We’re almost there. Three whole weeks without our beloved sport, no testing, not a lot of news but hopefully one hell of a race to look forward to. The summer holiday is drawing to a close (not that it has been much of a summer!)
The F1 circus continues its trip around the world, stopping of in Spain for a second time for Round 12 of the championship. That’s right. It’s time for the first new circuit on the calendar, The Valencia Street Circuit.
We begin heading into the unknown. No previous Grand Prix there, no pre-race testing and very little data the teams can refer to.
For me, this is actually quite exciting. We don’t know who has the upper hand between McLaren and Ferrari because no teams have previous data. We don’t know which drivers have been preparing well and which have been chilling during the holiday. We don’t know if the race will be exciting with lots of overtaking or a bit boring like the other Grand Prix in Spain. Either way I’m looking forward to the weekend.
Let just remind ourselves of the championship standings before we go into the main part of the preview.
1. Lewis Hamilton- 62 points
2. Kimi Raikkonen- 57 points
3. Felipe Massa- 54 points
4. Robert Kubica- 49 points
5. Nick Heidfeld- 41 points
6. Heikki Kovalainen- 38 points
1. Scuderia Ferrari- 111 points
2. McLaren Mercedes- 100 points
Going into the Grand Prix, McLaren are favourites to win again as they have done so the previous three rounds.
I think it’s quite likely that they will win as they have fabulous confidence and momentum at present. Both drivers have now won a race this season and it looks like they have the fastest car at the moment.
Another reason why I think that McLaren will win the Grand Prix is because of their record at the Monte Carlo circuit. They have won in Monaco more times than any other constructor and the MP4-23 is more suited to street circuits than Ferrari’s F2008.
Speaking of Ferrari....
The Scuderia have suffered at the hands of the Woking based team of late and Felipe Massa’s engine blow didn’t exactly help. What can they expect from the Grand Prix?
Ferrari will always be competitive so they will be challenging for the high grid positions and a good result in the race. They could even challenge for the win if the temperatures are extreme because they deal with their tyres better than McLaren. However... (A few moments of silence) it looks to be raining on Friday and Saturday (http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/5day.shtml?world=0205&links) and sunny on Sunday. This could prove difficult for Ferrari as the rain might restrict them on getting the right setup for a sunny session. Who knows?
Now, to the “best of the rest” constructors.
I expect BMW, Toyota and Renault to have a positive weekend.
BMW have been fairly consistent this season and I think a new circuit could just get them another podium. I predict Robert Kubica to perform as always in qualifying and have a strong race.
Toyota will have huge momentum coming from their podium finish in Hungary thanks to Timo Glock. Two cars in the points would be great for them this coming weekend.
Renault might grab a sneaky podium in my opinion. Fernando Alonso had a good race in Hungary last time round, finishing fourth and young Piquet is beginning to get into the points also. The Spaniard might be able to grab a podium due to race circumstance at his second home race.
And now the championship chasing drivers: Hamilton, Raikkonen, Massa. What can we expect from the top three?
Well, I think Hamilton goes into the Grand Prix with the most confidence despite finishing 5th at the last race. He knows he has the car to win and he knows he has the ability. He likes street circuits (2008 Monaco) and adapts well to new tracks (he won four GP’s at circuits he had never raced on before in 2007).
What about the [under performing] world champion? A podium maybe? Only if he can sort out his qualifying problems. Raikkonen has no problems with speed; he’s taken the lion’s share of fastest laps this season, but he’s got a knack of clocking them in too late in the day.
And the little Brazilian, Felipe Massa. So unlucky in Hungary, should have won. Ferrari has said that they don’t expect problems with their engines again so that shouldn’t be a problem. What about his confidence though? Will he be wary of pushing too hard in case his engine falters again? I don’t think so. Massa will be challenging the McLaren’s all weekend.
This weekend will be a showdown between the top teams and drivers.
No pressure Valencia!
Length- 3.379 miles
Race distance- 192.603 miles
Predicted lap time- 1min. 37secs.
So will the track itself live up to expectations? Will there be much overtaking? We’ll find out on Sunday!
1. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
2. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
3. Felipe Massa, Ferrari
4. Fernando Alonso, Renault
5. Robert Kubica, BMW
6. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
7. Timo Glock, Toyota
8. Jarno Trulli, Toyota
9. Nelson Piquet, Renault
10. Mark Webber, Red Bull
1. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2. Felipe Massa, Ferrari
3. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
4. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
5. Fernando Alonso, Renault
6. Timo Glock, Toyota
7. Robert Kubica, BMW
8. Nelson Piquet, Renault
So what do you think of that my fellow F1 Bleachers? Sensible? Unlikely? Comment and rate as usual and if you’re really kind you’ll select this as your Pick of the Day, let’s make it two in a row for the F1 community!