This weekend is Round number eight of the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship in Valencia, Spain. The Valencia race is on a 25 turn, 3.367 mile street course. Actually, this isn’t the Spanish Grand Prix number 2, its the European Grand Prix.
Let’s go back in time, the first European Grand Prix was held in 1983, at Brands Hatch in the United Kingdom, it was won by Brazilian, Nelson Piquet, Senior in BMW-Brabham. Since then, the European Grand Prix has been held for 21 seasons (1983-1985, 1993-1997), 1999-). Those races have been held at five different circuits, Brands Hatch, Donington, Jerez, Nurburgring and the Valencia Street Circuit. There have been 11 different winners in 21 races. Michael Schumacher has the most wins in the European Grand Prix but that was when it was held at the Nurburgring and Jerez.
This could be last European Grand Prix for a while because the Spanish Grand Prix is now rotating between Circuit de Catalunya and the Valencia Street Circuit starting next season. This is kind of sad because the European Grand Prix is just one of those special races on the FIA Formula One World Championship calendar.
Let’s dig into the background of this Valencia Street Circuit, the track is designed by German engineer, Hermann Tilke, who is the FIA’s lead track designer. The street circuit is very tight and there is no real great place to pass. The first Grand Prix held in Valencia was held in 2008, it was won by Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. Sebastian Vettel has the most wins at the track with 2 (2010 and 2011). Current Marussia driver, Timo Glock holds the lap record at Valencia, 1:38.683. Sebastian Vettel holds the lap record for qualifying with a 1:37.587.
Switching gears a bit, to tires and DRS zones, Pirelli has brought the super soft (red) and soft tires (yellow) for the tires compounds. This will make it three races in a row with this tire compound. Speaking of tires, pit stops will be critical here because you lose approximately 21 to 25 seconds in the pit lane. The drivers could make the soft tires go 45 laps in Montreal, could it be a one stop race for some drivers? I don’t think so because Valencia and Montreal are very different. I mean this, Montreal has a ton of straightaways and Valencia doesn’t. More turns equals more tire wear. I’m expecting maybe a two stop strategy race at the least. Digging into the DRS zones, the turn 14 DRS zone has been removed and there will be only one activation zone that is just coming off of Turn 10. The detection zone is right before turns 8 and 9.
Enough with the history of the circuit, I want to do some recapping of the first seven events because I didn’t write anything on Formula One this season so far and that is totally my fault. So lets recap a bit.
The 2012 Formula One season kicked off in Melbourne, Australia on the 18th of March. McLaren dominated the race and Jenson Button won. In Malaysia, Fernando Alonso won a rain race for the boys from Ferrari. Young rookie Sergio Perez had a super charge to second place. In China, Nico Rosberg took pole and won the race in dominating fashion. Bahrain saw last year’s World Champion, Vettel and former WD champion, Kimi Raikkonen fight it out, Vettel won the fight. Spain was just a weird race, Lewis Hamilton sat on pole then was DQ’d so Williams sophomore driver Pastor Maldonado got bumped up to pole, it was a battle between Pastor and Fernando Alonso all day. Pastor Maldonado took his first ever victory in Formula One, then the Williams team garage caught on fire! It burned all of Bruno Senna’s car. In Monaco, it was boring. Schumacher won pole then got pushed back because of a grid penalty. Webber just dominated the race and won. Then two weeks ago in Montreal, Vettel sits on pole. Hamilton and Alonso are the ones that were in a brawl for the whole race. Alonso is on a one stop strategy and he loses out on Hamilton’s two stop strategy late in the race due to lose of tire wear on the Ferrari. That makes seven different winners in seven races. Lewis Hamilton has a slight lead in the points going into this weekend over Vettel and Alonso.
- Lewis Hamilton: 88 points.
- Fernando Alonso: 86 points
- Sebastian Vettel:85 points
- Mark Webber: 79 points
- Nico Rosberg: 67 points
- Kimi Raikkonen: 55 points
- Romain Grosjean: 53 points
- Jenson Button: 45 points
- Sergio Perez: 37 points
- Pastor Maldonado: 29 points
- Kamui Kobayshi: 21 points
- Paul di Resta: 21 points
- Bruno Senna: 15 points
- Felipe Massa: 11 points
- Nico Hulkenburg: 7 points
- Jean-Eric Vergne: 4 points
- Daniel Ricciardo: 2 points
- Michael Schumacher: 2 points
- Red Bull Racing-Renault- 164 points
- McLaren Mercedes: 133 points
- Lotus-Renault: 108 points
- Ferrari: 97 points
- Mercedes: 69 points
- Sauber-Ferrari: 58 points
- Williams-Renault: 44 points
- Force India-Mercedes: 28 points
- Toro Rosso-Ferrari: 6 points
- Kimi Raikkonen- Raikkonen was here in 2008 when the race debuted and was there in 2009, his best finish was third in 2009 with Ferrari. I believe this weekend could be the weekend, his Lotus car is one of the most durable cars in the paddock. Its not that Kimi hasn’t ran good, its just that the competition is so tight this year.
- Felipe Massa- Massa has had quite a turn around in the past two races. He has finished in the top ten at Monaco and Canada, I expect the same for the 2008 winner at Valencia. Massa is due for a great run and with that he’ll prove he’s still a top notch driver.
- Michael Schumacher- Even though Schumi doesn’t have that much experience at the Valencia track, I believe that he should do very good because he has had okay runs this season it’s just mechanical woes that have slowed him down a bit this year.
- Romain Grosjean- The shock of the season in my opinion, yes his season started out rough, but he has done great in the past seven races. If you take those first two races out of the equation and substitute them with good finishes, he is leading the points. Grosjean will continue to raise eyebrows this weekend.
- Sergio Perez- The second year Mexican driver has had a fairly decent season this year. Remember in Malaysia, he got a second place finish behind the Ferrari of Alonso. Sepang and VSC are very similar tracks, so expect him to contend.
- Sebastian Vettel- Two time winner here? All that needs to be said.
- Fernando Alonso- Home favorite, of course.
- Mark Webber- Best finish of 3rd here, podium contention is a good sign for the Aussie.
- Jenson Button- This weekend HAS TO BE a GREAT WEEKEND FOR BUTTON! He has had so many downs in the past three races, just like Massa he’s due to have a good run.
- Lewis Hamilton- Don’t leave out Canada’s winner!
- Michael Schumacher
- Kimi Raikkonen
- Fernando Alonso