F1 – European Grand Prix

2008 Formula 1 Telefonica Grand Prix of Europe
Valencia, Spain
Round 12 of 17
5.440 km (3.38 mile) street circuit
Race distance: 57 laps, 310.08 km, 192.66 miles

The Grand Prix of Europe, because we’re all one big happy European family!

Coverage: ITV1 *LIVE*
Anchor: Steve Rider
Analyst: Mark Blundell
Commentary: James Allen & Martin Brundle
Pitlane: Louise Goodman & Ted Kravitz

You can read my race preview here. I was unable to take notes live by computer when I watched the race, so my notes are hand-written. It’s now Monday and I’m trying to decipher them.. Quotes are paraphrased!

Pre-Race
The info comes thick and fast on the ITV pre-race, they do an excellent job which is only really let down by their main commentator (this is strange as he was one of the best pit reporters I’ve ever heard) and their over-emphasis on Lewis Hamilton. Coverage switches to the BBC in 2009, it’ll be interesting to see how they approach it.

12:05 British Summer Time / 13:05 local time in Valencia

Steve: “This is Valencia’s first F1 race, the track took 9 months to build. It is a high-speed layout with two or three potential passing places.” The track is around several America’s Cup racing yacht bases.

Mark: “This is the first time in years we’ve had a track with a flat out turn 1. I’m looking forward to it. New circuit, new race conditions. The warm temperatures should suit Ferrari. Brakes could be an issue.”

This is because like Montreal and Bahrain, there are several fast sections leading into tight, slow corners.

12:10 Interview with the guy who built the track, didn’t catch a name (not Tilke):
“This circuit cost 70m Euros to build but we’ll save money from now on, now we have the facilities. “
It took 700 workers 270 days to construct the circuit, they relaid the asphalt so we aren’t on normal streets, this is racetrack.

Alonso was fined 10,000 Euros for crossing the pit exit (or entry?) white line during practice. Can’t cross that line, not even an inch.

Trulli: “I like the city, I like the circuit environment, it doesn’t feel like a street track.”

A reported 112,000 fans are in attendance, later we learn the capacity is 120k and the promoters were disappointed not to get a sellout.

Pedro de la Rosa (McLaren test driver), interviewed because he is Spanish: “Great track, a great effort, safety is good. It will get stronger and better.”

Mark (who raced in CART for several years): “It’s like Montreal or the US street tracks. The teams are prepared, McLaren has a laser wot scans the circuit so they can put it into their computer.”
European street tracks are tight, fiddly affairs, there aren’t many in the US mould of wider more open layouts i.e. Long Beach or St Pete. There aren’t many European street tracks at all actually.
He was also referring to McLaren’s scanning system, we learned in qualifying that McL sent a team out several weeks ago with a scanner for their race simulator.

12:15 Here’s James with a quick report from qualifying, blink and you miss it, I did.
Talking to more drivers. Massa, Hamilton, Vettel.
Lewis: “Surprised there have been no shunts yet.” Only in F1 Lewis, the support race guys have been crashing everywhere. Who will win? “Whoever looks after their tyres and stays off the walls.”
Seb Vettel: “I made a mistake in turn 12 so could not improve, but I wasn’t going to be on pole anyway!”

Qualifying order:
Q3: MAS, HAM, KUB, RAI, KOV, VET, TRU, HEI, ROS, BOU
Knocked out in Q2: NAK, ALO, GLO, WEB, PIQ
Knocked out in Q1: BUT, COU, FIS, BAR, SUT

Steve: Surprises in qualifying?
Mark [I’ll summarise]: “Massa outstanding job. Vettel. Topsy turvy until the last session when the order returned to normal. Toro Rosso outpaced Red Bull.”

Now we go onboard with Felipe Massa during is pole lap yesterday, commentary from Martin Brundle who talks us around the corner entries, racing lines, gears, etc. I always look forward to this.
Martin: “5.44km, was very dusty but has improved as rubber down. Flag marshals will have to be on their toes as there are a lot of blind-entry corners at speed. The pole position spot was only moved to the clean side of the grid this morning.”
The cars are laying rubber on the racing line, over one half of the grid. The other half is still fairly dusty – same as Hungary. Pole was supposed to be on the dirty side. Later we learn it was changed before Qual but they weren’t given the info in the commentary box.

