Guest Author - Christine Blachford
As fans, I think the majority of us are really excited about the race this weekend, simply because it's a new track and we have no idea what to expect. For the drivers, and their engineers, this is probably a complete nightmare. They will be trying to setup their cars without the masses of data that is acquired over the years, and trying to plan for a complete unknown. Let's take a look at some of the things they face.
Although weather conditions do change depending on where a circuit falls in the calendar, it can usually be quite predictable. Turkey this year was an example of some unpredictable weather, because it was much earlier than usual. However, it's fair to say that you can expect rain at Silverstone and Fuji, and very hot, dusty weather at Bahrain. At Valencia, it's a bit of an unknown. It's thought it might be quite windy, being so close to the water, and there are sailing competitions held there frequently. It looks like it's going to be sunny but not particularly hot, but until we get there, it's an unknown.
No doubt the drivers have been practicing the track in the simulators, and Lewis Hamilton has said he will be walking the course as soon as he is in Valencia. It shouldn't be a problem for the top 22 drivers in the world to pick up this new track quickly. However, it does have over twenty corners and is a tight street circuit. It's been compared to Monaco, although it isn't quite as compact as that race. It's a permanent street layout, and there are plenty of run off areas and barriers in place. It's just a matter of learning the course, getting used to the bumps and intricacies of the tarmac, which means we might see more action in the practice sessions than we're used to.
It's probably hard to guage which strategy to use until the above information is more clear. However, Ross Brawn of Honda has said he is getting data from some of the previous races that were held on the track to test it out, and he's learning as much as he can from it. Some of the teams are also planning for a safety car, as the barriers are so close and it's more likely a driver will make a mistake at the new circuit.
It looks like it's going to be a fascinating race, because whoever wins, it's a steep learning curve for us all. I'd love to know who you think is going to do well, or who is maybe lacking in preparation. Have your say on the forums!