Formula One kicks off the summer season this weekend with round eight of the 2012 World Championship taking place at the Valencia street circuit in its guise as the European Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton arrives back in Europe fresh from his commanding victory in the demanding Canadian Grand Prix a fortnight ago and is eager to add to his tally; likewise Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and others are determined to claim their second victory of the season.
Whilst not known for its illustrious history of thrilling races, the Valencia circuit could well prove a turning point in the 2012 campaign which has seen seven different drivers win the opening seven races, a new record in the 62-year history of the sport. With only a handful of remaining drivers yet to win a race while running in a potentially victorious car, chances are our first repeat winner will be crowned this weekend.
However Kimi Raikkonen, Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez and others will be gunning to become the eighth different winner of the season.
Lewis Hamilton is in buoyant mood after his Canadian triumph but remains realistic heading into the intensive summer season of European races. ‘My win in Montreal was obviously an extremely satisfying moment for me – but, actually, it does very little to alter things in the world championship.’ said an unusually docile Lewis. ‘Firstly, while it’s always pleasing to be leading the championship, I’m only two points ahead of Fernando – which is nothing, particularly when there are a handful of really strong drivers all separated by a couple of points, so there’s still everything to play for. Secondly, the intensity of this year’s championship means there’s so little breathing space – we may have won in Canada, but there’s an enormous amount of pressure to keep racking up good results at every Grand Prix.’ Team mate Jenson Button is desperate for a decent showing to revive his championship hopes which have taken a tumble since the team introduced a new upgrade package at the Spanish Grand Prix. ‘The last few races haven’t delivered the results I’d like, but there are still 13 races to go.’ he smiled in an interview with the F1 website earlier in the week. ‘We’ve had seven different winners and no clear championship leader has emerged, so I’ll be looking to get a decent result under my belt next weekend in order to get my title bid back on track.’
While both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel threw away potential laurels in Canada with a handicapped tyre strategy, the two were happy to collect some points and Alonso especially will be desperate to claim his first Spanish victory since 2006. Vettel seems to have reached a new peak of performance in that he is still bagging the results in the face of not having the fastest car, something he enjoyed for both his title winning seasons in 2011 and 2011. Both men remain serious contenders for the 2012 title.
Mark Webber may have been something of a supporting role to Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull in 2011 but the Australian appears to have gone some way to rediscovering the form that took him to within a hair’s breadth of the 2010 world title with a dominant victory in Monaco and a steady stream of points that does not rule him out of the running to be the 2012 World Champion. A win at Valencia, scene of his horrifying crash two years ago would certainly boost his chances.
Mercedes will be champing at the bit to record a second victory of the year two months on from the stunning victory by
Nico Rosberg in Shanghai. Ideally, Michael Schumacher will also be able to improve on his current score of 2 points for the Brackley-based team after showing encouraging speed but dismal reliability in the first half of the season. Lotus too will be looking for one of their cars to cross the finish line in first after coming close in Bahrain and Canada, and at the moment young Frenchman Romain Grosjean looks to have the momentum within the team to get the job done after a superb 2nd place finish in Canada.
The traditional midfield squabble continues between Sauber, Williams and Force India with all three hoping to get a substantial result to boost their advantage over their rivals in the crucial scrap for 5th place in the constructors championship. After seven races Sauber lead the way but Force India have promised upgrades that threaten to put them firmly on a level footing with their competitors if not ahead.
Eighth race of the season. Eighth different winner? Maybe not this time…