Fernando Alonso is eager to turn around his run of ill-fortune in Valencia and add another 'first' to the story of his relationship with the Spanish city in this weekend's European Grand Prix, and having triumphed in the race twice before – albeit at different venues – he muses, 'never two without three...'
In three outings around the Valencia Street Circuit to-date, Alonso has achieved a best finish of just sixth place, and last year, the home hero took the chequered flag a lowly eighth in front of his adoring partisan supporters, having run third until he found himself badly compromised by the appearance of the safety car, which McLaren-Mercedes rival and former team-mate Lewis Hamilton controversially overtook.
The 20-minute delay before the stewards handed down a drive-through penalty to the Briton effectively enabled Hamilton to get away with his indiscretion without conceding any ground, whilst for dutifully obeying the rules, Alonso conversely lost out, leading to the Ferrari star angrily railing afterwards that the result of the race had been 'manipulated'.
Twelve months on, the double F1 World Champion is palpably keen to banish the memory of that disappointment by replicating the kind of success he enjoyed in the European Grand Prix when it took place at the Nürburgring in both 2005 and 2007.
“As the saying goes, 'never two without three',” he wrote in his blog on the Scuderia's
website. “I feel special ties to the city of Valencia, as it has become something of a symbolic place in the history of my relationship with Ferrari. It was in fact in Cheste that I made my first public appearance after having signed my first contract with Ferrari, at the 2009 Ferrari Days event, and it was also at this track that I had my first official drive of an F1 Ferrari, on 3 February last year. Maybe that means it's time to add another 'first' to this story...
“It's the second race of the season held in Spain and it is an important one for Ferrari and for me, as it presents another opportunity for me to race in front of my fans. To tell the truth, I've never been that lucky in this race since it's been held on the Valencia Street Circuit, especially last year when – despite having a very competitive car – I finished down in eighth place. However, everyone remembers what happened with the appearance of the safety car, and there's no point in going over it again.
“I always believe that luck and bad luck balance out by the end of the season, and maybe this unwritten rule also applies to racetracks. If that's the case, I would be more than happy if last year's misfortune was paid back now! In fact, it seems that in general so far this season, luck has not come our way; in the race in Montreal, not one damned thing went right.”
Indeed, having had the pace to do battle for the podium and arguably even the very top step in the Canadian Grand Prix last time out, Alonso's coming-together with eventual race-winner Jenson Button brought an early end to his challenge, meaning his and Ferrari's quest for victory in F1 2011 goes on. Ostensibly on an upward trajectory now, the 29-year-old is hopeful that with fortune on his side, he might just be able to quash that unenviable statistic this weekend.
“The F150º Italia will be pretty much in the same configuration seen at the last race, and the major new element will be the race debut of the Pirelli medium-compound tyre, running alongside the soft,” he contends. “Over the winter, I got the chance to test this tyre, but now it will be a completely different ball game, given that the difference in temperature will be of the order of 20 degrees and because the Valencia track characteristics definitely cannot be compared to those of Jerez and Barcelona, nor to the permanent track at Cheste.
“In Montreal, we were able to assess these tyres during the two free practice sessions on Friday, but it's one thing to do a few laps on a track that is not necessarily that well-adapted to this type of tyre, and quite another to evaluate it in-depth with an eye on qualifying and the race.
“I know that our fans are eagerly awaiting our first win of the season, and I can assure you that the same goes for us! At the last two races, we showed we were clearly capable of winning and – especially in Monaco – we came pretty close, although I believe that even in Canada I could have fought for it all the way to the end, given what we had seen in qualifying. Now we go to a track with reasonably similar characteristics to Montreal, and there is no obvious reason why we should not be competitive here, too.”