AT&T Williams European GP preview

Formula One’s summer break comes to an end this week and the remaining seven rounds of the 2008 FIA World Championship get underway with the European Grand Prix. The first of two new tracks on the calendar this season, and the sport’s second trip to Spain this year, Valencia makes its debut as an all-new street circuit on Sunday 24 August. Confirmed as an addition to the schedule just over a year ago in a multi-year agreement, Valencia takes over as host of the European round from the Nürburgring and has been tipped to become a reference point for Formula One street tracks across the world.

Located on Spain’s eastern seaboard, Valencia is a former industrial port but has undergone major modifications over the years and is now the country’s third largest city and regarded as a cultural mecca for tourists. The circuit itself has been built around the revamped Juan Carlos I Marina in the re-constructed America’s Cup harbour. As the majority of the circuit runs along the coastline, the Mediterranean will provide a stunning backdrop for next weekend’s race. Touted as a street circuit but with all the benefits of a permanent track, Formula One’s newest destination has the potential to become one of the most favoured venues Formula One visits.

Nico Rosberg I’ve had a nice, but not particularly, relaxing couple of weeks in the Alps during the break. I’ve spent some time with family and friends but mostly I’ve been training. Valencia is a Grand Prix I’ve been looking forward to as it’s not only a new circuit, but a new street circuit. From what I’ve seen and read about it, I think it’ll be a great track to race on so I can’t wait for the weekend to start. The atmosphere will no doubt be fantastic as well because the Spanish have a real passion for Formula One. Valencia should be a track that suits our car, so I’m hoping we’ll have a good race and take something positive away from Spain.

Kazuki Nakajima I’m looking forward to a good race in Valencia. The new track looks great, and should be really interesting to race on. As at Monaco and Montreal, our car goes well at these kinds of tracks, so I’m hoping we’ll put in a good performance there. It shouldn’t take too long for the drivers to get used to the circuit, and for the first time the rest of the grid will be learning it with me! I’ve had a nice two week break, during which I returned home to Japan to catch up with family and friends, but now I’m looking forward to the last few rounds of the season.

Sam Michael, Technical Director, Williams F1 Valencia’s street circuit is a new addition to the calendar. It looks like a great track with some interesting sections for drivers and engineers alike. With 25 corners around the lap, it will be busy work for the drivers to maintain concentration and put together a perfect lap, particularly in qualifying. Because the circuit’s a new entity for the drivers, and because it will be green when they first go out of the garage, having a trouble-free run on Friday will be essential for a successful race weekend.

The cars will run a lower than normal rear wing drag level in Valencia due to the five long straight sections, and the long, sweeping corners will all be taken at full throttle. Bridgestone will bring the Soft and Super Soft tyres, both suited to street circuits.

Teams will, most likely, opt for a one or two stop strategy on the basis that overtaking on a twisty street circuit is always fairly restricted. We will, however, review strategy on Friday night after we have some more accurate data regarding tyre degradation and fuel consumption. Valencia, Spain Completed only a few weeks ago, Valencia’s new circuit is a relatively unknown quantity. What is clear, however, is that it has been designed to include all of the advantages of a street circuit while also incorporating all of the expected specifications and safety elements provided by a permanent venue.

Winding through the city’s harbour and docklands, Hermann Tilke’s 5.440km lap of Valencia consists of 25 turns, 11 left and 14 right, but, unlike Monaco’s tight and twisting street layout, the majority of Valencia’s turns are long and sweeping which has created a fast and flowing race track. Drivers will reach top speeds in excess of 300kph around the streets of Valencia and will spend 62% of the lap at full throttle, the longest period at which being 12 seconds between turns 10 and 12. With an average lap speed of 200kph predicted, simulations have set lap times around the 1m37s mark. At its widest, Tilke’s circuit stretches to 14 metres, and only drops to 12 metres at its narrowest, so overtaking opportunities won’t be short on ground this weekend.

Circuit mapping has determined that Valencia will demand a low downforce set-up to optimise the cars through the high speed lap, while the numerous braking events will escalate brake wear. Due to its coastal location, sea breezes could also cause some balance problems and a lack of grip in the initial stages of practice will be an inevitability. Factory simulations can only achieve so much, however, so the teams and their drivers will go into this weekend having to quickly learn the track during the Friday and Saturday morning practice sessions to set themselves up for a successful qualifying session and subsequent Grand Prix on Sunday.