Valencia's road race passes its grand prix driving test

In the end, all the scare stories proved wide of the mark, and the first day of running on Valencia's new "urban" circuit was judged a great success. There had been fears that a slight mismatch in height between the track surface and the swivelling section of the bridge between Turn Nine and 10 might generate hard enough impact loadings to create punctures, or that the drivers would be unhappy with the run-off areas at turns Eight, 12 and 17.

Bridgestone even went so far as to suggest that the FIA should examine the bridge, where there is a small gap in the asphalt in order to allow for a metal expansion joint. That section of the bridge was slightly higher – perhaps 15 mm – and that was what caused the concern. Bridgestone's director of motor sport tyre development, Hirohide Hamashima, emailed FIA race director Charlie Whiting on Thursday. "I've asked him to look into it," Hamashima said. "The track is slightly raised, and if a tyre hits it, it could cause a puncture. It is not so bad, but if they can adjust it then we will be happy. Having the track level will be better."

Kimi Raikkonen, who set the day's fastest lap time for Ferrari, said: "There are a few bumps because I guess they need to turn the bridge sometimes. That is the only place where I found any bumps on the circuit, and one of them is in the middle of the corner. So, that might affect things a bit. But apart from that it looks very smooth and very well done. We will see tomorrow how good it is in the end, but I expect to have quite good fun."

In the end, there were no problems, and the world champion's sentiments were echoed by fellow title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa.

"First of all it is great to be here in Valencia," Hamilton said. "I had a race here in GP2 in 2006 but this is really the first time, apart from the launch last year for McLaren. I think they have done a fantastic job in building the place up. The track looks incredible. I think it looks pretty awesome."

"I think it is pretty impressive," Massa said. "I think it is a pretty different track than we are used to having on the calendar. You can have maybe some corners which seem to be like Monaco, but some very different corners, very long straights which even can be similar to Bahrain for example. I think it is very nice. It will be very, very dirty tomorrow because you can see that the asphalt is very, very slippery and dirty, but I think it will be ok."

Inevitably, there have been comparisons with Monaco, the only other street circuit on the calendar (though Singapore comes in September and Abu Dhabi will feature a mix of streets when it comes on stream as the last race in 2009). But many long-timers have been reminded of Long Beach, where the USGP West was held from 1977 to 1983 until, according to one official line, it was discovered that it was "too short for F1". That featured a similar blend of very fast, open, sweeping curves to those which have so distinguished this key new venue which aims to promote tourism in the city.

"It should be called the World Grand Prix rather than the European Grand Prix," suggested ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone, whose organisation was happy to accept the persuasive arguments for the race put forward by the Valencian government.

"I was talking to John Howitt of Toyota earlier," said Honda's Nick Fry, "and we both figured that this is a really good track and that all it really needs is more trackside advertising. Something to liven it up a little."

These are early days, however, and the venue is still being finished off, but it has a way to get yet to rival, say, Silverstone, which is often held to be sub-standard.

All of the teams carried out detailed electronic simulations of the 3.3 mile (5.4 km) track, and the general consensus was that a lap time around 1min 37sec would set the pace. Yesterday Raikkonen's fastest time was 1: 39.477, as the track picked up grip throughout both practice sessions.

"The car was feeling better as the track picked up more rubber and became quicker and quicker and softer tyres gave a bit more grip," said BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica. "But the grip was variable and I'm expecting tomorrow in qualifying to be faster."

Local hero Fernando Alonso said: "Today it was difficult to test everything as every lap was better than the one before. This is normal for a street circuit and it will keep improving before qualifying tomorrow. The perfect lap in qualifying will be very difficult. You get only two runs in the third session, so on the first one you will try to get the feeling where to brake and where is the grip with that amount of fuel, and on the second run you will try to push, but it will be hard to get the perfect lap.

"Given the characteristics of the track, most of the time you will find to reduce the lap times will come under braking, where you are going to need lots of confidence."

