European Grand Prix fails to live up to Valencia setting

PUBLISHED: 18:12 28 August 2008 | UPDATED: 22:19 26 October 2009

Lewis Hamilton driving by the harbour front in Valencia  Pictures courtesy of www.mclaren.com

Lewis Hamilton driving by the harbour front in Valencia Pictures courtesy of www.mclaren.com

BBC Radio 5-live F1 commentator David Croft looks back on events at the European Grand Prix in Valencia IT takes a huge amount of effort to stage a Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Even at one of the 12 proper circuits on the calendar this year work will start we

The scene in Valencia for the European Grand Prix

BBC Radio 5-live F1 commentator David Croft looks back on events at the European Grand Prix in Valencia

IT takes a huge amount of effort to stage a Formula 1 Grand Prix.

Even at one of the 12 proper circuits on the calendar this year work will start weeks before to make sure that everything is in place for the 10 teams when they start to arrive.

Motorsports / Formula 1: World Championship 2008, GP of Europe,  port of Valencia, Hafen, Yachthafen, 22 Lewis Hamilton (GBR, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes),
 *** Local Caption *** +++ www.hoch-zwei.net +++ copyright: HOCH ZWEI / Juergen Tap +++

The first trucks get to the track six days before the race to set up the garage and build the vast motor homes that serve as the teams' base in the paddock. Then more trucks arrive from Tuesday onwards, bringing the equipment and more importantly the cars themselves.

It's a huge logistical operation carried out at vast expense all for the purposes of a sporting spectacle.

When Formula 1 races on a street circuit the effort is of course doubled, with the track taking shape from scratch around two months before the event. As it was in Valencia, where since the announcement last year that they would stage a street race around the harbour side the local authorities have been working hard to create a stunning spectacle to rival the sport's iconic venues.

Sadly, the racing rather let them down.

Motorsports / Formula 1: World Championship 2008, GP of Europe , 
22 Lewis Hamilton (GBR, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes),
 *** Local Caption *** +++ www.hoch-zwei.net +++ copyright: HOCH ZWEI / Juergen Tap +++

I say racing, but procession might be better way of describing last Sunday's grand prix.

A classic example of why Formula 1 needs to cut down the reliance of aerodynamics on its cars.

The rules are changing in this regard for next year, so hopefully by the time we return to Spain's third largest city we might be in for a better show.

In 2008, though, one car just couldn't get close enough to the guy in front to even consider overtaking, due to the problems of running in the dirty air and turbulence created by speeds of up to 200mph.

Like I said, hopefully the new rules for next year will solve the problem because Formula 1 just can't afford to have many races like this in the future. We were expecting crashes, safety cars and lots of incident.

Instead we were treated to an imperious performance by a bang in-form Felipe Massa.

What incident we did have took place in front of the main straight grandstands.

Partial reward then for the Spanish fans there that did remain after their hero Fernando Alonso's race was ruined by the careless Kazuki Nakajima on the third corner.

They'd paid in the region of €450 a ticket, so despite the temptation to head back to the beach a few did stick around.

Those in front of the Ferrari garage were treated to a fairly inept display in the pits.

Releasing Massa into the path of Adrian Sutil and forcing the Force India driver to back off at the end of the pit lane before crashing into the Brazilian was a tad careless.

But that paled into insignificance at the sight of Kimi Raikkonen pulling away from his second stop before being given the green light by the team and with the fuel hose still attached.

Fortunately, the mechanic who was floored by the trailing heavy hose suffered only minor injury, but why did Raikkonen leave before the green light? Was he being spoken to via his radio? Something that never used to happen during a pit stop whilst Ross Brawn was with the team.

Did that distract him at a tense time?

Ferrari had to get him out before Heikki Kovalainen came past or his race was ruined. Could that explain his premature departure?

Either way it mattered little in terms of Raikkonen's race when moments later down the main straight his engine suffered a massive failure. That's four retirements through engine failure for Ferrari this season, two big failures in two races.

At Marenello they must be as concerned with the performance of their 2.4 litre V8 powerplants as they are with their champion driver. Both seem a little frail at present.

Meanwhile, Herts' Lewis Hamilton picked up an impressive second place on a weekend where he suffered from fever and a back spasm that almost stopped him racing.

On the fever front I know how he feels. The entire BBC 5-live team suffered in Valencia, shall we say our stomachs churned more than a vat of buttermilk.

Lewis never looked like winning, but he took the maximum haul from the race that he could.

And whilst McLaren will be concerned that Ferrari have maybe stepped ahead in the development race at the last two grands prix, they will be more than encouraged with the maturity being shown by their driver who, as in Hungary, was second best in the race, but still increased his championship lead.

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