Grand Prix 2011 European Grand Prix Practice, Qualifying & Race Discussion

Got your breath back yet?

After an exhilarating grand prix which lasted for record time, it seems as if there is renewed optimism that Sebastian Vettel can be caught after a last lap slip in the moist conditions in Canada allowing Jenson Button to take his first win for over a year despite a turbulent race which included crashes with Alonso and team-mate Hamilton, a puncture and a drive through.

However, a candidate for most improved driver since the season started is a certain Michael Schumacher. Ridiculed early on after a poor start, he seems to have found the groove again and if it hadn't have been for the last safety car, he arguably would have gotten his first podium since returning to the sport, indeed he was closing the gap to Vettel and could even have taken the win at one of his favourite circuits. Now that he has overtaken Rosberg in the standings, is it time for him to push on and show that he is worth the 7 world championships to his name?

Another name that has been bandied about the press recently is Lewis Hamilton, after a disappointing race in Monaco, he followed it with a worse showing at one of his most successful circuits. During the race he hit everything that moved, and seemed to take the blame for most if not all of the incidents, whether he deserves the current criticism is another thing entirely. He knows he needs a strong showing in Valencia where he has finished 2nd on every single visit so far to the Spanish circuit.

It is the second home race of the year for Fernando Alonso, but it looks like he is going to need more than home support to beat the Red Bulls here, however an improved showing in Canada was masked by a clumsy incident with Button which punted him out of the grand prix. Felipe Massa had an overall strong race and recovered form an impact in the wall to finish 6th after beating Kobayashi in a drag race to the line.

Williams claimed their first points of the year finally with Barrichello claiming a handful of points while Toro Rosso managed to get both drivers into the points which will go some way into relieving the pressure on the two embattled drivers who will no doubt be looking over his shoulder.

Looking ahead to Valencia, it is easy for people not to get their hopes up about any exciting racing as the European Grand Prix here hasn't been known for frantic racing, particularly as the 2009 race didn't have any overtaking whatsoever, yes, there were 0 overtakes. But with a combination of two long straights and the new dual DRS zones, we should be seeing tons of overtaking into the hairpin, remember Kobayashi's overtake on Alonso late on last year.

No doubt Mark Webber will want to eradicate last years memories where he found that Red Bull literally did give him wings when he flew 360 degrees in the air after tagging Kovalainens lotus at high speed, seeing as this happened in what will probably be a DRS zone this year, I sincerely hope we do not see a repeat, while Webber walked away unharmed, it is never nice to see that happen in any kind of motorsport.

For Galahads superb circuit write up, see here
The will probably be another boring precession untill a backmarker gets in the way and spices things up. I'm certain Vettel will be on pole with Webber possibly a close second if he can string a good lap together. Despite a third of the season gone, the difference in qualifying performance between McLaren and Ferrai still remains unclear although the former have the superior race pace. The Ferrari looks a bit unpredictable at the moment but I would not be surprised to see Alonso out-qualify both McLarens. Hamilton badly needs clean race and it is essential he qualifies on the front row. Was he wild at the start last year or what!!.

Short highlights from last year....

Top 10:

1] Vettel
2] Hamilton
3] Button
4] Webber
5] Alonso
6] Rosberg
7] Massa
8] Kobiyashi
9] Schumacher
10] Perez (if fit) or Heidfeld.

Dark horse (driver)

Nico Rosberg, needs the performance as he has of late been out gunned by what some would call a past it veteren. He needs to reassert his domination at Mercedes Petronas.

Dark horse (team)

Sauber, and I make this on the premise that Perez is fit, I reckon a two car top 10 for Sauber.

My feeling is a return to status quo this coming race and you have to put the smart money on a team that has performed well this season even at the tracks that are deemed to be unfriendly to RBR. On form and pace I go for a split weekend with a RBR winner but McLaren dominating the Constructors points.

I have only put Ferrari down the list as it is medium (harder compound) and Ferrari don't have the downforce of McLaren and RBR on the harder tyres(I accept not the hard compound but harder than soft), I can see a best case scraped podium or a 4-5 finish tops for the Scuderia boys.
Seb on pole from Lewis, a wet race and a coming-together between them at the first corner. Jenson wins from Alonso & a fired-up Webber who races from the midfield after a gearbox failure in Q2. Schumacher follows Rosberg home in 5th & Rubens finishes 9th again. Rest of top 10 taken up with Renaults & Saubers...:yesss:
No chance of rain, but I don't want it anyway, with dual DRS and those 2 long straights we should be seeing some action.
Ok then - scratch out the "wet race" part, but the rest of my predictions stay...

...furthermore I add the following predictions for Valencia:

Christian Horner will start a sentence with "Yeah,no"
Maldonado will race in the top 10 before binning it (or being binned) in the last few laps
Jessica Michibata will look stunning (again) - even if she's not there
Lewis will dispense with the ludicrous "chinstrap" beard, believing it to have brought him bad luck
Martin Whitmarsh will guffaw inappropriately at something incomprehensible that falls out of EJ's gob
positivity thy name is MCLS!

Its Valencia so I'm not expecting fireworks - I am expecting safety cars though as walls and DRS don't mix.

I'm wondering how Vettel is going to react to his error - he's either going to let it get to him and make more errors. Same with Button - is he gonna be so over confident that he gets sloppy or so charged up he's going to storm the field?
I too, would like to see Seb bin it (sorry FB!) certainly enough to send him to the back of the pack quite late in the race - just want to see that the WDC is still alive and well much further into the season.

It would be great of Alonso could nail the top step, closely followed by Button and Hamilton (in no particular order). The Spanish boys (Alonso, Algesuari and de la Rosa, if Perez isn't fit) are going to be giving it some wellie to impress the home crowd and hope that none come a cropper. It would be useful if Webber could slip back to 9th or 10th as well.

We need a calm, but focussed, Lewis, Jenson and Nando and no histrionics/stupidity from the rest of the grid.

Other than that - don't particularly want rain for this GP, would prefer that we didn't see or hear from EJ, Christian Horner, Martin Whitmarsh; any of the parents, girlfriends or managers of the drivers and definitely no 'celebrities'!

Good, tight, clean racing.

Perfick! :)
After seeing Vettel this year I can only seeing it motivate him, like after China.

Baring a mischief or something going poof in Vettels car, I think in general Red Bull have thus far rewritten the status quo, they have dominated on tracks that they were said not to be that strong on.

Anything can happen but I would not think that it is pressure time for RBR, the onus is on Ferrari and McLaren to start turning upside into high points yield.
It's definetely a season of firsts, mainly for Vettel :whistle: But, entertaining GPs in Barcelona and Monaco, if Valencia and Hungary are similar it will prove how bizarre this season is
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