More Monza than Monaco - why Valencia's no ordinary street circuit 15 Aug 2008
Mention the term street circuit and the words that normally spring to mind include tight, twisty, slow, and minimal overtaking. However, the all-new Valencia Street Circuit, venue for next weekends European Grand Prix, is set to provide a very different experience.
Winding around the Spanish ports Juan Carlos I Marina, home to the recent 32nd Americas Cup yacht race, the Valencia track is fast, sweeping and wide, and offers several potential opportunities for passing. Predictions suggest it will be the eighth-fastest race on the calendar, making it more like Monza than Monaco.
"When you think about temporary street races in Formula One, you mainly think about Monaco, says Mercedes Norbert Haug. However, Valencia does not have very much in common with this classic race; just that both cities are located on the Mediterranean coast and that both circuits lead along the harbour front.
Official simulations have estimated a top speed of 320 km/h at the end of Valencias main straight and an estimated lap time around the 1m 37s bracket. With an expected average speed of 225 km/h, the circuit should be on a par with a venue such as Bahrain (average speed 205 km/h) and far quicker than Monte Carlo.
This is not typical for a street race; it is more like a version of Silverstone or Monza but located in a city," adds Haug. While the Monte Carlo race is the slowest of the year with an average speed of about 156 km/h for the fastest lap, and is also the shortest with a race distance of almost 254 kilometres, we face a race distance of 310 kilometres in Valencia and a track on which the cars will reach 300 km/h or more five times per lap.
The new venue is likely to prove as tough on brakes as Canadas Montreal street circuit, with three stops down to around 80 km/h. Engines will also get a demanding workout, with the longest full-throttle section along the harbour-side back straight lasting a full 13 seconds.
"It looks pretty fast, to be honest, says McLarens Heikki Kovalainen. You get used to street circuits being quite slow, with lots of slow- to medium-speed corners and very short straights, but this is almost the opposite. There are a lot of fast kinks and esses, a couple of decent straights and lots of high-speed stuff.
McLarens simulations suggest they will employ downforce levels similar to those used at Hockenheim in Germany. However, there will be less margin for driver error thanks to the combination of relatively high speeds and relatively few run-off areas.
Anybody whos studied any onboard footage of the circuit will be mindful of the proximity of the concrete barriers in certain areas, says McLarens Formula One CEO, Martin Whitmarsh. Clearly, well be packing plenty of spares, but hoping we wont need to use them!"
Opening practice for the European Grand Prix takes place on Friday, August 22.