Drivers and teams explain how they prepare for the Valencia street track

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The Circuito Urbano Valencia is F1's newest street track

The European Grand Prix next weekend will be held at a new circuit for the teams: the Circuito Urbano Valencia in Spain.

The venue is so new it only held its first race a few weeks ago, so how are the teams preparing for this leap into the unknown? Here’s what Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Sam Michael and Lewis Hamilton’s race engineer have said about the Valencia street track.

Home driver Fernando Alonso expects the Valencia track to be different to Monte-Carlo. From the footage we’ve seen of the Circuito Urbano Valencia it certainly looks much wider and smoother, and very quick in places:

It’s not like a normal street track, it seems wide, like an American type of street circuit. But you will completely change your opinion and feelings when you run with an F1 car. We will need to maximise the Friday practice when we arrive there because it will be the only time to improve.

Phil Prew (Lewis Hamilton’s race engineer) explains how McLaren go about preparing for a new track and what he thinks of his driver’s prospects:

We look for similarities with other circuits to help give us a generic set-up. With street circuits, however, bumps and camber changes affect the car set-up more than on regular circuits.

You can expect a lot of evolution through a race meeting as rubber goes down. The biggest influence on this is if it rains, as this disrupts the process. Valencia is expected to be hot and dry.

It really helps if a driver is confident. It defines the level of margin that they’re prepared to accept. As he showed at Monaco, Lewis is prepared to leave a minuscule margin, and he finds the performance as a consequence. On street circuits, a driver who feels grip improve through the meeting is the one who finds the right solution soonest and learns where the bumps are and how to avoid them. Lewis will adapt very well to Valencia and Singapore as he proved last year that he’s quick to learn new circuits.

Sam Michael (Williams technical director) gives an insight into what information the team have about the circuit before the race:

Car set-up is selected based on the downforce level and the average corner speed. This is arrived at through mapping the circuit and then using that data to run it through a lap simulation programme.

Drivers work with their engineers to understand what the circuit will require. They may then use the simulator to drive the circuit if the circuit map is available prior to the event.

We’re only given limited data [before the race], such as a plan view circuit map. Sometimes we’re given CAD data so we can then create a more accurate map back at the factory. Additionally, Bridgestone are normally given access in advance in order to measure the track’s abrasiveness so they can pre-select the correct tyre compound.

Nico Rosberg said he would look at some of the onboard footage from the GT race at the circuit’s inaugural event a few weeks ago (you can see some of that footage here).

None of the F1 drivers went so far as participating in that weekend’s events. But a host of GP2 drivers did including Giorgio Pantano, Mike Conway, Luca Filippi, Vitaly Petrov, Ho-Pin Tung, Jerome d’Ambrosio, Javier Villa, Pastor Maldonado, Bruno Senna, Andreas Zuber and Davide Valsecchi.

Here’s what Rosberg had to say:

I’m going to watch the onboard from some of the GT racing to get a good idea of the track. But then it’s really taking a guess on the set-up, comparing with other street circuits, like Monaco, and from then we’ll just have to take it step by step through the weekend.

On a street circuit like that, the problem is that there is no grip at the beginning. On a normal track you’d learn it in like 15 laps or 10 even. But on a street circuit it’s going to take you more than that – maybe 20 laps – to get the hang of it. It’s going to be very important to keep the car on the track because if you crash you’ll lose a lot of time.

The circuit organisers have said they are working on some of the problems they identified with the track at its inaugural event. According to this story one of them was “problems was with newly-laid asphalt.” Track surface problems can be among the most difficult to fix as we saw at the Canadian Grand Prix earlier this year.

More information about the new Valencia street circuit

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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19 comments on “Drivers and teams explain how they prepare for the Valencia street track”

  1. The real question is how are the drivers going to prepare for Valencia/Singapore without a new update of an F1 videogame? :-D

  2. Don’t they hire simulator software developers to do the updates for them, Robert? :)

  3. This track does remind me of Long Beach in the USA a little bit. A fast street circuit with great climate and atmosphere. It’s going to be an interesting race to watch.

  4. Hello;
    Here is a map by Pedro de la rosa.
    Frenada-Frenar-Freno—> to brake and similars
    Curva—> Turn
    A fondo—> All speed (?)
    Well, my english for these terms is limited, so if i may suggest a good translator use this:
    Cheers :-)

  5. :-) @ Robert Mckay:
    As far as i know only Lewis is using videogames for training and wining his brother :-)

  6. this race should be interesting for sure, I would love to see Fernando Alonso do well at his home track but I would also love to see it as the start of Ferrari’s comeback to fight and win the world championship.

  7. With no previous data to work with, this will surely be the big test of who can set their car up the best without quite as much help from the teams as normal.

    Let’s see how Lewis and Alonso get on – shame they are no longer in the same team for a fairer comparison ;)

  8. I really think the McMercs are going to have a good outing here.Ferrari seems to have a set up problem at the moment and a new track isn’t going to help, and if memory serves,Massa doesn’t like street circuits,(Hamilton does).I am hoping BMW can take some points off Ferrari this time.

  9. michael counsell
    14th August 2008, 23:01

    Massa was on pole in Monaco and maybe could have won with a two stop stategy. He may not like them but he can drive them.

  10. A fight between Hamilton, Alonso, and Kubica would be great to see.

  11. Kimi must win.

  12. I’m expecting SeaBass to show his worth on this track

  13. let me add that I don’t mean for a win but for a very good result :)

  14. Alianora La Canta
    15th August 2008, 11:20

    The little comment at the end about the track breaking up has me rather worried. Track break-up is one thing the drivers don’t need!

  15. More from Mercedes’ Norbert Haug:

    While the Monte Carlo race is the slowest of the year with an average speed of about 156km/h for the fastest lap, and is also the shortest with a race distance of almost 254km, we face a race distance of 310 km in Valencia and a track on which the cars will reach 300km/h or more five times per lap. Three times per lap the drivers also have to brake to about 80km/h which will be as extremely demanding for the brakes as the Montreal circuit. The longest full throttle section will be along the harbour where the drivers will drive at full throttle for 13 sec. The front straight is 185 metres long and the shortest of all Formula 1 circuits this year. We calculated an average speed per lap of 225km/h which will be the eighth fastest of all Grand Prix tracks. This is not typical for a street race; it is more like a version of Silverstone or Monza but located in a city.

  16. And Robert Kubica:

    I am very much looking forward to Valencia as I am a big fan of street circuits in general. They are very demanding as they are often bumpy and the street surface changes. When you make a mistake you easily run into barriers. Anyway, Valencia will not be a complete street circuit. There will be lots of run-off areas for safety reasons. The FIA puts a lot of effort into safety, which is good.

    On a street circuit it is of major importance to have a good basic set-up which is easy to drive. The lap time improvement has to be gained step by step, you cannot drive in too wild a style. Also, in terms of the racing line you have to approach this gradually. It is very important to walk the track before driving it the first time to get a feeling for the surface and the layout.

  17. Shall we have a sweepstake for how many safety cars?

    No tc, new track, no rubber down= entertainment. I think the live stream on friday will be a must see.

  18. “…will be the eighth fastest of all Grand Prix tracks”

    Holy moly, that’s impressive for a street track. Can’t wait now :-D

    I always love a new track joining the calendar – at least until I see it and realise it’s another identikit Tilkedrome. But this one ought to be interesting as his first street track effort.

  19. I think I commented on the video lap- Valencia appears to have run-off zones in places where the classic CART street courses would have just had a wall lined with tires.

    Somebody tell Robert that Tilke already made a street course in Romania, and it’s shaped like a big city block with hairpins.

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