The 2012 Formula One world championship visits some extraordinary venues: the high-speed sweeps of Spa and Suzuka, glamorous Monaco, historic Monza with its ardent fans, Silverstone with its old-school charm and modern pit complex.
Valencia is a superb city and the weather there in June is reliably splendid. But its Grand Prix track, which winds its way through roads around the harbour, leaves an awful lot to be desired.
Mark Webber famously summed up the track as being “like a Tesco car park”. It’s a description that’s stuck.
But in a season which hasn’t failed to keep us guessing so far, maybe Valencia will serve up a surprise for a change. We might even get an eighth different winner in as many races.
Early picks for Valencia
With the season proving so unpredictable so far it’s worth considering the odds on the outsiders for victory in Valencia.
One of the keys to understanding tyre performance appears to be track temperature. A few degrees one way or another is enough to tip the balance in favour of different cars.
Valencia usually sees some of the highest track temperatures of the year. Last year the tarmac was baking at 47C during the Grand Prix.
One team which has gone well in hotter conditions this year is Lotus: in scorching Bahrain they finished second and third; in Sunny Spain were third and fourth, with Kimi Raikkonen catching the leaders at a terrific rate.
Last time out in Canada the track temperature rose each day so that by the time of the race, Lotus were flying. Romain Grosjean finished second, just two-and-a-half seconds behind winner Lewis Hamilton.
Lotus were less comfortable on the super-soft tyres used in the last two races. But that compound won’t be used in Valencia – the team will run the soft and medium tyres instead.
It may come as a surprise to some to see rookie Grosjean’s odds are as short as Raikkonen’s. This is a reflection of an encouraging start to the season from Grosjean and a somewhat uneven one from the returning 2007 world champion.
As you might expect of a driver lacking experience at the top flight, Grosjean has got himself into a few scrapes this year. But when he’s finished, he’s finished well: sixth, fourth, third and a career-best second last time out.
Tip either Lotus driver to win on Unibet and you’ll get odds of 15.0.
Schumacher’s uncommon misfortune
You may get very short odds on Michael Schumacher failing to finish this weekend’s race. The seven-times champion has the worst finishing rate on the grid this year, seeing the chequered flag just twice in seven races.
Of those five retirements, four have been due to a problem with the car outside of his control. In Australia it was his gearbox, a wheel came off after a pit stop in China, he lost fuel pressure in Monaco and in Canada his rear wing jammed open, rendering the car undriveable.
It’s a far cry from his dominant days with Ferrari in the early 2000s, when he won race after race, title after title with a succession of seemingly infallible cars.
Back then it took him five years – from 2001 to 2005 – to notch up as many race-ending technical failures as he’s had in the last seven starts.
The only consolation is the Mercedes has been quick – it’s already a race-winner – and he should go well at Valencia if he can get to the end of the race. But at 20.0, he’s a long shot to win it.
Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic.