The European Grand Prix has not been the most exciting of F1 races since its arrival on the sport's calendar two years ago, and whilst Pedro de la Rosa predicts more of the same again on home turf this coming weekend, the Spaniard does at least anticipate 'a step forward' from Sauber.
Since parent company BMW pulled the plug on its involvement last year, Sauber has been one of the incontrovertible disappointments of the F1 2010 World Championship campaign, with just a single point from the opening eight outings and a combined total of a staggering twelve retirements – one of which being a failure even to start for de la Rosa in Malaysia – leading team principal Peter Sauber to lament 'a really bad car' bestowed upon his eponymously-named outfit by the Bavarian manufacturer, engine-supplier Ferrari and former technical director Willy Rampf [see separate story – click here
Whilst similarly acknowledging that his return to active competition in the top flight this season has undeniably been a frustrating one, erstwhile long-time McLaren-Mercedes test driver de la Rosa is hopeful for better when he tackles the harbour-side street circuit for the first time.
“I'm certainly looking forward to my second home race this year, although it will be quite a busy weekend,” the 39-year-old confessed. “It is a great achievement for Spain to have two grands prix, and we do have a fantastic crowd. A little bit of a downer for the spectators is the fact that on both Spanish circuits, overtaking is very difficult – usually you don't see much overtaking in Barcelona or Valencia.
“Turn Two should be the best option for overtaking, but I have not driven the Valencia street circuit yet so there might also be others. In the two races I have finished this year I have been fighting for points until the last few laps of each race. We will be bringing several new parts for the car, so I expect a step forward here.”
“From what I have seen so far, the Valencia street circuit doesn't seem to be the most exciting track, but I only know it from two GP2 races and racing there in F1 will be different,” added young 'rookie' team-mate Kamui Kobayashi. “I like driving over the bridge, which makes the track quite distinctive.
“It might not be as hot as last year when the race was two months later, but I still expect rather high temperatures, which is fine for me. It is another race in Spain, and in Barcelona we had one of our better weekends in terms of performance, so I hope we can achieve a positive result.”
The Swiss squad's struggling C29 will benefit this weekend from an aerodynamic update, and new technical director James Key is hopeful that it will help de la Rosa and Kobayashi to get themselves a little further up the starting grid in qualifying – and from there into the battle for points come race day.
“For Valencia we return to a higher-downforce level, similar to what we had in Istanbul and a step-up from what we had in Canada,” the Englishman reported. “The fact that Valencia is a street circuit with small run-off areas can make for an eventful race, so you have to stay away from the walls. The circuit is very stop-and-start, which means acceleration and braking performances are important, with relatively slow-speed corners in-between each straight.
“We have a new aero upgrade for the European Grand Prix, which should make the car more efficient and a little bit easier to set up. This is the first of our mid-season updates. We have to see how we go in Valencia. We are looking to bounce back after a difficult weekend in Canada.”