ITV F1 wrote:1. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) – Ferrari
If the world champion walks off with a second consecutive world crown after Brazil, the success could be even more unfathomable than last year’s unlikely triumph given his results over the past four months. But despite failing to win since Spain, the Finn remains just five points off the pace and his string of fastest race laps suggests he remains a major title threat if he overcomes his qualifying problems.
Last five race results: 3rd / 6th / 4th / 2nd / R
(Most recent first)
2. Felipe Massa (BR) – Ferrari
The pint-sized Brazilian left his perennial critics aghast by his McLaren-beating performance in Hungary, before his Ferrari V8 cruelly gave up the ghost three laps from home. The harsh reality, however, was that he lost crucial ground to both his main rivals in the championship fight. He looked totally dejected afterwards and must ensure he has put that heartbreak behind him over the summer break.
Last five race results: R / 3rd / 13th / 1st / 5th
3. Nick Heidfeld (D) – BMW Sauber
The Hungarian GP wasn’t a good weekend for either Heidfeld or BMW, despite showing promising pace in the early practice sessions. The German driver knew his weekend would be a write-off after traffic on his crucial hot lap contributed to a depressing Q1 exit, prompting his angry reaction to Bourdais. Valencia can only be better.
Last five race results: 10th / 4th / 2nd / 13th / 2nd
4. Robert Kubica (POL) – BMW Sauber
The Polish ace never publicly rated his championship chances following his maiden win in Montreal, but nevertheless he probably didn’t anticipate quite the struggle that the following four races have provided. After tyre problems compromised his pace at the Hungaroring, however, a street race could lift his spirits and provide him with an increasingly unlikely chance to sparkle near the front this season.
Last five race results: 8th / 7th / R / 5th / 1st
5. Fernando Alonso (E) – Renault
Fernando matched his best result of the season last time out and Renault’s steadily improving form suggests he may still have a chance of making the podium this season. It could even happen in his second home race of the year at Valencia, as the track looks designed to throw up a few surprises. Expect the fired-up Spaniard to attack any such opportunity.
Last five race results: 4th / 11th / 6th / 8th / R
6. Nelson Piquet Jr (BR) - Renault
Nelsinho repeatedly played down the importance of his fortunate podium finish in Germany, yet it was clear to see that the 23-year-old had an extra spring in his step throughout the Hungarian weekend. It showed in his performance too; qualifying 10th and racing strongly to sixth. Renault now needs him to keep delivering consistently.
Last five race results: 6th / 2nd / R / 7th / R
7. Nico Rosberg (D) – Williams
The Hungaroring was meant to be the place where the FW30 finally came back on song – yet it didn’t pan out like that for team and star driver. A hydraulics problem put Rosberg out at the start of Q2 and it was always going to be difficult from there. The streets of Valencia should, on paper, also suit the team and could end Rosberg’s six-race points drought.
Last five race results: 14th / 10th / 9th / 16th / 10th
8. Kazuki Nakajima (J) - Williams
Poor qualifying form is compromising everything the Japanese rookie tries to do at the moment and that must change if he is to pick up any points on merit in the increasingly competitive midfield pack. Nevertheless, a brush with Fisichella aside, Nakajima raced solidly in Hungary and a similarly steady performance could pay dividends on the wall-lined streets this weekend.
Last five race results: 13th / 15th / 8th / 15th / R
9. David Coulthard (GB) – Red Bull Racing
Our star columnist will hope his vast experience will come in handy around Valencia’s sweeping streets, allowing him to cash in on a rare points finish if younger, and perhaps over-zealous rivals, come a cropper in the concrete. The circuit has been compared to Montreal, where DC of course scored his surprise podium finish.
Last five race results: 11th / 13th / R / 9th / 3rd
10. Mark Webber (AUS) – Red Bull Racing
Webber admitted RBR simply didn’t have the pace to score points in Hungary, a worrying performance that it hopes will prove a one-off. The team has lost major ground to Toyota and Renault in the race for fourth place in the constructors’ championship and will need to give Webber a more competitive package for Valencia to get back on the points-scoring trail.
