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Europe Preview - who'll seize mid-season advantage? 24 Jun 2010

Luca Badoer (ITA) Ferrari F60.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, European Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Valencia Spain, Saturday, 22 August 2009 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, Canadian Grand Prix, Race, Montreal, Canada, Sunday, 13 June 2010 Lotus are celebrating their  500th GP.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Valencia Spain, Thursday, 24 June 2010 (L to R): Karun Chandhok (IND) Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT) with team mate Bruno Senna (BRA) Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT) at the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ci?ncies.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Valencia Spain, Thursday, 24 June 2010 Bridgestone tyres.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 9, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Valencia Spain, Thursday, 24 June 2010

This weekend’s European Grand Prix marks the notional halfway point of the 2010 world championship title fight, and sees a whole load of teams bringing updates to try to make ground on their rivals.

Local hero Fernando Alonso and team mate Felipe Massa are pinning their hopes on a big aerodynamic upgrade to the Ferrari F10, with which the Spaniard was a threatening third recently in Canada. McLaren have more new bits for their MP4-25, the winner of the last two races in the hands of Lewis Hamilton.

Red Bull, Mercedes, Force India and Williams all have their F-ducts, though not all of them will race them. That depends on their performance in practice. “We will evaluate it on Friday and then make a decision as to whether we race with it or not," the Red Bull team says, also adding that despite his gearbox problem in Canada Sebastian Vettel is unlikely to need a replacement this weekend which would incur a grid penalty.

Williams say the same thing about their F-duct, Mercedes ditto. A year ago Michael Schumacher had planned to race here for Ferrari; now he’ll be here with an updated Mercedes looking for a big improvement on his form in Montreal.

For all that, McLaren start favourite after their form in Canada. “I’m really looking forward to racing in Valencia,” says points leader Lewis Hamilton, who is looking for a hat trick. “I had a great, attacking race there last year - but I’ve finished second for the past two seasons, so I feel like I have some unfinished business!

“I also think it’s good for the championship to have a variety of circuits - we’ve just come from a fast, flowing road course in Canada, to a tight street track in Valencia. And, next month, we’ll be at Silverstone. As a driver, that sort of variety makes the racing exciting and unpredictable, which is all you can really ask for.

“The last few Grands Prix have had some fantastic racing - it would be great for all the Spanish fans if we can have a great race here too. It’s not a circuit where we’ve seen too much passing in the past, but I think this year could be different - the grid is so tight, there were battles all through the field in Montreal last week, so I think we could have a close and exciting race this year.”

Paul di Resta will be back in action for Force India on Friday morning, taking over Adrian Sutil’s VJM03 now that the team have sorted out their F-duct.

It’ll also be a very important weekend for Lotus Racing as they celebrate the marque’s 500th Grand Prix, and Colin Chapman’s son Clive will be on hand together with the first Lotus single-seater, the Type 12 from 1956, and the latest, a brand new T127 chassis that Jarno Trulli will drive.

“Celebrating the 500th race will be an absolute honour, and will obviously be very special,” says team principal Tony Fernandes, “but we’re only nine races of the whole Lotus story. Really, this weekend is all about celebrating Colin Chapman’s history, and thanking Clive, his mother Hazel, and all the people that have helped shape the Lotus legend.

“I’m thrilled that some of the people that were part of the original story are with us today, and I’m proud we’ve been able to take the total number of races Lotus has taken part in to 500 and beyond - hopefully we’ll be celebrating 1,000 races one day, and can look back on a legacy that pays true homage to that we’re celebrating this weekend - the legacy of Colin Chapman, his family, his cars and his team.”

It is also a key weekend for HRT who race at home for the second time this year.

The 5.419 kilometre street course is located down in the city’s port area and is not dissimilar to the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve. It’s a relatively high-speed track with long 300 km/h straights and 25 tight corners, so it’s another place where getting the compromise of straight-line speed versus downforce is a real challenge for the engineers. And since it isn’t a permanent circuit, you can expect track evolution to play a similarly key role to the one it played in Canada.

Bridgestone will again bring their medium and super-soft compounds and Hirohide Hamashima, director of motorsport tyre development, says: “From a riverside street course in Canada we now head to a seaside street course in Europe. In common with the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, Valencia has several high-speed sections, but more corners. The layout and track surface is more aggressive to the tyres than in Montreal so we do not expect the same challenge for teams to get maximum performance from the medium and super soft compounds. This year’s race takes place in June, as opposed to the late August date of the first two Grands Prix here, but we don’t believe the date change will present us with radically different weather.”