FOLLOWING A CANADIAN Grand Prix that had motorsports journalists the world over cancelling their dinner plans due to the incessant rain, the Formula 1 season returns to Europe and sunnier climes with the European Grand Prix in Valencia.
Alonso seeks a change in fortune
Home favourite Fernando Alonso has not enjoyed the best of times in his three outings at the circuit in recent years. The best the former champion has managed has been sixth place and last year he could only pass the flag in eight position.
However, he feels he can banish those memories with a strong outing and replicate the form that saw him win the European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring in Germany in both 2005 and 2007.
“I always believe that luck and bad luck balance out by the end of the season, and maybe this unwritten rule also applies to racetracks,” the Spaniard wrote in his blog on the official Ferrari website.
“If that’s the case, I would be more than happy if last year’s misfortune was paid back now! In fact, it seems that in general so far this season, luck has not come our way; in the race in Montreal, not one damned thing went right.”
Alonso looked set to challenge for his first win of the season in Montreal, following a two-hour rain delay, but was forced out of the race after a clash with eventual winner Jenson Button.
McLaren duo’s contrasting fortunes
Button, meanwhile, is in the midst of renegotiating his current deal with McLaren amid reported interest from Ferrari. The Briton has shown some fine form in recent weeks, with podium finishes in each of his last three races and a stunning last-gasp win in Canada that ranks as the moment of the season so far.
The same can not be said for the Briton’s compatriot and team-mate Lewis Hamilton, however. The 26-year-old has been criticised for his over-exuberant driving style in recent weeks and has also had to fend off rumours linking him with Red Bull. If ever there was a time for the 2008 world champion to start making headlines for the right reasons, it would be now.
Vettel confident of success
If a distracted Hamilton is suffering from a slight lack of confidence, the opposite is true of championship leader and current world champion Sebastian Vettel. So emphatic is his 60-point lead at the top of the standings that he has been able to see his recent defeat to Button as a blip, and he feels that he can negotiate a “tricky” Valencia track.
“The atmosphere around the harbour in Valencia is quite similar to Monaco, except that the paddock is bigger and the garages are larger,” Vettel insisted.
“The circuit is a street circuit, but the average speed (200mph) is extremely high, so it’s tricky.
“In general you need a lot of wing for the corners and less for the relatively long straights, which means you have to find a compromise.
“There are no run-off zones, so you can’t make any mistakes – a small slide and you end up in the wall.
“Overtaking is difficult and the only real possibility is in Turn 12. We had a good race there last year and the car should be good. I’m looking forward to it.”
The circuit and the weather
It is, indeed, a tough circuit that does not allow for many of the kamikaze manoeuvres seen a fortnight ago. It’s a street circuit where “the straights are not straight,” though some of the corners have a lot of run-off area, leaving more space than at its Monaco equivalent.
Valencia is not hugely popular with drivers, who have criticised the lack of overtaking opportunities.
Finally, the weather is set to be in huge contrast to the tempestuous Montreal conditions. Dry and sunny throughout, according to early forecasts, which should be perfect for the debut of Pirelli’s new medium and soft tyres.