This race preview will be different than usual. One reason is, 2008 European GP will be held on brand new track in Valencia. The second reason is, I am on sort of working holiday at the moment.
This Valencia track has no F1 history, but that is not the case of European GP. You can the check the European GP minihistory series of posts on this blog to refresh the memories of modern time European GP F1 races.
Track technical info (ING Renault data):
Situated in the marina area of Valencia, this brand new street course promises to be one of the most exciting additions to the Formula 1 calendar in recent years. Hemmed in by concrete walls (hm, I smell safety car here ), the 25-turn circuit combines a mix of high and low-speed sections and is wide enough in places to offer genuine overtaking opportunities. Good straight-line speed and stability under braking are therefore paramount, as is good mechanical grip through the mix of low and medium-speed corners.
The track layout means that the teams will run with relatively low levels of downforce, similar to those used in Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix. This is possible as there are no high-speed corners and good straight-line speed is important down the long back straight. However, it won’t be until free practice begins on Friday that the teams will be able to finalise aero levels, which can depend on the grip offered by the tarmac.
The circuit is expected to be particularly demanding on the brakes and on a par with somewhere like Bahrain. There are frequent large stops from over 300kph, such as turns 12 and 17, leading into tight second gear corners which will put high energy through the braking systems. Brake cooling will also need special attention with teams likely to use reasonably large cooling ducts.
General car set-up
The drivers need a responsive and well balanced car with good change of direction to deal with the high-speed kinks that are spread around the circuit. But, as always, this needs to be balanced with a supple enough suspension to give good mechanical grip in the low-speed corners. There are a few curbs that the drivers can use, mainly on the corner exits, but until the drivers take to the track it is difficult to predict what impact they will have on car set-up. Good braking stability is also important, especially at the end of the straights, to avoid locking wheels on a track where there is little margin for error.
Bridgestone will bring the soft and super-soft compounds from its 2008 range, just as it did for the Hungarian Grand Prix. The softest compounds from the range will offer good grip on what is likely to be quite a slippery track surface to begin with. However, like any temporary circuit, we can expect the track to begin the weekend very ‘green’ and gradually evolve, becoming faster with each lap as it rubbers-in. As yet, the teams have no tyre data and so evaluating tyres and assessing the abrasive qualities of the tarmac will be a priority during free practice.
The mix of straights, low speed chicanes and hairpins means that the engine will be used in a very stop-start fashion. About 54% of the lap is expected to be spent at full throttle, which is below average for the season and so it will not be too severe a test for the engine. The key to a good lap time is therefore not peak power, but good torque to help launch the car out of the slow corners and onto the straights. Getting the car well balanced will therefore be of utmost importance to avoid understeer out of the low-speed corners to allow early application of the throttle.