When is a street circuit really a street circuit?
The third running of the Grand Prix of Europe in Valencia this weekend raises the question of just what really constitutes a street circuit.
It sounds obvious but a real street circuit uses the same roads used by you or me, as we go about our daily business. That makes the resulting race tracks bumpy, cramped and unforgiving. Sadly I don't believe the Valencia track really cuts it. It isn't really a street circuit.
It is not alone. In this year's Formula One World Championship there are officially six tracks that make the claim of being street circuits. In reality four of these are "wannabees" and only two, Monaco and Singapore, properly live up to the billing.
Albert Park in Melbourne is, as its name suggests, a park. We don't as a rule drive our road cars around a park.
A road around a park isn't a street. Therefore great though Albert Park is - it's not really a street circuit.
The same can be said for the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. A great track and it gave us a brilliant Canadian GP, but its roads simply don't lead anywhere. The track is on a one kilometre island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. Nice try Canada, but no.
Valencia, along with Abu Dhabi, is created around a vast newly-built yacht marina, in this case originally devised to host the America's Cup. Worse still its outlook presents TV viewers and visitors with vistas of industrial suburbs and container parks. Monaco it ain't!
Even though Valencia may be wide of the mark in terms of purity and atmosphere, it doesn't mean though that we can expect a dull race. On the contrary, as in Canada we can expect a battle royal between the McLaren and Red Bull Racing teams, with Lewis Hamilton perhaps as the favorite.
The Briton has finished second in both previous races and neither of the drivers who beat him have the machinery to do so again. 2009 race winner for Brawn, Rubens Barrichello is comprehensively outgunned in his Williams Cosworth. In fact he'll be lucky to make the top ten in a car that hates this kind of track.
In 2008, Felipe Massa was at his stunning best when he brushed the concrete walls with his Ferrari on his way to a devastating pole position. It was followed by an equally emphatic victory.
This year, I am not sure whether Massa is still suffering the effects of his Hungaroring accident, but he has been lacklustre so far in comparison with his Ferrari teammate Alonso. I would love to see Massa return to his 2008 form in Valencia, but I just don't see it happening.
Ferrari fans can certainly look to Fernando Alonso to give everything in what is a home race for him. However although Ferrari is improving, their car is still no match for the Red Bull or McLaren opposition.
Alonso's attempts will be interesting to watch though, but I suspect that the top four places will be dominated by the usual suspects. Button and Hamilton, Webber and Vettel - you pick the order!
With aspirations of a potential first podium, Force India could however spring a surprise. Canada, along with Monaco, was the second race in which the team got both their cars into the championship points and they certainly could repeat the feat again in Spain.
With the team making it clear that they want to retain Adrian Sutil for another season, Tonio Liuzzi is under pressure to maintain a more consistent form. The rumour mill is increasingly linking Karun Chandhok with a potential seat in 2011.
Such a deal in the lead up to the 2011 Indian Grand Prix has been described as a "no brainer" for Force India from a publicity point of view. I suspect though that Dr. Mallya will, as indeed will HRT driver Chandhok, be keeping his focus firmly on the Valencia track this weekend.
Catch F1 race commentator Steve Slater on STAR Sports' coverage of the Formula One.
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