European GP: Williams preview

This Mediterranean-fringed circuit opened in 2008 and, in common with its better established Monegasque counterpart, presents one of the season's greatest overtaking conundrums. Quick for a street circuit, with average lap speeds of almost 200kph,...

This Mediterranean-fringed circuit opened in 2008 and, in common with its better established Monegasque counterpart, presents one of the season's greatest overtaking conundrums. Quick for a street circuit, with average lap speeds of almost 200kph, Valencia is a challenge for tyre supplier Bridgestone too because it incorporates no fewer than 25 corners (11 left-handers, 14 rights). On the evidence of the inaugural race, in which Nico Rosberg delivered a strong, points-scoring performance for Williams, two-stop strategies work best.

Talking technical

Car dynamics Average turn angle indicates the average angle of a circuit's corners expressed in degrees. The higher the average turn angle, the more acute the corners in the circuit's configuration and the greater propensity for understeer to compromise lap time. Average turn angle at Valencia is 1120 which is about average for the Championship.

The end of straight (EOS) speed at Valencia was 311kp/h in 2008. The Spanish track ranks as having the 5th highest EOS speed on the 2009 calendar, and this is one indicator of the wing level typically selected to optimise the downforce/drag ratio. Meanwhile, Valencia has the 4th lowest average lap speed of any of the tracks on the calendar.

Pitlane & refuelling strategy The pitlane length and profile contribute to the determination of the optimum fuel strategy. The pitlane loss at Valencia is approximately 15.5 seconds, which is the least penalising pitlane in the Championship. To complete a normalised distance of 5km around Valencia requires 2.45kg of fuel against an average of 2.42kg per 5km across all circuits this season, ranking the circuit as the 7th most demanding in terms of fuel consumption.

Safety car Another key contributor to the determination of race strategy is the likelihood of safety car deployments, which are influenced by weather considerations, the availability of clear run-off areas that allow racing to continue while recovery takes place and the circuit profile, especially the character of the entry and exit into turn one at the start of the race. There were no safety car deployments during the inaugural European Grand Prix in Valencia, however, the street circuit layout and lack of circuit run-off areas make it highly likely that there will be a safety car period.

Temperature, pressure & humidity As an example, it is a long observed tradition that drivers arriving at Interlagos complain about a lack of grip and an absence of engine power. Having become acquainted with a baseline of engine and aerodynamic performance during the season, the climb to 750 metres above sea level for one of the final races can, courtesy of the reduction in air density, rob a Formula One car of engine power, aerodynamic performance and cooling.

The losses can come close to double digit percentages and thus have a very real impact on car performance. Air density is a factor of the prevailing ambient temperature, which varies most significantly by season, air pressure which is closely linked to altitude and, to a much smaller degree, by humidity. Thus if races are run at the same time each year, the factor that tends to have the greatest bearing on air density is elevation. Valencia is at sea level and has an average pressure of 1,002.5mbar. As a consequence, the circuit's ambient characteristics will have little effect on engine power.

What the drivers say

Reflections on the Hungarian Grand Prix

Nico "From a team perspective, Hungary was another positive weekend. I had a bit of a messy start to the race, and I had to work hard to claw back positions after the KERS cars just flew past me off the line, but I'd gained my fifth place grid slot back before the end of the first lap and then progressed to fourth in the stops, which is where I finished the race. We had the opportunity to fight Raikkonen for second, but we made some mistakes. We need to iron those out if we're to make the most of our pace and start getting on the podium."

Kazuki "Something's got to give soon! It's very difficult starting from the midfield because performance levels are so close between the teams it's hard to make up places off the line. If you don't, and someone with a longer fuel load gets ahead of you, your race can be over on the first lap, which is what happened to me in Hungary when Button got ahead of me. It was frustrating, but I know some points will come my way soon."

What we've been up to during the shutdown

Kazuki "As I wasn't allowed in the factory due to the enforced shutdown (which was very strange for me as I basically spend all my time there between races, either with my engineers or in the simulator), I flew home to Japan. It was a long enough trip to catch up with lots of friends in Tokyo and to spend some time with my family as well. I kept up my training too as cockpit temperatures tipped 60o.C in Valencia last year and I don't want any distractions this weekend."

Nico "After the race, I spent a few days in Budapest with friends as I love the city, we then all went on to Ibiza for a few days on the beach. From there, I went home to Monaco to do some intensive training. I covered lots of ground on the bike, on the roads and into the mountains. As I've been following the Tour de France, I think I've developed a bit of a passion for it!"

Valencia -- from a technical perspective

Nico "This will only be our second trip to Valencia and I'm looking forward to going back as the organisers have built a really good track. Unlike what you would normally expect from a street circuit, Valencia has a lot of corners but they aren't tight and twisty, but quite fast and flowing so the whole lap is quite quick. Combined with the temperatures, it can be a demanding race, but I'm prepared."

Kazuki "I've spent lots of time on our simulator preparing for Valencia over the course of the year so feel I know the circuit quite well. It's not a typical street circuit, but you have to be really careful around the lap as there are no run off areas. I think the biggest challenges over the weekend are grip levels as it was quite green when we arrived last year as well as cockpit temperatures."

The city itself: love it or hate it?

Nico "Valencia's a cool city. The Spanish are really enthusiastic about Formula One, so the atmosphere is usually buzzing. The paddock is in the harbour, right next to the sea, so it's a little bit like Monaco, maybe not quite as glamorous, but a really nice location for a Grand Prix."

Kazuki "I enjoyed the trip to Valencia last year and am excited about going back, more so this time round because it feels like a long time since the last race and I want to get back into my car! I never explore much while I'm at a race as I prefer to concentrate on the job in hand, but Xevi, my engineer, is Spanish so I'm sure we will head out for some local food one night."

-credit: williams

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Nico Rosberg
Teams Williams