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Business as usual in Valencia

Posted by Carrot on June 27, 2011 | No Comments

Pole, fastest lap and the race win for Sebastian Vettel. It’s all coming together for him and Red Bull this season. The FIA’s new engine regulations disallowing separate engine maps for qualifying and the race have actually seemed to help Red Bull with the team able to lock out the front row in Valencia from the McLarens and the much improved Ferraris.

The top three teams now have a clear advantage over the rest of the field, the performance¬† of Renault in the opening races has faded and Mercedes GP haven’t been able to do anything except at the start. Ferrari brought the fight towards Red Bull, but the reigning champions proved too strong this weekend. McLaren seen to have slipped backwards, and this is actually bad news for a close championship. While Vettel continues to rampage forward in the standings, his closest rivals are swapping the best of the rest positions and suffering retirements. Vettel could take the next three races off and even if Mark Webber or Jenson Button won all three Vettel would still lead the standings. The field apparently needs Vettel to have some bad luck, every time he scores big and the people after him are different just allows him to extend his lead further.

Valencia was the last race with the ‘hot blown’ exhaust systems, as of Silverstone these systems will be limited in their effectiveness. Ruled a movable aerodynamic device by the FIA, an assessment I agree with, these systems will now be grounds for disqualification if found on a race car. Given the hideous asthmatic sound they make through the corners, this shouldn’t be a hard ban to enforce. Hopes run high at McLaren and Ferrari that this will drag Red Bull back into striking range, but based on the test running that was done in the practice sessions it’s not looking to slow them down enough. The real losers in these various regulation changes and enforcements are Renault who have designed their whole car around this concept.

Points for the three top teams and one of the Mercedes cars, it would have been both if not for Michael Schumacher taking his wing off just after a pit stop, meant that there were few points for the rest of the grid. Taking eighth, ninth and tenth positions were Jaime Alguersuari, Adrian Sutil and Nick Heidfeld. The result was particularly important for Alguersuari due to the open secret that his drive is under threat from Daniel Ricciardo. Narain Karthikeyan also broke his own record at this race, for finishing in the lowest position ever in a Grand Prix. He set the previous record with a 23rd place finish in China, here he went one better and finished 24th. That record will stand until we get more than twelve teams in F1 or until the unlikely event that the third car proposals are taken seriously.

The things is, there’s not much to talk about at this race. No safety cars, no retirements and not a great deal of racing. It’s pretty much par for the course in Valencia, even Monaco manages to be more exciting. A track’s place on the calender shouldn’t be dependent on money, in an ideal world it should be based on race excitement. Tracks that don’t add to the spectacle should be removed and their slots given to other tracks that stand a better chance. Unfortunately this isn’t the case and we’ll lose an interesting track that gives exciting races in order to make room for Russia and the USA in the future. Even with all the overtaking toys we have in F1 at the moment, KERS and DRS, there was precious little racing this weekend. If the new toys can’t spice up the action at this track, there’s not much that can.

What annoyed me most about this weekend was the track, or rather the walls to the track. Everywhere there was blue so unless you’d done some serious homework on the track you’d have no idea where on the lap the cars were. I had done my homework and still found it difficult at times. Other tracks that have walls have painted the sectors different colours or have indicators of where on the lap certain corners are, in Valencia all you have is endless amounts of blue with breaks for the pit straight and the bridge. If the sport is going to expand its viewer base we’re going to need more than boring races around anonymous corners.

Two weeks now until the British Grand Prix, Formula 1 comes home. The race will be run on the new layout of Silverstone with the pit straight moved due to the building of the new pit complex. Currently there’s only one DRS zone in Silverstone which will be a change after having two races with two activation zones, but there is a possibility that the old pit straight could be turned into a second activation zone. Ferrari and McLaren will be hoping for more, but remember that last year Webber took the win and Vettel carved his way through the field after an early puncture, expect more of the same from Red Bull. See you there.

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