Valencia is hoping to return to the F1 calendar in 2014.
The Spanish street race – recently the regular host of the European grand prix – has dropped off the sport’s schedule for next season. But it has been suggested that Spain’s two F1 hosts, Valencia and Barcelona, will alternate the Spanish grand prix from now on.
Barcelona will as usual host the race next year, leaving open the possibility of a return for Valencia in 2014.
Lola Johnson, the Valencia tourism minister, said the government has “been working” on a possible alternation with Barcelona.
“It is a situation that is on the table,” she is quoted by El Pais newspaper.
“It’s a three-way scenario, with the bosses of formula one and the two organisers of the grands prix. The alternation is on the basis of the reorganisation of the contracts. The details are being worked on,” Johnson said at the weekend, as Ferrari celebrated its end-of-season event at the Spanish port city’s permanent circuit.
Valencia has once again reduced the capacity of its street circuit ahead of next month’s European grand prix.
After a 112,771 spectator sellout for the inaugural event in 2008, organisers reduced the temporary seating capacity by 35,000 on lower demand the following year. The capacity was shrunk again, to 65,000, for last year’s race, and this year there will be only 45,000 places for spectators to sit amid Europe’s economic crisis, according to El Pais newspaper.
It means Valencia’s spectator capacity has more than halved since 2008.
We reported this year that although Barcelona is not convinced it should annually alternate Spain’s F1 hosting rights, Valencia is insisting the arrangement go ahead starting next year, as suggested recently by Bernie Ecclestone. Until then, only 13 grandstands have been erected for the June 24 race, a figure “that may increase depending on demand”, an official said.
The report in El Pais explained: “The organiser’s goal is to adjust the mounting costs to reduce the losses of previous years, especially in view of the high fees charged by Bernie Ecclestone.”
Organisers of the Spanish grand prix in Barcelona are clinging to the idea the race can continue to be an annual presence on the F1 calendar.
Bernie Ecclestone said last weekend that, amid Spain’s economic crisis, a deal has effectively been struck to alternate a single annual race date between Barcelona and the sport’s other struggling Spanish host, Valencia. But the president of the Catalonia government, Artur Mas, is not so sure.
According to El Pais, he said on Sunday that – together with the city of Barcelona – it is still being contemplated whether the alternating scheme with Valencia is the only option.
“Rather than talk about the alternation with Valencia, now in Catalonia we are focused on making efforts to hold a grand prix that takes us to the world, from many points of view,” he said. “What we have is an economic promotion, and work for many people, which is exactly what the country needs,” he is quoted as saying by Catalunya Radio.
“(The alternation) with Valencia, we’ll see. For now what is needed is to make efforts in Catalonia,” he said at the Spanish grand prix.
In October 1991, Nigel Mansell was on the brink of losing the World Championship having had a comfortable lead and certain victory thrown away by another pit lane drama in the Portugese Grand Prix at Estoril. He lost one of his wheels after what appeared to be a smooth and tidy pitstop and was later given the black flag. The next stop after Portugal was Spain, but this time the venue was not Jerez. The F1 circus was about to visit a brand new purpose built circuit near Barcelona, the Circuit de Catalunya.
Today, this track is renowned for producing extremely dull races, especially after the 1999 event after there was only one reported overtaking manoeuvre the entire race! But it looks almost certain to stay on the calendar long-term after the impact which Fernando Alonso has had in his home country. In fact today the second Spanish race of the season was held in the new Valencia street circuit and that too was boring! Do the Spanish specialise in boring races or can we blame the modern aerodynamics or Hermann Tilke’s incompetent track design skills?
It’s all very well keeping a Spanish race on the calendar as a result of Alonso’s impact but why not move back to Jerez? There has been some great stuff there over the years such as Mansell and Senna’s battle to the flag in 1986 and the World Championship decider in 1997, but it was that year when the local mayor tried to force his way onto the podium celebrations after the race, which led to Jerez never being allowed to host a Grand Prix again.
