F1 Power Rankings: European Grand Prix

Over a three race stretch, the 2012 Formula One World Championship went from the historic street circuit in Monaco to the exciting and unpredictable street circuit in Montreal to the dreadfully boring streets of Valencia for the European Grand Prix. The streets around Valencia’s harbour and America’s Cup port were probably selected to mimic the harbour atmosphere of Monaco. Unfortunately, Monaco is a challenging and historic track. Valencia is boring enough to help even the worst insomniac. Perhaps the combination of Pirelli tyres and DRS could save this race.

#1 Fernando Alonso (Last Race #1)
That Ferrari F2012 which was formerly called “Clifford” is no longer the big red dog of the F1 paddock. Alonso has found speed in that car that Old Phil Massa sure hasn’t. He’s definitely taking advantage of the new-found performance of the car. He’s the only driver to finish in the top five in the last three races. If it wasn’t for a questionable strategy call (in hindsight), he would have been on the podium which would have given him the points lead and better finishing stats than Lewis. The driver is definitely more than holding up his part here.

#2 Sebastian Vettel (LR #2)
At least Seb didn’t drop the F bomb like he did on Letterman: “In Valencia, we drive an average of more than 200kph, which means it’s one of the fastest street circuits in Formula One. Overtaking is possible, but only with some risk. The reason is that the air turbulence created by cars driving closely behind each other doesn’t disappear as it normally would due to the high walls around the track; you lose grip and, in some extreme cases, you have to lift the throttle.”

#3 Lewis Hamilton (LR #7)
Louise doesn’t want to be exciting anymore. He’s just going points racing: “the intensity of this year’s championship means there’s so little breathing space – we may have won in Canada, but there’s an enormous amount of pressure to keep racking up good results at every grand prix. I think that consistency, rather than individual strong results, will be the key to winning this world championship, so we need to back it up in Valencia with another strong result.”

#4 Romain Grosjean (LR #6)
I suppose I could’ve featured Grosjean talking about finishing 2nd but here he is talking about his feet: “I had a lot of blisters on the underneath of one of my feet after the race. When you’re in the car and the adrenaline is up you don’t notice so much, but afterwards it was pretty sore. Luckily Kimi’s physio had some blister patches which saved me on the flight back to Paris. It wasn’t a big deal.”

#5 Mark Webber (LR #3)
@AussieGrit literally says nothing in his pre-race quotes: “Obviously it’s very difficult to predict how we might go in Valencia, as we’ve clearly seen with seven winners and plenty of different podiums. Our main goal is to improve our positions in both championships, so personally for me in the Drivers’ Championship and of course the team is looking to keep a good margin in the Constructors’.”

#6 Nico Rosberg (LR #5)
Keke’s kid said a lot things about Valencia but they seemed just like words that didn’t mean anything: “Valencia is a pretty cool city and it’s always nice to visit there. The track is another street circuit but it’s quite a unique one as it is quicker and has a more open feel than somewhere like Monaco or Singapore. The layout is also kind of like Montreal so it should be a circuit which suits our car. I was at the factory this week and I know how hard everyone is working to improve the car, so we will hope for a strong weekend in Valencia to repay all of their efforts.”

#7 Kimi Raikkonen (LR #4)
It sounds like the Iceman’s focus is on qualifying: “Qualifying is going to be very, very important again here. Obviously, there will be an advantage to starting on the clean side of the track as the streets are only used as a circuit once each year. It’s not an easy place to overtake and we’ll have to see how much help the DRS will be.”

#8 Paul di Resta (LR #9)
Dario’s cousin discusses the setup challenges of Valencia: “The main challenge is to be strong in the low-speed chicanes and also through the high-speed end of the lap. There are some big braking zones too followed by big traction zones, so the degradation rate is quite high, which is why it’s hard to manage the rear tyres through the race.”

#9 Kamui Kobayashi (LR #14)
Kobayashi Maru is all over this place with his pre-race quotage: “You are always quite close to the walls, but after our last two races in Monaco and Montreal this is nothing new. Overtaking is not easy but not impossible either. In 2010 it was actually good fun. Valencia as a city is a nice destination by many measure, I would happily choose it for my holidays. By the way, you can also get the best fresh squeezed orange juice there. However, my target is a strong qualifying as well as a strong race.”

#10 Michael Schumacher (LR #10)
It kills me that every time that Michael can challenge for a podium or better, the car lets him down: “Our entire focus is now on the race in Valencia, and I am sure that everybody’s motivation is even stronger because the weekend in Canada didn’t go as well as we had hoped. Our motto in the last few days has been to roll our sleeves up and focus on the job in hand; everybody in the team has taken that approach to heart, so we can travel to Valencia in an optimistic mood.”

