Oh dear. The Ball is refusing to come out of its velvet lined box. After the rip-roaring start to the season with seven winners from the first seven races, we’re due to pitch up this weekend at the arse end of a fish market for the European GP in Valencia. Not only that, but the annual mahoosive beach party – the Festival San Juan has been cancelled. Maybe they thought things were just too lively there!
Anyway, after much coaxing, here is what the ball thinks will happen this weekend.
It’s hot, hot, hot and it doesn’t take long for some of the teams, including Red Bull, Williams and Sauber to find their bodywork starting to smoulder forcing them to cut holes in them. There’s talk of a protest as Red Bull only have holes and not slots in their bodywork…
First visitor to a wall is unsurprisingly Senna. Williams, in anticipation of this had fitted the front wing from a FW16 as they found a few spare in their stockroom.
Other visitors to areas beyond the track are Ricciardo, Perez and most spectacularly Massa, who spins and manages to back his Ferrari into the wall at turn 3, the car ending up halfway up the wall and bringing out a red flag.
At the end of the day Hamilton is fastest from Schumacher, Raikkonen and amazingly Vergne .
Having looked quite smug as to how the updated Caterham was performing, Mike Gascoigne has his head in his hands after five mins of qualy 1 when Petrov drops his green and yellow car at the end of the back straight and breaks his front suspension. Still there’s some cheer when Kovalainen gets through to qualy 2.
As expected, both HRTs and Marussias are eliminated and are joined by Vergne (normal service resumed) and amazingly Mark Webber! Red Bull, having thought they’d done enough brought their cars in, but with most midfield teams fitting the softer option, very quickly the Aussie and his German team-mate plummeted down the order and 17th & 18th.
Qualy 2 is a little more predictable with most of the usual suspects getting through. Dropping out are Massa, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Perez, Kobayashi, Kovalainen and Senna.
Amazingly, Maldonado makes it through to the top ten without trying to force someone off the road.
The pole position shoot out is a cracker (and probably the most interesting part of the weekend). Least spectacular is Button who is still struggling to unlock a setting on the McLaren that works for him, he nets 10th.
Up front, initially Schumacher goes fastest, but is replaced almost immediately by Hamilton, then Vettel, then Raikkonen – it’s like a revolving door!
Di Resta does one run and parks his car in 9th, Maldonado grabs 8th and Grosjean 7th.
The top six all go out for one more lap. Rosberg is first over the line, initially first, but ends up 6th, followed by a disappointed Alonso who had to come off the brakes or have a massive flat spot. Schumacher also briefly tops the times before Hamilton bangs in the fastest lap of the weekend so far.
So, with two cars left, Raikkonen misses Hamilton’s time by 0.002s and ends up third as Pointy Finger comes through at the death and nicks pole by 0.004s. So, the top five is made up of world champions with 14 titles between them. What could possible go wrong???
It’s hot on raceday and as the start draws near, the anticipation builds. Could this finally be a great GP in Valencia? Of course not.
The lights go out, the race starts and… nothing happens. Everyone gets away well, there’s no spins, overtakes or even slight contact. Not really. Maldonado tags Grosjean going into the left right complex and half spins the bank manager. The ensuing confusion sees Senna mount Kobaysahi’s Sauber and Pic panic and drive into the wall! Safety Car.
After six laps behind Bernd we’re off again and it’s pretty processional up to the first stops. Vettel still leads after they’ve all been in, but Hamilton & Raikkonen went wheel to wheel as the Finn exited the pits and eventually muscled his way past the McLaren. The next three laps see Lewis no more than two car lengths behind the Lotus, but he cannot pass.
Surprisingly, Grosjean managed to get going undamaged after his spin and is now on the cusp of the top ten and makes an early second stop for the harder tyre and looks set to go to the end. Raikonnen also goes onto the harder tyre when he stops a couple of laps later as he tries the undercut. It doesn’t work and he falls to fourth.
In the middle of the pack, Webber and Massa are having a great battle over 12th. Well, it was great until the Brazillian decided to park in the side of the Red Bull. Both are out.
The top three come in for their third stop and rejoin a few seconds behind Kimi, with Hamilton now in second with Alonso third and Vettel back in fourth after a wheel nut stuck (who said there’s not a God?).
Ten laps later, it finally dawns on the leader, Raikonnen isn’t stopping again. Will it work, or will he plummet down the order like he did in China?
Hamilton closes up on Kimi, but to no avail. The chequered flag falls on our eighth winner in eight races. Lewis takes second, Fernando third, Pointy Finger fourth and Button, quietly worked his way to fifth. Schumacher, relieved to finish nets sixth ahead of Maldonado, diResta, Perez and Grosjean who nicked the last point.
So, a dull race is enlivened in the press conference when Kimi uses at least four syllables to answer the questions…
So, there you have it. Dull place, dullish race and one it would be great never to go back to.