So we are stuck with the dull Circuit de Catalunya – and also the Valencia street circuit as of today. This track is used so much by all the F1 teams for testing that there is not much work to be done on the cars come the race weekend and the drivers know the track inside out. There are a lot of turns on the track as well, but whilst it is no Monaco or Hungaroring, the frequency and the medium-speed, aero-dependent nature of the corners means that overtaking opportunities are limited to the fairly long start-finish straight and a large “field spread” is produced.
The organisers tried to improve overtaking down the start-finish straight by installing a new chicane for 2007, but sadly it doesn’t appear to have worked and its very obvious why because right after the chicane, there’s a fast corner where the aerodynamics of the car infront will force the car behind further back again. I mean who’s stupid idea was it? Probably Hermann Tilke!
When the most memorable things that have happened at this circuit are, for example, Johnny Herbert driving off with the rear jack still in the back of his Benetton, or one of Nick Heidfeld’s wheel nuts falling off and being picked up by a Toyota mechanic, you can see why I never look forward to the Spanish Grand Prix. Even this year’s race with Kovalainen’s crash, the safety car being brought out and the novelty in that race being Super Aguri’s last ever F1 race failed to disguise the tedious borefest that this race never fails to produce unless it rains.
In fact it’s almost like watching English Premier League side Middlesbrough who are also dull. Eddie Irvine said after the 1999 race, “I was so bored I wish I had brought my radio with me!”, but, just like today, most of the debate after that race was over the design of the cars and the use of grooved versus slick tyres. But even in the days of slicks there were still tedious races at the Circuit de Catalunya. Except in 1991 …
Going back to 1991, the first race at the Circuit de Catalunya was a classic. It had been raining, the track was damp and Mansell had all the odds against him. Ayrton Senna could have clinched the World Championship that day, but Mansell was not giving up without a fight. He got second on the grid ahead of Senna, but behind Gerhard Berger, but Mansell made a bad start and Senna passed him, then a few corners later Michael Schumacher even went by, but Mansell dispatched the soon-to-be 7 time World Champion and set off after Senna. One of the most memorable moments in Grand Prix racing happened on the start-finish straight when Mansell went side-by-side with Senna all the way down the straight to take 2nd place with Murray Walker’s BBC co-commentator James Hunt exclaiming, “Wheel-to-wheel stuff, look at this! They’re almost touching!”
Meanwhile, this was also the race where Murray Walker uttered one of his immortal lines, “The boot is on the other Schumacher!”. In only his fourth race Michael Schumacher was showing the world what he was capable of, harassing Mansell and Senna, and flinging his Benetton Ford around the track in a way which Nelson Piquet or Roberto Moreno – the man who the Benetton controversially replaced with Schumacher – had not managed throughout 1991. Schumacher looked as though he was on course for his first ever podium finish until he had a spin, but recovered to finish a fine sixth, while Mansell went on to win and ensure the Championship wasn’t going to be decided yet.
The only other time races here have been any good were the following year 1992 and 1996 when it rained. Every other year it has been boring. With next year’s regulations coming into play to allow more overtaking, if there’s one track the regulations will not work on, it’s Catalunya. I don’t think even a race held here in the Turbo era would have been exciting either, nor the 70’s or any races going back to the days of Jackie Stewart or even Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio! The bottom line is that Catalunya is the most boring race track ever.
Felipe Massa claimed victory at Valencia for the inaugural grand prix, but the result awaits confirmation from the race stewards who will investigate Ferrari’s actions during the Brazilian’s second pit-stop.
Massa led from pole and had built up a cushion of just under ten seconds over McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton before making his second stop for fuel. Then it all began to unravel for Ferrari.
Massa was released into the path of Force India’s Adrian Sutil in the pit-lane. The race stewards said they were investigating the incident on the grounds of the release being “unsafe”. They later announced that they would make their decision after the race leaving the possibility of a time penalty, which could gift Hamilton the victory.
Massa was not the only Ferrari driver to be at the centre of controversy during the pit-stops. Kimi Raikkonen left the bay before the green light on Ferrari’s automated appeared. The fuel nozzle had not been detached, and as the Finn accelerated he dragged his fuel mechanic with him. The mechanic was left injured on the ground and promptly stretchered to the medical centre.
