Valencia: What You Need to Know

Fact File: Valencia Street Circuit, Valencia, Spain

Laps 57
Lap Length 5.419 km (3.37 miles)
Race Length 308.883 km (191.931 miles)
First Race 2008
Fastest Lap T Glock 1:38.683 (Toyota, 2009)
2010 Winner Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)

Layout and Approach:

This may be categorised as a street circuit, but it doesn’t quite hold the cache of the others ones on the calendar. It runs through the city’s marina (which features in the centre of the track), while providing some familiar waterside views it was put together by Hermann Tilke and thus features some of his more infamous characteristics. Namely the lack of overtaking spots around the track, the reason for this being that although some public roads have been incorporated around the marina, the majority is purpose-built and runs like a permanent fixture. A high-grip, smooth surface with a track that is 14m wide at its narrowest point, makes it the safest street circuit the drivers visit…unless you’re Mark Webber that is. He compares Valencia to a ‘Tesco carpark’, but I’m sure that you don’t do this on your weekly shop.

It features 25 turns in total, with an almost even split of left and rights means it has the highest than any other circuit we currently visit. The combination of fast straights and slow corners forces a high level of concentration from both teams and drivers. The stop-go nature also brings with it higher levels of brake and tyre wear, the former being good for KERS harvesting and the latter playing a part in strategy. As mentioned previously, sections of the lap are public roads, so as with any street circuit it will evolve throughout the course of the weekend. Overall it demands a car that has good braking stability and traction, more downforce than Montreal but requires efficient aerodynamics.

Overtaking and Strategy:

Another track where overtaking is at a premium, all the effort in getting the racing line down for a decent qualifying lap scuppers the chance to overtake on Sunday. With it being so grippy, moving off increases the chances of hitting the marbles and losing time, although KERS and DRS could help here this year. This said there are a few places considered primes spots to gain position if they get it right, one is the place where Webber and Kovalainen collided last year. Drivers will be looking to get a good exit out of turn 10 to move down the inside before braking for 12. The other opportunity is the turn 17 hairpin, where cars with good traction  will benefit.

Regarding the DRS zones, it is a similar set up to what we saw in Canada where we have 1 detection zone and 2 activation zones. In an effort to spice things up, the FIA have decided to stick with the concept following what they considered to be a successful debut. The detection zone will feature 180m before turn 8, their first chance to deploy DRS will come 285m after turn 10, then 35m after turn 14.

Tyres:

Pirelli are bringing their new medium compound to the circuit which had been tested in Montreal at the last race. Medium with be the prime tyre, with white markings and soft will be the option. Pirelli have designed the medium compound to be less durable than the hards, but “it is quicker while still representing a significant step in range over the option tyre.”

Why Valencia Rocks:

Some would say it doesn’t rock at all, in fact a large majority consider it to be boring, however it’s been signed up for 7 years overall so regardless of how you feel, it’s sticking around until 2014. It holds many of the same off track positives as Barcelona, with Fernando Alonso, Jaime Alguersuari and Hispania at their home race the crowds are guaranteed. Passionate fans always boost the atmosphere, but lacklustre racing could prove fatal for those watching at home, however this year hopes are pinned onto the shirts of DRS, KERS and Pirelli. Flaps, boost and rubber should be the saviours of the race this weekend. Another factor to note down is the environment in which these guys are racing in. Valencia hosts the America’s Cup due to the windy nature of the area, it’s a curveball teams have to manage in terms of car balance.

5 Key Points:

  • Evolving track surface
  • Hot and windy conditions
  • Stop-go nature
  • DRS/KERS and tyres improving overtaking
  • Home race for Alonso, Alguersuari and Hispania (again)
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