Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Valencia, 2011

Vettel aims for Valencia hat-trick

2012 European Grand Prix Preview

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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 length5.419km (3.367 miles)
Distance57 laps (308.9km/191.9 miles)
Lap record*1’38.683 (Timo Glock, 2009)
Fastest lap1’36.975 (Sebastian Vettel, 2011)
TyresMedium 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.


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.


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 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.


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 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.


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.


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 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.


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

2012 driver form

Q avgR avgR bestR worstClassifiedForm guide
Sebastian Vettel5.714.711117/7Form guide
Mark Webber4.8651117/7Form guide
Jenson Button6.4310.861187/7Form guide
Lewis Hamilton5.714.43187/7Form guide
Fernando Alonso6.864.57197/7Form guide
Felipe Massa11.8611.336156/7Form guide
Michael Schumacher7.711010102/7Form guide
Nico Rosberg4.716.571137/7Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen9.436.862147/7Form guide
Romain Grosjean5.713.75264/7Form guide
Paul di Resta12.579.576147/7Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg12.86118156/7Form guide
Kamui Kobayashi10.868.65135/7Form guide
Sergio Perez12.867.672116/7Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo13.1413.339176/7Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne16.1412.578167/7Form guide
Pastor Maldonado14.2910.81195/7Form guide
Bruno Senna14.57136226/7Form guide
Heikki Kovalainen18.5717.513236/7Form guide
Vitaly Petrov18.5717.216195/7Form guide
Pedro de la Rosa21.1720.2519214/6Form guide
Narain Karthikeyan23.332015224/6Form guide
Timo Glock20.7116.8314196/7Form guide
Charles Pic2118.7515204/7Form guide

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Keith Collantine
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49 comments on “Vettel aims for Valencia hat-trick”

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. @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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

        2. I disagree. Portimão 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…

      2. Chris (@tophercheese21)
        20th June 2012, 15:01

        Haha “Tilkedome”, love it!

      3. 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.

        1. 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.

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

          2. @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.

    3. 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.

    4. … 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. 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.

    1. Midwinter for some ;)

  3. 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.

    1. I think Senna can keep it out of the walls. Probably because he’s more likely to crash into someone else before he gets anywhere near one.

      1. At least Maldonado has speed. Could you say the same about Senna?

        1. Senna does have some speed, but as PM writes, he is more likely to crash into someone than bring the car home in the points!

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

    2. @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.

      1. 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
    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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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. 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. 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.

    1. 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. 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.

    1. @timkatz

      I half expect them to be waved to a stop while a lorry laden with cement bags reverses across the circuit.

      I must admit that would add a dose of exitement though!

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

    1. 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 (@)
    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. it´s gonna be a sunny and hot weekend in Valencia

  12. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    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. 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.

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

  16. The form guide suggests there will be a new winner. Grosjean has the highest finishing average in the field by a good margin. If he can keep it between the walls this time, it could be his day.

    1. On the other and he has been DNF every other race, so after a good finish in Canada, now should bring another one of those DNF rounds for him!

  17. Of all the races that I could miss, I’m glad that this is the first fo the year for me thanks to work. Unfortunately I’m also going to be missing Silverstone, and I doubt I can avoid the result and watch it later thanks to working in a sports/media office. Damn you temp work!

  18. The picture of the McLaren! Beautiful!

  19. You know, for all the stick this circuit gets, I don’t think it’s THAT bad. I love seeing the F1 cars and seeing the aero upgrades they have, and also, I love looking at the art of driving fast. Sometimes I think of the Valencia and Monaco Grands Prix as really the two races where I can appreciate the technique of each driver better. Honestly. Try it out. If you get the same shot of one driver versus another, just see how he takes a particular corner. It’s fascinating watching it. Given Vettel and Hamilton are two drivers who are specialists of Valencia, I like to watch the lines they take, versus teammates.

    The last corner is particularly fascinating in Valencia as it blends the exit of a flat out right hander right into the braking for a hairpin left. Webber takes a conventional line through the penultimate right kink and just points his car to then brake for the last hairpin, before he then takes a tight line through the hairpin until he can power out. Vettel takes the penultimate corner tighter and has it pointed wider off the apex of the hairpin. The line Vettel takes means that he will inevitably reach the last braking slower, as his tyres will scrub more over the right-hander kink. However the payback here is given the wide entry, he can turn the car and get it pointed straighter. You’ll see him pointing dead straight at the exit kerb of the last corner, and his right foot can afford to be much heavier.

    The entry to Sector 3 is also fascinating. There’s a hairpin right, leading into a left kink before a double apex fast right. Webber vs Vettel again, Vettel slows down for the apex more, and gets the car turned more. Webber carries more speed through on a wider line. Mark however then ends up being slightly compromised for the left kink, which he has to take tighter, to be on the right line for the double right. (the line through a fast corner is very much a dictated line, and there’s much less variety in terms of lines you can take to maximise your laptime) Vettel is slower on the apex, but the payback is he has a smoother run through the fast bits, and also there is much more margin for him through the left kink, in that if he makes some sort of mistake, he has spare grip in the tyres to correct it. It also means he’s on the correct line through the double right.

    Absolutely fascinating.

    1. I pretty much agree with you here @raymondu999, last year in Valencia was lovely to see how Vettel got some really hot race laps in, although it would be a lot better if the track itself offered more distinct sections to discern where on track they are.

  20. I quite like Valencia as a circuit, it just seems to flow well to me. Really hoping Schumacher has a turn of fortune and that Button has indeed got on top of the tyre issues.

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