Yesterday's European Grand Prix practice times

First session

1. S Vettel (Ger) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1min 40.496sec; 2. F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1:40.654; 3. L Hamilton (GB) McLaren-Mercedes 1:40.822; 4. S Bourdais (Fr) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:41.099; 5. H Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren-Mercedes 1:41.163; 6. R Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 1:41.281; 7. K Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:41.317; 8. K Nakajima (Japan) Williams-Toyota 1:41.329; 9. F Alonso (Sp) Renault 1:41.385; 10. N Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota 1:41.706; 11. R Barrichello (Br) Honda 1:41.830; 12. J Trulli (It) Toyota 1:41.930; 13. A Sutil (Ger) Force India-Ferrari 1:41.951; 14. T Glock (Ger) Toyota 1:42.036; 15. N Piquet Jnr (Br) Renault 1:42.107; 16. N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:42.453; 17. J Button (GB) Honda 1:42.460; 18. G Fisichella (It) Force India-Ferrari 1:43.075; 19. D Coulthard (GB) RedBull-Renault 1:43.312; 20. M Webber (Aus) RedBull-Renault 1:43.524.

Second session

1. Raikkonen 1min 39.477sec; 2. Alonso 1:39.497; 3. Button 1:39.546; 4. Massa 1:39.678; 5. Hamilton 1:39.712; 6. Kovalainen 1:39.954; 7. Glock 1:39.967; 8. Kubica 1:40.149; 9. Piquet Jnr 1:40.439; 10. Fisichella 1:40.500; 11. Webber 1:40.585; 12. Rosberg 1:40.607; 13. Coulthard 1:40.696; 14. Nakajima 1:40.742; 15. Trulli 1:40.877; 16. Vettel 1:40.982; 17. Sutil 1:40.999; 18. Heidfeld 1:41.084; 19. Bourdais 1:41.246; 20. Barrichello 1:41.377.

Drivers' standings

1. Hamilton 62pts; 2. Raikkonen 57; 3. Massa 54; 4. Kubica 49; 5. Heidfeld 41; 6. Kovalainen 38; 7. Trulli 22; 8. Alonso 18; 9. Webber 18; 10. Glock 13; 11. Piquet Jr 13; 12. Barrichello 11; 13. Rosberg 8; 14. Nakajima 8; 15. Vettel 6; 16. Coulthard 6; 17. Button 3; 18. Bourdais 2; 19. Fisichella 0; 20. Sutil 0.

Constructors' standings

1. Ferrari 111pts; 2. McLaren-Mercedes 100; 3. BMW Sauber 90; 4. Toyota 35; 5. Renault 31; 6. Red Bull-Renault 24; 7. Williams-Toyota 16; 8. Honda 14; 9. Torro Rosso-Ferrari 8; 10. Force India-Ferrari 0; 11. Super Aguri-Honda 0.

(Super Aguri dropped out after Spanish Grand Prix)

News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
News
Jennifer Lawrence at the Vanity Fair Academy Awards party in February 2014
people12 undisclosed female victims are seeking $100m in damages
Arts and Entertainment
Adam Levine plays a butcher who obsessively stalks a woman in Maroon 5's 'Animals' music video
music'Animals' video 'promotes sexual violence against women'
News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
voicesI like surprises - that's why I'm bringing them back to politics, writes Nigel Farage
News
Bear and hare woodland scene from John Lewis Christmas advert
Retailer breaks with tradition, selling real festive fir trees online for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Anthony Horowitz will write the next 007 novel
booksAnthony Horowitz to write new instalment in spy series for 2015
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
Kicking on: Nathaniel Clyne is relishing the challenge of the Premier League after moving from Crystal Palace
footballSurprises include a first ever call-up for one Southampton star
Voices
4 May 2013: The sun rises over Tower Bridge in London. Temperatures across the UK could be higher than several European holiday destinations by Monday, including parts of Italy and France (Andy Hepburn/PA)
voices
News
The moon observed in visible light, topography and the GRAIL gravity gradients
science

...and it wasn't caused by an asteroid crash, as first thought

News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
Arts and Entertainment
The first batch of coach and ticket packages has sold out for next year's Glastonbury
musicIt looks like you're going to have to be quick to get tickets this year
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?