Last five race results: 9th / R / 10th / 6th / 12th
11. Jarno Trulli (I) – Toyota
The Italian secured a useful couple more points for the Japanese squad last time out, yet his performance was entirely overshadowed by team-mate Glock’s stunning exploits. Out-qualified and outraced by the German, Trulli will be keen to resume normal service as the team’s lead-runner with another strong finish in Valencia.
Last five race results: 7th / 9th / 7th / 3rd / 6th
12. Timo Glock (D) - Toyota
For all the doses of both luck and misfortune than were being fired out in scatter-gun fashion at times at the Hungaroring, Glock’s second place was all hard earned and thoroughly deserved. It was a stunning comeback following his violent German GP accident and seems to have earned him a second year at Toyota. His next challenge is to match Trulli’s consistency.
Last five race results: 2nd / R / 12th / 11th / 4th
14. Sebastien Bourdais (F) - Scuderia Toro Rosso
The French rookie was running fairly strongly on his first visit to the Hungaroring until he was penalised, perhaps harshly, for impeding Heidfeld in qualifying. A fairly straightforward race followed, enlivened when his visor got splattered with foam while mechanics put out a flash fire on his car at his first fuel stop. Valencia could bring a better result with all drivers starting from the same baseline.
Last five race results: 18th / 12th / 11th / 17th / 13th
15. Sebastian Vettel (D) – Scuderia Toro Rosso
Frustrating weekends are already nothing new for the fresh-faced young star and he experienced another one in Hungary, with his STR3 experiencing technical problems in both practice and the race. Still, despite limited running, he showed his usual strong speed in flashes and could be an outside bet for another points finish at Valencia.
Last five race results: R / 8th / R / 12th / 8th
16. Jenson Button (GB) – Honda Racing
While visits to Budapest will always remind Jenson of the type of success he desperately craves again, he was still reasonably buoyant about Honda’s pace last time out after qualifying and finishing 12th. The performance of the car’s new rear suspension pleased him, leaving him optimistic for the remainder of the campaign.
Last five race results: 12th / 17th / R / R / 11th
17. Rubens Barrichello (BR) – Honda Racing
Like Coulthard, Barrichello will be looking to make the most of his experience at this weekend’s new venue and steal a march over some of the field. The last grands prix have been difficult for the Brazilian but, like Silverstone and Monaco, the possibility for unpredictability could allow him to rumble the top eight on race day again.
Last five race results: 16th / R / 3rd / 14th / 7th
20. Adrian Sutil (D) – Force India
A puncture, caused by a race-long brake problem, in Hungary brought up Sutil’s seventh retirement in 11 races this season – a record he and the team need to improve on in the season’s closing phase. After pushing Fisichella in recent races, the German fell back behind his veteran team-mate in qualifying last time but will attempt to match his sensational street-fighting form from Monaco this weekend.
Last five race results: R / 16th / R / 19th / R
21. Giancarlo Fisichella (I) – Force India
Still no sign of a points finish for ‘Fisi’ but that’s not left him despondent. In fact, he has expressed his faith in Force India’s potential to deliver a stronger car in 2009 and seems convinced that he won’t be seeing out his career cruising around at the back. Indeed his race pace in Hungary proved that he is very much still ‘on it’.
Last five race results: 15th / 14th / R / 18th / R
22. Lewis Hamilton (GB) – McLaren
Lewis knows a thing or two about punctures after several derailed his title challenge last season, but thankfully for him his latest one didn’t have the consequences it could have had after Massa’s late blow up. He heads into the run in with a five-point advantage and has the street racing pedigree to extend that in Valencia.
Last five race results: 5th / 1st / 1st / 10th / R
23. Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) – McLaren
It was one of the most fortuitous maiden victories you are likely to see, but Kovalainen nevertheless was thankful that some luck had come his way for a change. Now with that breakthrough achieved, he says he feels ready to become a consistent front-running challenger. McLaren needs him to do just that if it is to steal the constructors’ title away from Ferrari.
Last five race results: 1st / 5th / 5th / 4th / 9th