Feature: After quals, Red Bull drivers from both teams were taken out on an America’s Cup racing boat, the one Red Bull sponsors. While there they talked to Louise.
Bourdais: You’re used to this sort of track from America? “Not actually much like the USA. It’s unique. It’s an interesting track.” He’s referring to it being a normal racing surface but around streets.
DC (sitting next to Bourdais on the yacht): “The atmosphere will build over the coming years. We’re definitely not in America, I don’t see anyone eating hotdogs and hamburgers!”

12:24 Unusual that there are only grandstands here, no general admission. Even Monaco has a little GA section.

The America’s Cup is in a legal dispute over where to hold their event, so they might not even return to Valencia despite them building facilities for them. So they need to find another use: F1!
Bernie was interviewed before quals yesterday and said it was his idea.

DC again, this time on a balcony in pitlane: “It will be better in 5 years when the local redevelopment is complete.” Says something about being a dockyard.

Ted Kravitz: “This is like Monaco but with less money and more room to spread out.”

12:29 Team personnel are now on the grid and engines are firing up in the garages. As Steve and Mark babble about something, the first cars head out on their sighting laps.
Mark had tipped Massa for the title a few weeks back: “I’d better stick to my guns. Out front nobody can touch him, he struggles when he’s behind, and he’s starting on pole. Watch Hamilton, he always starts fast.”

12:36
Lewis: “We’re fast and consistant, happy to be on the front row.” About Massa passing him in Hungary: “No-one ever usually overtakes me, if they do its on the inside! Outside won’t happen again.” And Valencia? “Very wide, don’t get close to the walls, it’s like a car park!”
Have you sent a message to Team GB in Beijing to support them? (FFS what sort of question is that?): “Very proud of GB [looks at camera], very proud of you if you’re watching. Usain Bolt, gobsmacked at the speed of the Jamaicans.”

12:39 Martin’s gridwalk!
“Valencia has character, an unusual first corner, sitting on the grid they are looking at a wall. Corner feeds into the braking area for turn 2. GP2 got through there and they drive like its their last day on Earth. There is no perimeter road, no space for cranes so Safety Cars are expected. No F1 cars in the wall yet though.”
“Superb lap from Massa. Hot temps favour Ferrari. [why Martin, why?] 10-12 guys working on the cars on the grid.”
Michael Schumacher (honestly) is standing talking to Mario Theissen of BMW. No, he’s on the phone! Martin interrupts him anyway.
“Michael, sorry didn’t realise you were on the phone”
Schuey: “Honestly” [hah, his first word was ‘honestly’!] “Honestly, the cars and tyres are sensitive to temperatures.” Short answers today from Michael, there was that and some one word answers..
Martin asks if he’d like to drive here? “Maybe on a bike! Martin: “But you keep falling off! Isn’t it unsafe?”
“I thought so too a few years ago.”
“I know what you mean, I ride a road bike myself, thanks Michael and sorry for interrupting your phone call – Mario!” He grabs Mario Theissen who is talking to someone else. Michael says goodbye to Mario…
Mario: “Kubica in a good position, good chance. 1 stop for the cars at the back, 2 stops further up.” Martin: “Sorry to butt in!”.
Bumps into Bernie who is with the Mayor of Valencia, tries to motion Martin to talk to his esteemed guest but he ignores her completely. Bernie: “I’ve wanted a GP since my first time here. That was 14 months ago.” Martin: “I’m sure you’re pleased and so is the mayor, well done ma’am”. [words to that effect]
Walks along, finds Heidfeld: “Track is quite grippy, not our own rubber but should be nice. We took the safer option on brakes which is more comfortable anyway.”
Out of a break, into gridwalk, into the next break.. Commercials bunching means nearly race time.

12:47 Button with Louise: “Disappointing qualifying, we chose the wrong tyres.” Plan? “Go fast, don’t crash!”.
Ted with Alan Permaine, engine guru at Renault. Ted: “Seems to have become an engine circuit with long straights, you struggling?” Alan: “Don’t want to go into that too much for obvious reasons!” He said more but I didn’t take it down in my notes for some reason..

Almost ready to begin, one final ad break before the start, now we join James and Martin upstairs as the official F1 track graphics are rolling.

Barrichello and Sutil will be starting from the pit lane as they had to work on their gearbox after qualifying. That breaks the new ‘your gearbox has to last for 4 races’ rule. I’m not sure why they don’t just put them at the back.

