The Valencia race was as boring to watch from trackside as Bill Thomas assures me it was from his armchair. I was there (at the track, not Bill’s armchair) and after a couple of laps it was apparent that this was not going to be a classic event.
However, the atmosphere in the marina was awesome. Well, I say ‘marina’ but what I really mean is ‘grubby docks’. On raceday, most walked to the track through Valencia itself, which meant a great wave of colourfully attired fans converging on the circuit.
To be part of this noisy, exuberant crowd was an unforgettable experience, and to stop at a street corner bar for a spot of people watching, before heading to our seats, equally unforgettable.
There were problems, of course. The whole area stank of sewage and when I got to the grandstand I was told row 20 – the seating position on my ticket – did not exist. The rows went up to 18. The cockup was sorted, but not before I had missed the first half of quali. Honda sorted me out a ticket, but if I had paid the €240 ticket price I would’ve subtly murdered someone for the error until they were dead.
The vibe in the grandstand was superb. The fans booed Hamilton but were good-humoured when I cheered him, and the public address system blared out pop and rock between the excitable commentary. Alonso’s early retirement deflated the crowd considerably; perhaps the organisers should have sent him out in the safety car to finish the race.
So, the European Grand Prix at Valencia has everything going for it… bar a few organisational cock-ups. Oh and that other thing. What is it again? Oh yeah: the racing.
To lambast the track, as even the Spanish press have, is missing the point. The problem is with F1 and it’s aero-biased grip characteristics and grooved tyres.
Next year we have slick tyres (hopefully) and a reduction in aero, which means the 2009 European Grand Prix at Valencia shouldn’t be the snoozathon we saw at the weekend.