Not a moment too soon to be honest. The Championship is bubbling up to what could still be an exciting conclusion now that Brawn GP aren’t the all conquering force that they were at the start of the season. Whilst they appear to have stalled in their development, others have found solutions and the fight is on.
This weekend it’s Valencia and the European Grand Prix, a race that could look better on paper than in the flesh, given that the track and the surroundings promoted exciting glamourous racing last season like a full English breakfast promotes a healthy lifestyle.
Overtaking is tricky, if not impossible and the container ships that line the harbor walls give a feeling more of Mersyside than Monaco.
However, what four cars have for this years race that we didn’t see in 2008 is KERS. The extra 80bhp might just give McLaren and Ferrari a competitive edge out of the slow corners. In the right hands and on the right track, it could turn a podium possibility into a race win, as Lewis Hamilton proved in Hungary.
Hamilton and his team’s turnaround has been phenomenal, their confidence and motivation is sky high now that they’ve stopped trundling around at the rear of the field and he could well deliver a repeat success this weekend. McLaren have been talking up their chances (why shouldn’t they?) and Betfair’s punters have flocked to the defending champion, making him the 3.5 favourite.
However, I don’t expect them to have the superiority this weekend that they enjoyed in the last race. They’ve done nothing wrong but conditions might have turned in Jenson Button’s favour. He’s been praying for the sun to come back, which it did on the Friday in Budapest before retreating behind the clouds for qualifying and the race.
As I’ve written before, the Brawn car needs warm weather to help the tyres operate at the right temperature. The team are looking for the track to be between 45 and 50 degrees, that’s their operating window and when it opens it looks and acts like a different ‘monster’ altogether. Watching the practice sessions today it’s clear that it’s handling the bumps well, it looks much more stable under breaking, and has the pace the team are looking for. Rubens Barrichello wasn’t fastest in the morning session by co-incidence.
The good news for Betfair backers is that due to the teams indifferent form in the last three races, Jenson is an attractive 6.6 to win the European Grand Prix and Rubens Barrichello 18.0. I’m not sure the Brazilian is worth taking on for the win but at 5.3 he isn’t without a shout for a podium. Button is trading at 2.06 in that market.
A podium may not be out of the question for Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen. Not, sadly, Luca Badoer whose progress in the early part of the week indicated that even the task of picking up his first ever F1 point may be a little too much. The Italian team have the advantage of KERS too and should Kimi put together a decent qualifying performance he should be challenging.
Red Bull shouldn’t be ignored, but they excel in the high speed corners, none of which feature here in Valencia. Spa next week offers them the prospect of a fourth 1-2 finish but this weekend they could find others too hot to handle.
Not that I’d discount either Mark Webber at 5.6 nor Sebastian Vettel at 4.4 for qualifying. Both could well bag pole, but may need to run lighter on fuel as a result, which won’t help their race strategy. That’s what Renault had to resort to in Hungary to get Fernando Alonso at the head of the field, knowing that the best he could hope for in the race was third. The team have nothing to lose in trying a similar strategy here, so the 5.4 for the Spaniard to be on pole in front of his home fans may well prove profitable come Saturday afternoon.
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. Ã‚Â© The Sporting Exchange Limited
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BIOGRAPHY: Cesc Fabregas