Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Valencia, it's got a nice beach

It’s all back to Spain this weekend for the European (let’s makes some money out of the Spanish company, Santander) Grand Prix.

Well Valencia likes to think of itself as the Monaco of Spain. But it’s not, it’s in a dockyard and has no charm what so ever. It also has no soul or sense of occasion to it. It is just a dockyard, the walls aren’t even that close to the track, so there’s no smearing expensive carbon fibre bits along the wall. And if you have no walls you have lots of run off areas, which means the paying punters are pushed right back and the place looks like a ghost town. Dull dull dull dull dull dull blah blah blah..

Last year a bit of nifty pit work from the Brawn boys saw Barrichello beat Hamilton to the line and an emotional victory. Like Canada last timeout, Hamilton goes well here, and I’m not expecting that to change this time out. The McLarens look to have a speed and handling advantage on these medium fast circuits, where big balls are worth more than clever aero packages and grunty engines. But you also have to be pretty precise with the driving line. The tire wear is pretty high so going off line usually means a trip to the wall, as there’s no grip off line.
With all the cars in the top 15 or so, pretty much on the same pace, it’s going to be one of those dull tactical races. The team that cocks up the pit stop is going to be the one staring at the rear of Schumacher’s diffuser for the rest of the day. Once again, baring incident, they’ll finish pretty much how they started. Which will liven qualifying up, it might even be worth turning over from the world cup to watch .. who knows.

So the McLaren boys are on a roll here, there’s no repeat of the Hamilton v Alonso years it would seem. Button has slotted into the fold nicely, Hamilton is learning to share his toys and both boys are feeding back to the team so that the car is getting better and better. If they’re not on a par with the Redbulls on handling, then they’ve passed then on speed. Other teams (Ferrari) have focus too much on developing their own F’duck systems, whilst McLaren have concentrated on making the car faster, stealing a march on the others and making this into a two horse race for the title. Everyone and their mother has one or other of the McLarens winning here.

Ferrari have gone back to the drawing board and are bringing their B-spec car out a race ahead of McLaren. You could argue that the Ferrari wasn’t too bad, it was just it’s drivers cocking things up. But Ferrari is one of the richest teams on the tour, so they can afford to build a new car from the ground up. New suspension, new aero, new exhaust ducting and the same old drivers. Alonso is on home soil yet again this weekend, so you’d expect him to go well, however the new car has had very little testing, It would be a brave call to predict a podium.

Redbull are once again talking up their chances, “it’s not over yet etc etc” says Horner. The last few weeks have not been an easy ride for the playboys of the paddock and they need a good result to keep things ticking over. They’ve lost any advantages they had at the start of the season, so it’s now down to drivers and their head space being in the right place.

Renault, and Kubica continues to do better then expected. I though the other boys would have out developed them by now, but no Kubica is still knocking around the middle of the top 10. Petrov after an okay start is now falling back as the other drivers hit their stride. I think he’s done enough to keep his seat for next year, but the bigger boys don’t look like their fighting to get his signature at the moment.

The Mercedes boys are starting to talk about “development year” and “learning about the car all the time” and other such bollocks. Brawn is still saying the championship is there to be won. But he’s the only one doing that little speech. Mickey has disappointed really. He’s not as sharp and he’s not hit the ground running. Last time out in Canada we saw the old aggressive for the sake of it Schumacher. The one we didn’t like. I suspect he getting frustrated and irritated about how the season is panning out. Rosberg is still consistently in the top 10 5th or 6th, whilst Mickey is battling the like of Sutil, Liuzzi and Alguersuari to make it into the top 10. Hard time on easy street.

Force India, have so far failed to turn a strong 2009 into a great 2010. The car doesn’t look as fast as the ‘09 car, and the drivers still seem to be getting hit by other cars. Massa had three goes at Liuzzi in Canada. If they could only catch a break and have some good luck, then I’m sure the car is mid top 10 racer. Better than Massa, Kubica and Mickey they have the speed and the determination. Just not the luck.

As for the rest, Williams are going backwards again, Torro Rosso have shown moments of speed, Sauber are wasting their time with the smart money moving on De La Rossa to be the first driver fired.

The tail end charlies are now only 3 seconds off the pace. Lotus still relying on reliability than speed. I may have been a bit premature to call the virgins faster than the Lotus. Lotus looks to have had a blip rather than passed the baton on … if you see what I mean. HRT are starting to deny that any of their drivers are going to be fired, which is usually a sure sign that someone is about to be fired. Shame really, both driver have been okay, not quick but definitely okay, they just don’t have enough money.

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