#11 Jenson Button (LR #11)
Jenson is right about one thing. Apart from that win, he’s kinda sucked this season: “The last few races haven’t delivered the results I’d like, but there are still 13 races to go. We’ve had seven different winners and no clear championship leader has emerged, so I’ll be looking to get a decent result under my belt next weekend in order to get my title bid back on track. I know just how strong Vodafone McLaren Mercedes can be.”

#12 Felipe Massa (LR #12)
Pirelli motorsport boss Paul Hembery discusses what the tyre manufacturer expects this weekend: “Valencia could not present a bigger contrast to the street circuits that have come before it: the track is faster and the temperatures higher, with plenty of energy going through the tyres. What it has in common with the others is the difficulty of overtaking, which will put the emphasis on qualifying. So we are expecting a fairly straightforward race, with either two or three stops depending on which tactics the teams use – although one team tried a one-stopper last year as well.”

#13 Nico Hulkenberg (LR #8)
I think that jetlag has screwed up with Nico’s brain. He’s talks like he likes this circuit: “I’m looking forward to going back to Valencia because I like the track, even though we’ve seen how difficult it is to overtake there. The track has are a few special corners in the final sector of the lap and it’s enjoyable to drive. It’s also quite a long lap with 25 corners so it can be quite difficult to get a perfect lap together.”

#14 Sergio Perez (LR #16)
Perez put up his second podium of the season but he has to back this one up: “I like the track in Valencia a lot and also the atmosphere during the race weekend, as we are quite close to the fans. I don’t have the best memories of my Formula One debut race in Valencia, as it was last year and a very difficult one for me. I was returning to racing after my heavy shunt in Monaco and, in hindsight, I have to admit I don’t think I was fit enough. I didn’t feel well at all.”

#15 Bruno Senna (LR #13)
Bruno thinks there’s untapped potential in his Williams. He’s what you’d call an optimist: “Street circuits are always challenging for a driver and Valencia is certainly no different, requiring decent straight line speed combined with an efficient braking system to cope with the heavy braking areas. Our pace in Canada was not really reflective of the cars potential, but we’ve been working hard to understand the reasons why and hopefully we can put that behind us and gain a stronger result here.”

#16 Pastor Maldonado (LR #15)
Maldonado is having a feast or famine season. Apart from that win, it’s mostly famine: “Valencia is a challenge for the drivers because it combines a street circuit that’s used by regular road cars throughout the year with sections of regular race track so it can be tricky to achieve the ideal set up. The layout is quite quick with some long straights but there are also some slow corners so finding the right balance will be crucial to doing well.”

#17 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #18)

#18 Jean-Eric Vergne (LR #17)

#19 Heikki Kovalainen (LR #19)
Kovalainen is willing to admit he doesn’t like this track. That makes most of us: “The track isn’t my favourite one of the season but it’s another great city to go to and another venue that makes the most of having F1 in town for the whole week so the atmosphere is around the whole event is great. The track itself is another temporary circuit, a sort of semi-street circuit. The track surface is very smooth and the kerbs aren’t really an issue but it is pretty stop / start, so you need to quickly find a good rhythm to manage the series of long straights that end in tight turns, and pay attention to brake wear rates and cooling.”

#20 Vitaly Petrov (LR #20)
Petrov is right about the team’s goal for the year. Too bad they’re not succeeding: “I think the Valencia race and the next one at Silverstone could be pretty positive for our team. We have a few updates coming onto the cars at the next two races, and we keep seeing how the gap to the teams ahead is closing, little by little. That is the aim this year – work as hard as we can to get to the point where we’re racing a couple of cars ahead and then see where we go from there.”

#21 Timo Glock (LR #21)

#22 Charles Pic (LR #22)

#23 Pedro de la Rosa (LR #23)
Pedro should hope that his brakes don’t grenade for the second week running: “Just like in Barcelona, I’m really looking forward to racing in front of our home fans in Valencia. At the Valencia Street Circuit we will encounter high air and track temperatures so the brakes will be put through their paces once again, but we’re confident we can make the necessary modifications to overcome the problems we experienced in Canada. Valencia has long straights but overtaking isn’t easy and it is a high-downforce track. I think we can do quite well here, although it’s not as favourable to our car as Canada, because there are a lot of braking areas and slow corners which are good for us.”

#24 Narain Karthikeyan (LR #24)
Karthikeyan omits one thing. Valencia is similar to Barcelona in that there’s no passing: ” It is our second visit to Spain in just about five weeks but the circuit is as different as it could be compared to Barcelona. It shares some characteristics with Montreal and Monte Carlo, like emphasis on low-speed traction so I expect our car to do well here. Apart from that, it is a beautiful place and weather is pretty hot, just like India, but the track itself isn’t a huge challenge. Yes the walls are close but the adrenaline factor isn’t close to Monaco or even Montreal.”

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