Valencia, Spain – Fresh from a spell at home in Mexico, Esteban Gutierrez returns to Europe after GP2’s month off reinvigorated and ready to get his season back on track. He’s currently sixth in the championship with 60 points.
Valencia is one of Esteban’s favourite tracks, having taken his first GP2 victory in the sprint race here last year. He also won the feature race in GP3 in 2010 en route to the championship, and in 2008 dominated Formula BMW with pole, fastest lap, and the victory. Therefore there are high hopes that Esteban will take his first win of 2012 right here.
Valencia Street Circuit winds around a harbour and across a dynamic-looking swing bridge, which is welded shut, forcing yacht captains to get their berths in the harbour before the track action begins.
Valencia has one notable straight, which is one more than Monaco, and encourages overtaking – one may see little of it in the Formula One race, but GP2 seems better suited to its layout. As with any street circuit, there are more bumps than on a purpose built track, and the first proper corner – Turn 2 – is made trickier by being both bumpy and tight.
The next stretch is rather stop-start in nature down to Turn 8, with the emphasis on traction rather than aerodynamic grip. Between Turns 10 and 12 the cars run flat-out for 12 seconds. There are 25 corners in total, which make this circuit physically challenging and it’s easy to make a mistake. Due to its coastal location, a strong sea breeze can cause balance problems.
“Valencia is a street circuit, and normally street circuits are very exciting because there’s no margin for error. This is something I enjoy a lot. Valencia is unusual for a street circuit, though, in that the surface is very smooth and there are long straights, which makes overtaking a little bit easier. I like this track and have had some great experiences here in the past, so that puts me in a very positive frame of mind going into this weekend, with the task to score as many points as possible.”
Gaëtan Jego, Chief Engineer: “Valencia is very different to the other street track we race on in GP2, Monaco. Valencia is flat and not that bumpy, but it’s still challenging. And the main challenge we face this weekend is to bounce back from the last two races. We need to score a good amount of points and restore confidence for the rest of the season. The pace in Barcelona was very strong, and Esteban was very unlucky to be caught out by a yellow flag in qualifying which made the race more difficult. In Monaco again the pace was there, but we had very little track time after a free practice crash, which made it harder to get in a rhythm. So we must keep our heads down this weekend, and if we don’t make any mistakes the good results will follow.”