The Lotus E20 has been arguably the most consistently fast car so far during this thrilling 2012 season. Kimi Räikkönen has already picked up a third and a second place, and sits sixth in the standings (60). Romain Grosjean has achieved the same podium placings and is just two points behind his team-mate. The next step is clear.
Valencia Street Circuit winds around a harbour and across a dynamic-looking swing bridge, which is welded shut, forcing yacht captains to get their berths in the harbour before the track action begins.
Valencia has one notable straight, which is one more than Monaco, and encourages overtaking - though we’ve seen little of it in the four years since the track appeared on the calendar. As with any street circuit, there are more bumps than on a purpose built track, and the first proper corner – Turn 2 – is made trickier by being both bumpy and tight.
The next stretch is rather stop-start in nature down to Turn 8, with the emphasis on traction rather than aerodynamic grip. Between Turns 10 and 12 the cars run flat-out for 12 seconds.
There are 25 corners in total, which make this circuit physically challenging over the course of 57 laps, and it’s easy to make a mistake. Due to its coastal location, a strong sea breeze can cause balance problems.
Local start time: 14h00
Number of laps: 57
Circuit length: 5.419km
Race distance: 308.883km
Lap record: Timo Glock (Toyota, 2009), 1m38.683
WHAT THE DRIVERS SAY:
Kimi Räikkönen: “Valencia is a street circuit, but the layout is not like Albert Park, Monaco or Montreal. It’s definitely the fastest track of these four. It’s likely to be hot and we seem to go well in warm conditions so that’s what we’ll be hoping for. Qualifying is going to be very, very important again here. Obviously, there will be an advantage to starting on the clean side of the track as the streets are only used as a circuit once each year. It’s not an easy place to overtake and we’ll have to see how much help the DRS will be. Valencia is all about being very consistent. It’s so easy to lose time with small mistakes. I’ve never won in Valencia, so it’s a good target. Last time I raced in Valencia I finished in third after starting from sixth on the grid, which was not too bad.”
Romain Grosjean: “The gap to the win is not that big. We need to qualify better, that is not our strength this season but we are working on it. I think Friday and Saturday were quite difficult for us in Canada but we have been learning a lot about the car so it’s good that we now have that in our pocket for the next races. I made my Formula One debut in Valencia 2009, so it brings back good memories and it’s a circuit I like anyway. I had a podium in the first GP2 race here in 2008 and was leading the second race until somebody took me out! Then I managed to win in 2011, so it’s a circuit I’m comfortable with for sure. It definitely helps to know the track already as it usually takes less time to get up to speed and you have a rough idea of where the braking points, turn ins and so on will be. There’s always a great atmosphere too; the city centre is obviously very close, and the America’s Cup harbour is a really nice place to go. The track itself it quite interesting; there are a few second / third gear corners, some high speed sectors, heavy braking zones and usually good weather too so on paper it’s a circuit that could suit us quite well. Hopefully this will be the case!”
Santiago Calatrava’s City of Arts and Sciences is a masterpiece surrounded by mirror-calm waters. L’Hemispheric is built in the shape of an eye and features an IMAX cinema, planetarium and laserium, while the Principe Felipe Science Museum behind it resembles the skeleton of a whale.
Also part of the City of Arts and Sciences, L’Oceanographic has sharks, Beluga whales, walruses, sea lions, penguins and manta rays, which inhabit nine underwater towers. The marine park simulates tropical seas and polar oceans, and also has a spectacular dolphinarium. The piranha club is popular with spectators too, but you have to trot down to the F1 paddock to see that.
Monty Python fans will be thrilled to discover that the (alleged) Holy Grail resides here, in Valencia’s Old Quarter at the Santa Maria Cathedral. Whether it really is the cup used by JC and his disciples at the Last Supper is disputed, but plenty of scholars and historians believe it’s the most likely candidate.
Spitting distance from the paddock, Valencia’s proudest tapas bar, Casa Montaña, is also one of the least expensive. Order their delicious anchovies and cod fish croquettes. Wine tastings are often organised. Participants are requested not to wear perfume, in case it throws them off the scent.
Café Infanta is a mentally eclectic bar, which draws every demographic known to man, all in search of a good time. Décor amounts to a clutter of cinematic memorabilia. Specialities include the Café Infanta vodka-based cocktail, and whisky and gin mixes. Music ranges from jazz to opera and disco to salsa. Should you visit on Wednesday you’ll find an antiques auction begins at midnight. Bizarre.
Club Las Animas Puerto is right on the circuit, down at Turn 7, and actually features a grandstand built into the dance floor. Guests can watch the race with a refreshing Piña Colada, should they wish. At night, it gets packed out – David Coulthard had one of several retirement parties here (no, not just when his car broke down).