June 21st, 2012 (F1plus / Chris Cameron-Dow).- After a brief trip to North America, Formula One returns to Europe this week, with a Grand Prix in Valencia. The race is called the European Grand Prix, because it is the second race in Spain and there is already a Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.
Valencia is partly a street circuit, like Montreal. It has been compared to Monaco in that it has walls close to the track, but in truth it is not all that similar to Monte Carlo. The Valencia circuit is high speed, with cars reaching as high as 315 kph during the lap. But many of the corners are low speed, which makes it a challenge to set the cars up well.
The Valencia circuit is not particularly conducive to overtaking, and has seen very little on-track action since it arrived on the calendar in 2008, although it was the scene of Mark Webber's horrific somersaulting crash in 2010.
Will seven become eight?
Seven different drivers have topped the podium in the first seven races of the season. With Michael Schumacher, Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean all looking competitive, there is the possibility of an eighth different winner on Sunday. Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery has tipped Schumacher to win in Valencia, based on his qualifying pace in Monaco.
Pirelli are bringing their medium and soft compounds to Valencia. Valencia typically sees high temperatures, which creates the need for harder compounds than those used in the previous races in Monaco and Canada.
Last year's race saw three stop strategies from the front-runners. This year's tyres have proven to be quite difficult to master, so there could be a variety of strategies, depending on how well the teams set their cars up for tyre management.
The 2011 European Grand Prix featured a double DRS zone, just like the Canadian Grand Prix before it. This year sees just one DRS zone in Valencia – between turns 11 and 12 – which is likely to provide most of the overtaking in the race.
Pirelli are predicting a Schumacher victory. While it would certainly be a great story for Formula One to have the seven-time World Champion back at the front, recent form points to McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari being strong.
Lewis Hamilton has been quick all season, and everything finally came together for him in Montreal. He is likely to end the run of different winners by repeating his Canadian success.
Circuit Length: 5.419 km
Race laps: 57
Race length: 308.883 km
Lap Record: 1:38.683 – Timo Glock / Toyota (2009)
Race winner: Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull
Pole position: Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull – 1:36.975
Fastest lap: Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull – 1:41.852
- The track crosses a canal using a swing-bridge that was purpose-built for the race
- Michael Schumacher has won the European Grand Prix six times in its various forms, but has never scored a point in Valencia
- Three out of the four races held in Valencia have been won from pole position
Friday, Saturday and Sunday are all expected to be sunny and warm. Forecast temperatures for the race range between 29 and 32 degrees Celcius, which will create a tyre management challenge for the team, as the Pirelli rubber is likely to overheat and wear excessively.