Formula One's month-long summer hiatus is over, and the circus has arrived in Valencia for the European Grand Prix weekend while drivers contemplate their objectives.Jenson Button
has lost some ground over the last three races, his Brawn BGP 001 failing to deliver as well
as the charging Red Bull drivers. Although Button succeeded in taking points, over the same period Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel have scored double or more.
The series leader still enjoys a 19.5-point advantage on his closest rival, Webber, who is himself in a close fight with teammate Vettel and the Brawn outfit's other driver, Rubens Barrichello
However the competition is gearing up, as was seen at the Hungarian Grand Prix: Fernando Alonso
started from pole, Lewis Hamilton won the race and Kimi Raikkonen
came in second. Any points the other drivers and teams take away from the Brawn and Red Bull racers will only make the job harder for the championship contenders.
The Valencia street circuit's many corners will be a challenge as brakes are highly solicited and have little time to cool down, while rear tyre wear might become an issue as drivers accelerate away from the 25 curves the venue features. Both items need to be watched closely over the 57 laps upon the 5.4km track.
Despite the many corners there are a few opportunities to speed above 300kph as the cars race by the coastal city's beautiful marina; engines are therefore required to switch often between high-powered sections and low-speed curves. Although there is more track space and run-off areas than Monaco, Valencia is nonetheless a concrete-walled street circuit where the margin of error remains low.
However, having inaugurated the stylish track last season, this time the teams will benefit from advance knowledge of the challenges which lie ahead this weekend on the streets of the Spanish city.Fernando Alonso
will benefit from a home crowd greatly cheering him on while Valencia sees the F1 debut of his new Renault teammate, Romain Grosjean. Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari takes on his second race with the team, but a first Formula One race before his compatriots.
Replacing the recovering Felipe Massa until further notice, Ferrari test and reserve driver Luca Badoer returns to active Grand Prix racing this weekend, a decade after his previous participation at the wheel of a Minardi.
1. Jenson Button
- Brawn Mercedes BGP 001
"It's going to be great to get back racing again after the summer break and everyone at the team is looking forward to Valencia. (The) track is quite fun when it goes round the edge of the marina and over the bridge. It's quite challenging for the drivers with so many turns and the added factor of being surrounded by barriers means you have to maintain your concentration. With the cars at the front being so close at the moment, it will be an interesting weekend."
2. Mark Webber - Red Bull Renault RB5
"I didn't really feel the need for the break after Hungary, but I reckon I'll feel the benefit when we come to the final three races of this season."
3. Sebastien Vettel - Red Bull Renault RB5
"It's been the usual F1 cliché of 'relaxing and training.' I can't wait to get back to work in Valencia, where I came sixth last year – it's a fun track to drive, much quicker than a normal street circuit like Monaco or Singapore."
4. Rubens Barrichello
- Brawn Mercedes BGP 001
"Valencia is a cool city and proved to be a great venue for the European Grand Prix last season. The challenge of a new circuit is always exciting and even more so this year as we should be in a much better position to challenge for a good result this time. The first part of the lap is quick with the long pit straight followed by a curved right-hander before the slower section leading up to the bridge over the marina and then you're down onto another curved straight.
"The second half of the lap feels more like a street circuit as you head away from the water and the third long straight ends with a tight hairpin at Turn 17 which is the best overtaking opportunity. The final part of the lap is quite fast with some sweeping corners before the tight left-hander which takes you back out onto the pit straight. It's a very different type of circuit to the classic image of a street track such as Monaco."
5. Nico Rosberg - Williams Toyota FW31
"This will only be our second trip to Valencia and I'm looking forward to going back as the organisers have built a really good track. Unlike what you would normally expect from a street circuit, Valencia has a lot of corners but they aren't tight and twisty, but quite fast and flowing so the whole lap is quite quick. Combined with the temperatures, it can be a demanding race, but I'm prepared."
6. Jarno Trulli
- Toyota TF109
"Unlike somewhere like Monaco, Valencia is actually very fast for a street circuit so that should suit our car pretty well. In fact, it doesn't really feel much like a street circuit at all because it is so much faster than other city tracks. We were in the top six last year in Valencia and that is my target this season. The Valencia track has a different character so it's difficult to predict at this stage but my target is to score as many points as possible."
8. Lewis Hamilton - McLaren Mercedes MP4-24
"It's great to be getting back to business after the four-week break. I'm still buzzing from the win in Hungary and I'm hopeful of being able to carry that pace into the Valencia weekend – particularly with our new upgrades to the car. It's a very demanding circuit, the kind of place that punishes any mistakes hard. It's quite tight and relatively slow, so it should suit our package. It's also very difficult to overtake, as we discovered last year – but, with our KERS, Mercedes-Benz has proved that anything can happen and I'm once again hoping that it will provide the difference in the race."