Only a few laps later the Finn’s engine gave way, leaving Robert Kubica to take third ahead of Heikki Kovalainen, Jarno Trulli and Sebastian Vettel.
Teams and drives adopt varying approaches to Valencia challenge.
Unless you’re completely loaded, you probably wouldn’t hurl your hatchback blind around a twisty foreign marina with the same lack of respect you show the streets that surround your home.
Yet, in less than a week’s time, that is exactly what will be asked of Lewis Hamilton et al. as they head into the unknown for the inaugural European Grand Prix at Valencia and reach speeds in excess of 300kpm around the city’s captivating harbour streets, mere meters from the Mediterranean (circuit organisers have already practiced rescue dives in the unlikely case that the cars run off the Astilleros Bridge, it is reported).
Organisers are working around the clock to get the glamorous Spanish port city of Valencia ready for its inaugural European Grand Prix next week.
The alluring Juan Carlos I Marina, which will provide the backdrop to the much anticipated 57-lap race, has already played host to the 32nd America’s Cup in 2007. And in July the 5.4km Herman Tilke-designed street circuit held its first race for Formula 3 and GT cars.
“I raced at Valencia the weekend before the Hungarian Grand Prix in a GT sportscar. It’s a challenging track, although the high concrete walls give it a very different feel to somewhere like Monaco.
“The first corner is a curved right-hander, which will be taken flat-out in an F1 car, and then it’s hard on the brakes for Turn 2, a second-gear right-hander. Turn 3 is a fourth-gear kink, as are Turns 5 and 6, and the cars will probably be in seventh gear before they brake for Turn 8, which is the start of the bridge section.
“There’s a small bump as you go on and off the Astilleros Bridge, which could unsettle the cars in the wet, and then there’s a 90-degree right before the track drops away and you head down a long, curved straight. Slower cars could be a problem here in qualifying, so you need to keep your eyes on the marshals as you accelerate through the gears.
“You brake really hard for Turn 12 and it is here that it feels most like a street circuit because there are traffic lights hanging across the track and you can see buildings. A double-left comes next and you’re almost immediately into Turn 14, a fourth gear 90-degree right. Then you’re onto another long straight, at the end of which there’s a hairpin that’s not dissimilar to the Adelaide Hairpin at Magny-Cours. This will be a good overtaking opportunity.
“You’re now into the latter stages of the lap, which is characterised by some fast, sweeping corners. They take you all the way to the final corner, which is a fairly tight left-hander. The exit will be important because you’re then heading onto the start/finish straight to start another lap.”
With less than a week to go before the Formula One entourage makes its inaugural dash around Valencia’s hedonistic Juan Carlos I Marina, F1’s elite are, for once, unanimous: the European Grand Prix is set to be spectacular.
Lewis Hamilton (McLaren): “I ve tested at the Ricardo Tormo circuit so the city isn t unfamiliar to me. Anyway, going to a new circuit doesn t really change my preparations: everybody s in the same situation so I don t treat things very differently.
“Of course, we ve done some preparation back at the McLaren Technology Centre ahead of this race, but our main focus will still be the three free practice sessions ahead of qualifying.
“I ll be working closely with my engineers to make sure we start the weekend with a good baseline and work hard to strengthen it as we go through the weekend. I enjoy visiting new racetracks and I m looking forward to getting into the cockpit on Friday morning. It looks like being an amazing track.”
Jenson Button (Honda): “My first thoughts are that it’s a circuit that we haven’t raced at before and it’s got barriers all around it! I think the whole of Formula One is very excited about going to Valencia.”
“It’s a beautiful city and it will be great to be racing around the streets there. We have some very fast circuits like Monza, Spa and Silverstone on the calendar and then the slower circuits like Monaco and Hungary, and we’re expecting Valencia to be somewhere in the middle.
“It’s also got the added excitement of being surrounded by barriers which really focuses your mind and demands that you give full concentration around every single lap.”
Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber): “I am very much looking forward to Valencia as I am a big fan of street circuits in general. They are very demanding as they are often bumpy and the street surface changes. When you make a mistake you easily run into barriers. Anyway, Valencia will not be a complete street circuit.”
