European Grand Prix 2012: Preview


This weekend Valencia plays host to the fifth grand prix to be held around its streets as Formula 1 heads to its eighth destination of a season where no driver has yet to stand on the top step of the podium more than once.

Unfortunately, if it was not for the uncertainty surrounding this race, and the huge number of potential winners, it is unlikely that this race would be worth two hours of your valuable time on Sunday afternoon (or over five hours if you watch all the race-day coverage from either Sky or the BBC) – this track does not produce exciting racing.

In the short history of this event, which has gone under the name of the European Grand Prix (the Spanish Grand Prix is the race in Barcelona), there have been three completely forgettable races, and one (in 2010) that would have been as equally unmemorable as the rest had it not been for the huge accident for Mark Webber that sent him and his Red Bull flying through the air.

Last season's race, won in a dominant fashion by Sebastian Vettel, was so uneventful that the BBC dedicated approximately five seconds of their hour-long season review to it. It was the kind of grand prix that F1's detractors – a vociferous (if slightly deluded) bunch – would have seized upon as proof that the sport is only about going noisy cars going round and round in circles with little else happening.

Thankfully, there are positives. Valencia looks like a beautiful place; there will be ample shots of the nearby beach, views of the Mediterranean, and probably large amounts of blue sky and sunshine. There will be big boats in the nearby harbour, always popular amongst F1's richer protagonists, and plenty of enthusiastic fans (although with the economic problems hitting Spain in recent months, it is expected that crowd numbers will be lower than in previous years).

Some would argue that the views are good in Valencia, but does that make up for the lack of racing excitement? - Photo Credit: Getty Images
Some would argue that the views are good in Valencia, but does that make up for the lack of racing excitement? – Photo Credit: Getty Images

 

And of course, this weekend could be the last time that Formula 1 visits Valencia for a race around the city's streets. It certainly will not be on the calendar next year – a new deal was reached to alternate this grand prix with the one in Barcelona and have just one race in Spain – and with it costing an estimated €12 million just to build and dismantle the circuit each year, on top of the fee paid to Bernie Ecclestone for the race, there are rumours that the organisers want to get out of the contract.

Just as in previous races, no-one can predict a winner to this weekend's race with any degree of confidence. Those hoping for an eighth winner in eight races will point to Lotus, and particularly Romain Grosjean, as a likely winner, and there is also a feeling that Michael Schumacher only needs a weekend without bad luck for him to be a contender for Mercedes. And maybe Felipe Massa can win his first race in over three years. The Brazilian was the winner of the inaugural event in Valencia in 2008.

Realistically though, it is more likely that someone who has already won in 2012 will be standing on the top step of the podium come Sunday afternoon. Sebastian Vettel would probably be the most obvious choice – he has won the last two grand prix here relatively easily. Mark Webber would also be a good bet, considering the affinity that the Red Bull cars of recent years have had with this circuit.

Lewis Hamilton is now championship leader after taking his first victory of the season last time out in Canada, and will also be thinking that he can be the first driver to win two races. McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, on the other hand, seems some way off Hamilton after his horror show in Montreal, and will probably be more than happy with a decent points finish in Spain to get his fading championship hopes back on track.

And of course, Fernando Alonso can never be ruled out of any race, especially now that Ferrari has finally seemed to find some pace from the F2012.

Felipe Massa victorious in Valencia in 2008. Will there be a Ferrari driver standing on the top step of the podium this weekend? - Photo Credit: Ferrari
Felipe Massa victorious in Valencia in 2008. Will there be a Ferrari driver standing on the top step of the podium this weekend? – Photo Credit: Ferrari

 

In summary then, over the course of two weeks, Formula 1 is going from the sublime (Canada) to, if not the ridiculous, the most dull. The uncertainty over who will win provides a good enough reason to watch the race, although it might be wise to have a good book nearby, just in case.

  • Qualifying for the European Grand Prix begins at 13:00 BST on Saturday, with the race starting at the same time on Sunday.
  • Live coverage of the action in Valencia is available in the UK on Sky Sports F1 HD, BBC One (HD) and on BBC Radio 5 Live.
  • There will reports and reaction throughout the weekend here on thecheckeredflag.co.uk