F1 heads to Valencia: European Grand Prix preview

By Gareth Llewellyn
european grand prix

Filipe Massa (Photo: Alex Comerford)

The Formula 1 circuit moves to the Spanish harbour of Valencia for the European Grand Prix this weekend.

It gets underway on the back of two one-two finishes for McLaren in Istanbul and Montréal and the weekend Lotus celebrates 500 Grand Prix races.

Valencia stages the race for the third time, the first time in June, and will hopefully offer more thrills than F1’s last venture to Spain when Mark Webber led from pole to flag in a snooze-fest in Barcelona in May.

The Valencia Street Circuit is a semi-permanent track with a bridge linking the old harbour streets with a newly-built circuit.

The 2008 race was led from start to finish by Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, while last year’s race, won by Rubens Barrichello for Brawn GP, is infamous for not featuring a single on-track overtaking manoeuvre.

As with the previous contests, this weekend’s race is over 57 laps with 26 corners, at a distance of 5.419km (3.367m) or race distance of 308.883km.

The race will see heavily-revised cars from a number of teams with Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari all wheeling out their version of Red Bull’s blown diffuser, but its true advantage will be better seen at the next high-speed circuit—Silverstone, which is when McLaren will unveil their own version.

Given that Ferrari—Fernando Alonso at least—was able to push McLaren in Montréal without a blown diffuser, it is possible they could gain enough in Valencia. Felipe Massa, however, needs to step it up after several recent disappointing performances.

McLaren are favourites to win in Valencia. After their recent development catapulted them ahead of Red Bull, it is worth remembering that Hamilton started on pole almost a year ago.

It is also telling that Webber and team mate Vettel are playing down their chances of doing well, and all drivers are saying McLaren and Ferrari are the teams to beat, but it all depends on the upgrades.

Interestingly, Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, who could soon lose his seat to Chinese GP2 driver Ho-Pin Tung, has his sights on beating Mercedes while team mate Robert Kubica expects to challenge for the race win.

There is a very good reason why Petrov is not likely to retain his seat for much longer.

This weekend sees the return of the compounds that saw huge degradation in Montréal, with Bridgestone bringing the medium and super soft, but if you were expecting supreme levels of wear here, think again, Bridgestone do not expect them to degrade anywhere near the levels seen in Canada.

On the weekend of their 500th race, it would be great to see a weekend to remember for the Lotus boys. On recent form they have to be the best of the newcomers and could mix it with Toro Rosso as they look to boost their end of season credentials.

An outside bet could be Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes or Renault’s Robert Kubica, but barring any incidents expect McLaren to be on the podium once again.

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