13:02 Cars away on the Formation Lap
James: “This race is 57 laps which is 192 miles, the longest race of the year.”
My comments: F1 races last either 2 hours or 300 km, whichever is soonest. The scheduled laps are normally based on the 300 km but this one seems to be 10km more for no apparent reason. We don’t yet know how long this will be in terms of time, depends on SC. The next race (Spa) is long in terms of time, not sure on distance, the one after (Monza) is the shortest in time.

Grid forms up.

5..4..3..2..1..pause..GO!

57 to go: Everyone gets through the first turns, they are taking it carefully. Amazing sight through T1. Nope – someone in the wall at T3. Alonso is slow. Nakajima has a damaged front wing. DC has also dropped back.
Replay: Nakajima hit Alonso’s rear wing, both wings damaged. James: “Rear wing is structurally attached to the gearbox and will take up to 5 minutes to change. Front wing is easy – change the nose.”

L55: Massa is 8 points back from Hamilton with 6 races to run. Kovalainen gets Raikkonen on the start.

L54: Alonso is out of the car. He’d been told to wait while they fix it, looks like he’s done. Replay: He had to get out of it to avoid another car. Naka didn’t get out of it.

L53: DC runs at Piquet and gets him, nice move!
L52: Heidfeld lost a spot to Rosberg at the start for 8th. Sutil radio: “I’m faster I need to pass him!” Talking about his teammate Fisi.
Louise with Alonso: “2 races in Spain, 2 retirements. We tried to go out for the fans, they came to see me, too much damage to suspension and gearbox so impossible to go out now.”
L50: DC makes a run at Sutil, hits him and spins! Sutil continues.

L48: Kubica in 3rd is now 8.5s behind Hamilton, lost some time. Struggling with oversteer will fix it at next stop. Bourdais has a broken front wing element.

L46: Rubens runs wide, DC goes by him. Vettel is fast.
L45: Kimi 5th 17.8s back from Massa after 12 laps but may be quicker than Kovy. James talked about ‘field spread’, cars spread out more easily at some tracks due to configuration of straights/corners.

L43: Allen: “In F1 if 3 people gather they’ll end up talking about Massa. Is he good enough?” Championship material? Brundle: “He’s beating Schumacher and Raikkonen in the same car, he’s fast.” Massa pits! That’s early and unexpected even by McLaren. Expected 2 laps later. He’s out ahead of Kimi! Massa running heavy is ahead of a light Kimi, he’ll hold up Kimi, that’ll annoy him.
ITV are saying Big Mistake.

L41: Hamilton pits. Lots of dust. Is out behind Raikkonen. Vettel also in, back out 9th.
L40: Now the turn of Kubica and Raikkonen.
L38: Trulli in. Hamilton only gained 1 second over Massa on his stop.
L37: Kovy pits as does Rosberg. HK comes out alongside Heidfeld who hasn’t stopped.
L35: Nick pits now, out 11th, not great but some one-stoppers are ahead.

L34: They are saying Renault is generally down on power compared to the other manufacturers, and that Red Bull aren’t happy with the situation. Glock is asked about his tyres.

L31: Piquet has wing damage. Fisi hasn’t stopped yet, neither have Webber, Piquet, Glock, Button or Sutil.

L29: Hard tyres are getting better lap times as we go through the stint. Webber overshoots his pit box on the dust, hits his jack man. Everyone has to shuffle down a bit. Martin: If you go in too hot that can happen, but if you’re too careful you lose too much time.

L28: Team checks in with Glock again. No wing adjustment for Timo, he’s happy. During the next few laps he pits while we’re in an ad break. He’s 1-stopping and looking to beat Vettel who’s 2-stopping.

L25: This is fairly uneventful. I’m not gonna lie, I’m flipping between this and the Olympic Closing Ceremony which is just starting because a) this race is boring and b) I want to see London’s handover segment. If I miss anything tell me later ‘k?

L22: Hamilton struggling to match Massa’s pace, has he settled for 2nd and the championship points? Raikkonen is catching Kovy. The Ferraris *are* faster in these conditions. If I were McLaren I’d be hoping for cloud cover.

L19: Massa pits and is released into Sutil. Traffic already in pitlane has priority! You can try and beat him but once he’s there you’ve got to give way. Ferrari’s error, no doubt about it. Not Massa’s fault, he goes when the team tells him.

Incident involving car 2 under investigation.

