The Valencia Street Circuit has bored virtually every Formula 1 fan in the world since the circuit’s debut in 2008, when Ferrari’s Felipe Massa took the victory. That year Valencia took over from the Nurburgring as the European Grand Prix, in the hopes of adding more grandeur to the event with a similar vibe to Monaco.
Monaco has pedigree and history topped off with a fat dollop of glamor, to be sure, but it’s also a unique and fantastic racetrack. The narrow streets twist, dive and ascend up and down a beautiful coast with a stunning view. A driver turns-in to many corners blind, shoots through tunnels, and brakes and turns over bumpy hills. It’s glorious chaos for a driver to overcome. That’s why nothing is more stunning than watching Senna qualify at Monaco on You Tube.
Contrast that to Valencia, an ironing board flat 5.4 km long track featuring 25 bland, homogenous corners and two not terribly straight, straights (which limit passing opportunities). The track lacks any character, provides no real challenge to the drivers, and fails to inspire the fans. Yes, there’s a marina and even a bridge. Things like that are all well and good. They can supplement a good track and make a great event. But they cannot forgive a bad track and make a good event. Bottom line, the racing isn’t good. If Monaco is the cream, Valencia is the ultra-pasteurized skim.
When the 2011 season got under way, we felt glimmers of hope. Thanks to a crazy mix of TRS (Pirelli tires), DRS*, and KERS**, F1 created a tasty recipe for passing opportunities and quite effectively added excitement to the racing. Despite Sebastian Vettel’s dominance, we enjoyed watching the World Championship. Even the traditionally parade like Spanish GP brought us a great battle for the lead between Vettel and Hamilton, with Red Bull beating the McLaren by just 0.6 seconds at the finish. But then came time for the European GP and despite all the technology and all the passing aids, Valencia still best served everyone as nap time. The race droned on for 57 tedious laps as Vettel cruised to victory 10 seconds ahead of Alonso.
So how, you may ask, can Valencia be any better this year? In my opinion it’s largely due to one thing—TRS, ahem, I mean tires. Thanks to Pirelli’s latest batch of tires, F1 has, thus far, delivered seven different winners in seven Grands Prix, coming from five different constructors (McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams for those who are keeping track). Every single race has brought us a surprise performance and plenty of entertainment on track; enough so that many, including Peter Sauber (link: http://www.formula1.com/news/interviews/2012/6/13458.html), hailed this season as the greatest ever seen.
So because we have this unbelievable season with unpredictable tires, Valencia has its best chance to entertain, not because it’s any good, but despite the fact that it’s so bad. At least, I hope.
-Robin Warner 06/14/2012
P.S. By the way, if the race remains terrible in 2012, it may not matter. Even though Valencia has a contract through 2014, both Catalunya and Valencia agreed to share the Spanish Grand Prix and alternate locations each year, with Catalunya holding the race in 2013. And, according to Wikipedia, the Valenica race is totally finished and FOM is looking to relocate the European Grand Prix, but I couldn’t find another source to back that claim up. Either way, at worst we will only have to endure Valencia bi-annually. – RW
• *Drag Reduction System
• **Kinetic Energy Recovery System