Friday, 24 June 2011

Valencia Weekend Starts Grey and Dull

The weather in Valencia for the European Grand Prix started grey and dull. Much like the last few races here really. This year though there are hopes it may brighten up on the racing side of things at least. The Pirelli tyres, DRS, KERS and now the engine mapping changes are all working together to give us a good chance of the best race ever at this track.

Photo Courtesy of Force India
Paul di Resta swapped his drivers seat with Nico Hulkenberg for Free Practice 1 and probably wished he hadn't shortly after. Nico almost immediately flat spotted his tyres and followed that with losing the back end under braking and putting the car into the wall early on in the session. There was some confusion for Hamilton as he told his engineer that his rear wing flap wasn't working and was informed it had been disabled for testing.

Red Bull were seemed to be running two very different sessions. Vettel was not going quickly, there was speculation that this could be because they were testing engine map settings for Silverstone, where the hot blown diffuser ban is to be introduced. Webber meanwhile was at the top of the time sheets and stayed there as the session ended a little early. That was thanks to Glock, who half spun his car and stalled it on the exit of turn 4. Petrov was next on the list followed by Alonso, Hamilton, Heidfeld, Massa and Button with Vettel only able to get up to 16th place.

He made up for it Free Practice 2 though by posting quick times straight away. Button complained about low rear grip as he tried to improve. It didn't seem to be affecting Hamilton's car too much as he was challenging for the fastest time with Vettel, Webber, and Alonso. Di Resta finally managed to get his freshly fixed car out of the pits with only 10 minutes of the session remaining and proceeded to do his best to make up for lost time.

At the end of the session Alonso had the fastest time just 0.2 seconds ahead of Hamilton with Vettel less than 0.1 behind that. Schumacher, Massa, Button and Webber were also close with Webber ending up just 0.563 behind his team mate. Paul di Resta only pulled himself up to 16th place but considering his very limited time in the car, that's a pretty good result. Hopefully he'll get a better run on Saturday.

Photo Courtesy of Team Lotus
After the dust settled it appeared that the soft tyre was around a second a lap faster than the new medium tyre. It also appeared to be lasting fairly well with some drivers continuing to improve their times after 2 or even 3 laps. The final times show that this could be a closer qualifying session than we have seen so far this year. But Red Bull are becoming infamous for pulling something special out of the bag at the last minute. Will the new parc fermé rules stop that? We'll find out tomorrow afternoon!

That throws a few more unknowns into the equation for predictions so I'm going on pure gut feelings! Lets see if Alonso can make the most of a home advantage and bring in a pole to give Ferrari's season a boost. For the race, I think that if he does get pole he will get mugged in the double DRS zones and not be able to bring it home in first. So the top three could be Vettel, a newly calm and focussed Hamilton and then Alonso. Sorry Button fans, I don't think this is his track, but he might hang on to fourth. What do you think?

Bring on the racing!


  1. It is likely that Sebastian Vettel will only continue to improve with each and every race. This young man is going to mature into one of the most successful F1 Drivers in the history of the Sport.

  2. No doubt about that, but he has some pretty stiff competition out there. If he loses his car advantage he'll have to work a lot harder, and that will be worth watching!