“There will be lots of run-off areas for safety reasons. The FIA puts a lot of effort into safety, which is good. On a street circuit it is of major importance to have a good basic set-up which is easy to drive.”
“The lap time improvement has to be gained step by step, you cannot drive in too wild a style. Also, in terms of the racing line you have to approach this gradually. It is very important to walk the track before driving it the first time to get a feeling for the surface and the layout.â€
Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren): “It looks pretty fast, to be honest. You get used to street circuits being quite slow, with lots of slow- to medium-speed corners and very short straights, but this is almost the opposite.
“There are a lot of fast kinks and esses, a couple of decent straights and lots of high-speed stuff. It s too early to say yet whether there will be opportunities to overtake around here, but there are a couple of hairpins where it might be possible.”
Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber): “I’m always pleased when a new race track turns up in the calendar, and I’m particularly keen to experience Valencia. It will be an authentic street circuit in the sense that it runs through the town centre, unlike the Melbourne or Montreal tracks. In terms of its charms and challenges, the Valencia race will probably come closest to the Monaco Grand Prix. I really like Valencia, which I’ve visited many times, of course. We do a lot of testing on the permanent race track in Cheste and we’ve rolled out our new Formula One car in Valencia on several occasions. The first few metres in a brand new car are always a very special experience.
“Early this year I spent a few days in Valencia with my family between the rollout and the next test. We had a great time, went to the beach, and in town there’s a dried out riverbed that has nature parks and playgrounds. That was very nice, especially for the children. Valencia is also a great place for shopping and eating out, needless to say, and I love the contrast between its historic and futuristic architecture. I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Rubens Barrichello (Honda): “The challenge of learning a new circuit is always exciting, particularly when it is an unusual venue such as the new street circuit in Valencia. Despite preparing as much as we can in advance of the race, our track walk with the engineers on Thursday and the practice sessions on Friday will be absolutely key to learning the track and assessing the grip levels.”
“A new track always opens up the field and gives an opportunity for the driver to make an impact as our feedback will be very important in achieving the correct set-up.”
“We have prepared well and I am looking forward to the weekend and the potential to score some points. We can expect the race weekend to be very hot which will add to the physical challenge for the drivers, car and team. I’m a big fan of Valencia as a city; it’s a beautiful location, and hopefully the race will bring a lot of new fans to Formula One.”
McLaren, BMW Sauber and Honda chiefs give a unique insight into the technical demands posed by the Spanish port city of Valencia, host to next week’s European Grand Prix.
Martin Whitmarsh (McLaren): “In terms of car set-up, we need to remember that, like Monaco, the track will be both green and dusty on the opening day of practice. That sometimes tempts you into playing with set-up more than you would like, so you need to resist that temptation and let the track come to the car.
“Our simulations suggest we’ll employ a downforce level similar to that of Hockenheim, but the individual demands of the track may push that window up or down. Finally, anybody who’s studied any onboard footage of the circuit will be mindful of the proximity of the concrete barriers in certain areas – clearly, we’ll be packing plenty of spares, but hoping we won’t need to use them!”
Ross Brawn (Honda): “Valencia is often thought of as a temporary race venue, however it is actually a permanent street circuit which is quite fast and flowing; it’s not like the type of street circuit that we have been used to racing around in Monaco. There has been some racing around the track already with sportscars and Spanish F3, so we have been gathering information from those races to see what we can learn in advance of the race weekend.
“Valencia is going to be a medium to low downforce track with a couple of quick corners which will present a very challenging circuit in an exciting environment. One of the key aspects is that it is going to be very windy. The America’s Cup is held in Valencia for this very reason however such conditions could make achieving a good balance on the cars quite tricky. The Valencia weekend is going to be a fascinating engineering challenge for the team and we are all looking forward to it.”
Mario Theissen (BMW): “The European Grand Prix around the port area of Valencia is new to the programme this year. We are very much looking forward to the race and the city, particularly as BMW has some close associations with Valencia.
“The Formula BMW Racing Center there serves as the training site for our up and coming young talent in the Formula BMW series around the world. Valencia is by tradition the venue for rolling out our new F1 car, and beyond that city races always make for a unique atmosphere. We await the new circuit with keen anticipation.”