskar) said on 20th June 2012, 14:58

    it´s gonna be a sunny and hot weekend in Valencia

  12. OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 20th June 2012, 15:07

    The only reason I’m looking forward to this race is to see if I can manage some Prediction’s Championship Points.I’m still waiting for my poster, but there’s a long way from England to South America so it’s OK. I’ll wait until Friday’s free practice to tip results, but I’m still regretting for not studying F1 history in Canada. Had I tipped for Lewis…

  13. TED BELL said on 20th June 2012, 15:10

    I think the McLarens and the RedBulls are well suited to showing an advantage at Valencia. The string of new race winners is likely to be gone by Sunday evening.

    • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 20th June 2012, 16:35

      I for one am begging to hope that is the case; don’t get me wrong I like that this championship hasn’t been dominated by one driver, but when it’s the case that 10 drivers can go into a weekend with a chance of winning it becomes slightly ridiculous.
      I imagine we are going to see Red Bull, Mclaren, Ferrari (with Alonso) & Mercedes (Lotus to a lesser extent) begin to distance themselves from the midfield, and I believe the WDC will be between Rosberg, Hamilton, Alonso & Vettel.

  14. Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 20th June 2012, 16:08

    I’m gambling on Vettel to take the win, but with the unpredictability of the season so far we could end up seeing a Caterham on the podium! I hope Caterham can put on a show and score some points; it would give a huge boost to the team and I believe they are the only team in the bottom three capable of joining the midfield pack.

  15. Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 20th June 2012, 16:09

    So Mercedes have (had to?) change their DRS. Still bizarre how little attention this regulation breaking failure got.

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