Pirelli believes that the third consecutive street circuit on this year's F1 calendar will be quite different to its predecessors, even if overtaking will remain at a premium.
The Grand Prix of Europe, run on the roads around Valencia's historic America's Cup port,. contains the highest number of corners of any track all year, at 25, and is likely to be run in high temperatures – meaning that the tyre company's medium and soft compounds have been nominated, as opposed to the soft and supersoft on offer for both Monaco and Montreal.
The combination highlights both the durability and performance of the tyres on a circuit where overtaking is notoriously difficult. Just like Monaco, qualifying will be crucial, and the speed of the soft tyre will be vital when it comes to boosting drivers up the start order. In the race, the strength and consistency of the medium tyre will form an essential part of the strategy.
Many of the corners are fast and flow into each other, making overtaking difficult as there is little room for manoeuvre and not a huge speed differential between the cars. The final sequence of corners is taken in rapid succession at 290kph, followed by a heavy braking area into the last corner where the cars go from 310 to 60kph in less than 130 metres. The deceleration peaks at 5.2g, with a big risk of locking up a wheel, but the layout of the corner means that it is still not easy to pass the car in front.
This will put the emphasis on strategy, as cars try to get past each other in the pits as well as on the track.
“Valencia could not present a bigger contrast to the street circuits that have come before it, as the track is faster and the temperatures higher, with plenty of energy going through the tyres," Pirelli's motorsport director Paul Hembery confirmed, "What it has in common with the others is the difficulty of overtaking, which will put the emphasis on qualifying.
"We are expecting a fairly straightforward race, with either two or three stops, depending on which tactics the teams use – although one team tried a one-stopper last year as well. The weather should be consistently warm throughout the weekend, which should lead to fewer variables in terms of temperature, so there probably won't be many big surprises to emerge. We've used the combination of soft and medium tyres more than any other line-up so far this year, as it has shown itself to be a perfect compromise between performance and durability, allowing drivers to show their speed when they need to but also benefit from longer stints in the race.”
The medium and soft combination has already appeared in Australia, China and Bahrain, but Williams drive Pastor Maldonado believes that Valencia could provide the tyres with their toughest test of the season, as the brakes have to work hard, with several big stops from more than 300kph. This is a challenging task for the front tyres in particular, which have to slow the car down and turn in at the same time, subjecting them to two different forces, although traction rather than braking constitutes the biggest longitudinal force.
“Valencia is not a typical circuit because it is a mixture between a normal race track and regular roads that are used throughout the year, so it is always tricky to put every element together," the Venezuelan commented, "The track also tends to evolve a lot from session to session, which can throw up some surprises.
"It has quite long straights and a number of slow speed corners, which makes it difficult to find a good balance with the car. The air and track temperatures tend to be high and it is a long race, so it is a challenging circuit for tyres, with good tyre management important if you want to get a strong result. It is also useful to conserve your tyres ahead of the race because, if you have an extra set, you will have an advantage.”