9. Kimi Raikkonen
- Ferrari F60
"We got a good result in Hungary, which allowed us to climb back on the third place in the Constructors' Championship. This is the team's realistic goal for the final part of the season. For myself I hope to win at least one race, after a third place in Monaco and a second at Budapest.
We're racing on a city circuit at Valencia, but with very different characteristics. Last year I didn't end the race at Valencia, caused by an engine failure. So this year I want to return and maybe even gain a place on the podium. This is our realistic goal, although we know that it will be difficult. The qualifying will be fundamental."
10. Timo Glock - Toyota TF109
"I really enjoy street circuits and I generally perform very well on them. We know from last year that overtaking is very difficult on this track so qualifying will be particularly important, which is a similar situation to the previous race in Hungary. After finishing in the top six from 13th on the grid in Budapest, my goal this weekend is to start as high as possible and give myself the best chance for a good result in the race."
11. Fernando Alonso
- Renault R29
"Our performance in Hungary was encouraging as the car was quick and we managed to get pole, which was actually a bit of a surprise. To retire from the race was disappointing, but I'm looking on the bright side because I think that the car can be just as competitive in Valencia. Racing at home is always special and Valencia is a beautiful city and a great place to have a race. I've always enjoyed racing on street circuits as they have a special atmosphere and the whole city gets involved in the race. Also, as it's a home race for me I know that there will be amazing support from the fans and I really want to reward them with a good result. As I've said, I would love to fight for the podium, but the main priority is to score points this weekend."
12. Heikki Kovalainen - McLaren Mercedes MP4-24
"We've now got a car that's much easier to drive on the limit, and which really rewards your input. So I'm really looking forward to the European Grand Prix, which, while it won't suit us as strongly as the Hungaroring, should be another strong opportunity for us to score some more points. I think there's a lot of potential for the remaining races."
13. Nick Heidfeld
- BMW Sauber F1.09
"Valencia is a street circuit, but it doesn't drive like one. In fact it's just like one of the modern race tracks. You're not right up against the buildings, there isn't the tightness you usually get at street circuits, but there are run-off areas. I'm excited to find out what effect the latest modifications will have on our car."
15. Robert Kubica - BMW Sauber F1.09
"I really enjoyed the Valencia circuit a lot. I like the character of stop-and-go tracks. In Valencia you have a lot of long straights followed by narrow corners and long straights again. That means a lot of heavy braking. It was very hot there last year as the track is between concrete walls and there is not a lot of air. These conditions are very tough for the car's cooling. Last year I performed quite well in Valencia."
*. Kazuki Nakajima - Williams Toyota FW31
"I've spent lots of time on our simulator preparing for Valencia over the course of the year so feel I know the circuit quite well. It's not a typical street circuit, but you have to be really careful around the lap as there are no run off areas. I think the biggest challenges over the weekend are grip levels as it was quite green when we arrived last year, as well as cockpit temperatures."
*. Adrian Sutil - Force India Mercedes VJM02
"To be honest, Valencia isn't one of my favourites. It's a street circuit but it doesn't feel like it as the roads are so wide and it's really just fast straights into a hairpin, accelerate out and then another hairpin so you don't get the adrenaline you would at Monaco. This year it could be quite good for us though as we have a big new upgrade. Every upgrade we've introduced so far this year has really made a difference so I have a lot of confidence that this will move us forward as well. The car is getting better and better to drive and with another upgrade I hope we will really be in the midfield now and in the hunt for points."
*. Giancarlo Fisichella
- Force India Mercedes VJM02
"The Hungarian Grand Prix was quite a tough race but I was able to have a good, quick middle stint and fight with Kubica and Barrichello, so I hope I will be able to do the same, if not more, in Valencia. Last year it was quite a good race for me, one of my best, as we were genuinely fighting for positions. I quite like the track. We also have a new upgrade for this race, the same step as we had in Silverstone, so I hope we can have a good race and score some points."
*. Romain Grosjan - Renault R29
"My goal has always been to become a Formula One driver and to do that with a French team makes it even more special. There is maybe a bit more attention because people have been waiting for a French driver in a Renault, but I will do my best to show that they were right to believe in me. I've only driven the R29 in straight-line testing so my first race will be a learning experience. It's difficult to set myself an objective so my first priority will be to get comfortable with the car, build my confidence over the weekend and do the best job I can for the team."
*. Luca Badoer - Ferrari F60
"I am very motivated to make the most of this opportunity, even if I know I am facing a tough challenge. It will effectively be a test session for me, but I will be trying my best to secure a good result. I have to say, my first thoughts when I take to the track will be for Felipe, because I got a real fright when I saw his accident. I am delighted that he is making a good recovery and I hope he will be back racing as soon as possible. I repeat how grateful I am to Luca di Montezemolo and Stefano Domenicali for giving me the chance to make my childhood dream come true."
* No championship points yet scored.