I have just arrived in Valencia today, Wednesday, after spending a week at home in Sao Paolo following on from the Canadian Grand Prix that had promised so much but did not deliver the result I was capable of getting. But in a busy Formula 1 season like this one, you don’t have long to wait to try again and that is what I plan to do this weekend. The Valencia street circuit has good memories for me, because I had a great start here, winning the very first race held in 2008, having started from pole position. I missed the 2009 event of course and then I was competitive again last year, having a good race until the well documented incident with the Safety Car. So there are plenty of reasons to expect we can have another strong weekend this year and in the very hot conditions predicted for the next few days, the 150º Italia should get the tyres to work well too.
One of the criticisms of this street circuit was that it turned out to be very difficult to overtake other cars, but this year we have the Downforce Reduction System and, like in Canada, we have two DRS zones where we can operate it. For sure, this will change the characteristics of the race, making it much easier to overtake. However, you have to do everything you can to ensure your car is competitive throughout the whole race, because this is the direction we have seen things go this year, in that if you are not competitive then it is very easy to lose places to other cars. In the past, before DRS, even if your car was slower than the one behind, you could defend your position more easily, keeping the car behind and not getting passed.
Another interesting factor will be our tyre choice here, because for the first time this season we will be running Pirelli’s Medium compound tyre as the Prime, with the Soft, that we know well by now, as the Option. I drove with the Medium in winter testing, but it was much colder then, which means it behaved very differently and a couple of weeks ago, in Montreal, we were given the opportunity to evaluate it quickly during free practice, but the Canadian track surface is very different to the one in Valencia. If I had to sum up the new tyre, I would say it is very much like the original Hard tyre we had from Pirelli earlier this season. After a few races, they changed it, making it harder still and this Medium feels like the original Hard. The Ferrari engineers have been working intensely on adapting the car to suit the tyres, as we have struggled more with the harder end of the compound range and we will test again a modified suspension to try and make it more suited to them.
We are heading for a very busy part of the season, with a run of four races in five weeks and although Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro has been competitive in the last couple of races, we will soon be heading to Silverstone which is more likely to suit our rivals who have gone better on tracks that require more aerodynamic downforce. However, we have definitely made progress in this area since the last time we were in Spain, at the Barcelona circuit and it will be interesting to see where we stand this weekend: even if Valencia is a street track, sitting somewhere between Monaco and Canada in terms of its characteristics, it still has a final high speed sector which will be an interesting indication of how much progress we have made on our car and we will get the first indications on Friday, in free practice.