L18: Hamilton pits. Emerges behind Massa. Vettel in.
L17: Kubica in.
L15: Sutil into the wall. Okay the tyre wall. Yellow flags at turn 2, they should be able to recover that without the SC as he’s in a runoff area.
Incident with car 2 will be sorted after the race.
Rosberg now into a runoff, continues.
L14: Kimi hit a man! He left his pit box with the fuel hose still attached, it took a guy with it. Kimi stops immediately. The mechanic is stretchered away to the medical centre. Replay: Kimi goes on the orange light. Ferrari have a light system rather than a man with a stop board. Supposed to wait for green, the orange lit and he went.

L11: Now his engine! Kimi’s engine has gone. Boom! He’s on the pit straight in front of everyone as well.. pulls to the side. This doesn’t help his points battle, and he might be relegated to Massa’s Helper.

L9: Kovalainen 4th is much quicker than Kubica 3rd. Catching him fast. Enough laps left? Fisi gets it wrong on the kerb.

L7: Louise with Kimi: Oh, she’s not got him, he’s walking past everyone, not talking. Will try to get him later.

L6: Team to Glock: “Rosberg catching you.” Shot of people on the funnel of the ship!

L5: Ferrari man to Ted [on Massa incident]: “Nobody lost time”.
Allen (bloke can’t hear him): “That’s not the point! It was an unsafe release, as the caption said.”
Massa’s conception was an unsafe release.

These last laps are really tedious. Where is the passing we were promised? Can I at least have a close battle? Some form of intrigue? No? Nothing?

L2: Brundle cottons on: “Not much overtaking. Hopefully the 2009 car regulations will bring overtaking back to F1.”
Allen: “Vettel is 10 km/h faster than Trulli on the straights here.”
Salient point there James..

L1: Brundle: “Great drive but rules are rules.” He’s been complaining for a while now that Massa should have been given a penalty. Expects a grid penalty next race.

Chequered Flag – Massa wins!
Hamilton 2nd then a biiig gap to Kubica 3rd and the chasing cars.

Finishing order:

MAS, HAM, KUB, KOV, TRU, VET, GLO, ROS, HEI, BOU, PIQ, WEB (-1), BUT (-1), FIS (-1), NAK (-1), BAR (-1), COU (-1)
DNF: RAI, SUT, ALO

Martin’s Driver of the Day? Sebastien Vettel.
I’d choose Glock because he had a much lower starting position and finished one place back from Vettel. Martin gives it to Vettel because of his ablity to run up front at speed.

Rob Smedley, race engineer for Massa: “We released him and he backed off [to let Sutil through]. Silly little incident let’s not dwell on it.” Then into the usual ‘great race’ platitudes the engineers give their drivers when they win.

James Allen says it: “Not a thriller but lots of drama.”
Martin Brundle: “Yes and Kubica is only 2 points behind Raikkonen now.”

This year has seen good racing and an even better points battle. Let’s look at the tables:

WDC
Hamilton 70
Massa 64
Kimi 57
Kubica 55
Kovy 43
Heidy 41

WCC
Ferrari 121
McLaren 113
BMW 96
Toyota 41
Renault 31
RBR 24

Full tables at www.formula1.com as is the transcript of the press conference, I haven’t read that, this is from the TV:

Massa: “Chose the right tyres yesterday. Pole, race, fastest lap what more to ask for? Start was just great, car improving lap by lap. Sutil not clever, should have let me by. I was the leader and he was the lapping (lapped) car.”
Uh, no, there has been a precedent for some time… you’re stopped and a guy is coming past, if there isn’t room for two wide you wait until he’s through.

Hamilton: “Strong weekend, problems healthwise. Nice new circuit, solid weekend. Track not too physical but hot.”
ITV decided that hearing from Kubica was none of our business so cut away to Steve and Mark babbling again, because that’s what we all want to hear.
Louise got a very quick comment from Sutil: “Car just appeared alongside me.”

I think his bit was edited because we’re quickly into the ITV F1 competition then dumped out into adverts and an old Carry On film. Seriously? I can understand Coronation Street, biggest soap in the country. But this shit? Nothing like cutting a post-race debrief short for a 1967 “comedy”.

I really hope the racing gets better next year because Valencia was a fantastic venue! One I would be tempted to visit.

Okay, so that concludes my notes for this event. Sorry if this is too long for you, whaddaya gonna do. Feedback is appreciated.

I missed the IRL at Sonoma on the big fuck-off TV, had to go elsewhere. I’ll catch it later in the week.

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