Preview – F1 European GP ’08

First up, I gave the blog a lick of paint.
I was messing around with Google earlier and discovered Pressdog’s old blog from 2006/07. I hadn’t seen it before – it was an identical maroon scheme to the one I was using until now!
I know it is a standard Blogger template but so that I’m not accused of ripping him off too much (hey, I already stole the race notes idea from him and others), I changed it to the more patriotic British Racing Green. OK, so it isn’t exactly BRG but whatever, close enough for me.
I like the header, I’m not so sure about the profile box – let me know what you think!

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F1 Preview: 2008 European Grand Prix
Streets of Valencia, Spain

The European Grand Prix has been running for several years now, largely as an excuse for a second German race during the Schumacher era, held at the Nürburgring. This year, the European GP returns to Spain for the first time since 1997 when it was held at Jerez, that controversial season-closer where Schumacher tried to ram Jacques Villeneuve off the road – only for the move to backfire and for JV to claim the title.

Circuit

Rather than Jerez, we go to a new street circuit around the America’s Cup marina in Valencia. The existing circuit outside town, good enough for F1 testing and races for MotoGP and World Touring, doesn’t have the facilities required of Bernie & Co (and, frankly, it sucks balls as a race track). Also the locals wanted to make better use of the facilities they builts for the yachts, and to get one over on Barcelona and Madrid…

This isn’t your usual street track. It looks wide, lots of runoff, and the track itself seems as smooth as any other race track from the photos I’ve seen. I guess it helps that it runs through an industrial area which can be developed accordingly, and not everyday downtown city streets.

The drivers are saying it will be like Melbourne or Montreal. Fast, but don’t get it wrong or you’ll hit a wall. One novelty is the swing bridge they will cross to get to the other side of the marina. Bridgestone are today (Thursday) saying it may cause punctures with the Super Soft compound they’ve brought, because the road on the bridge isn’t exactly aligned with the road surface on land. It is 15 mm off. It didn’t cause any trouble in the test event (a GT & F3 meeting) but F1 tyres are different. I hope their fears are unfounded, we’ll find out in practice tomorrow.

Form Guide

None as this is the first F1 event here. Right now the Ferrari and McLaren cars are roughly equal on pace, however they’ve just come off the back of a 3 week mid-summer break. The factories and wind tunnels do not stop working during the break. What developments will be on the cars this time out, and how will that affect the performance gap?

This will probably have a bigger bearing on the form than their performance at Melbourne and Montreal this year – although if this place is hard on tyres watch out for Hamilton struggling, he uses them more than Kovalainen and the McLaren generally uses them more than the Ferrari.
McLaren are fast on a single-lap run so my bet is on them for qualifying, but Ferrari are faster over a fuel stint, so they may well come good in the race, just as happened at Hungary. But with this development jump – who knows?

Rest of the field

The teams not in the title hunt are beginning to wind down their developments on the ’08 cars, with the completely new aero regulations coming in for ’09 they want to put their full attention on those cars earlier than usual. Perhaps the guys fighting for 4th in the WCC will still develop a little.
You should expect BMW after the main battle, followed by a big jumble of Red Bull, Renault and Toyota, hopefully also including Williams, Toro Rosso just behind, then Honda, then Force India.

SC

Being a street race, even a wide one, you can expect the Safety Car to be deployed. How this affects the race will depend on when it appears. If it happens midway through the pit sequence it will become a lottery because of the crazy-ass rules they are using this year. We might get another ‘Piquet at Hockenheim’ result.

Live Timing

I highly recommend the official live timing at http://www.formula1.com/ – this is essential during commerical breaks and useful the rest of the time. However it does make you frustrated when you see someone is fast, or you spot their strategy, and the TV guys miss it..

You have to sign up (for free) but that’s no big deal, you have to sign up to lots of sites nowadays, and the only emails I ever get from them are for the FIA/AMD surveys which are a ‘must do’ anyway. No spam from Bernie.
You also need Java installed, best thing is to just go to the timing screen and follow the instructions (when it is up make sure you switch to the Big option).
Not only does the timing look like the pitwall timing screens, which is ultra cool, there is also text commentary for those who are not near a TV or radio. It only updates as cars cross the finish line so if you are used to IRL or ALMS timing it may seem a bit wonky until you get used to it.

Done

Okay, I’m out of here. You’ll next see me with F1 notes on Monday – my first F1 notes! I will usually have them out just after the race but this week I’ll be at Dad’s doing house-sitting. The plus point is that I’ll catch the IndyCars live at Sonoma (on a big fuck-off 50 inch screen) instead of the delay I usually have to put up with, so I hope to get notes for those done by Tuesday.

See you then.

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