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Is Formula One heading for the Great Eight at Valencia?

By Berthold Bouman

Is Formula One heading for the Great Eight, the eighth winner of the eighth race of the season? That is the big question ahead of the European Grand Prix at Valencia, Spain. Jenson Button won the first race for McLaren in Australia, Fernando Alonso surprisingly won the Malaysian Grand Prix, and Nico Rosberg was the surprise winner of the Chinese Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel made a come-back by winning the much bespoke Bahrain Grand Prix, his team colleague Mark Webber won the race in Monaco and Lewis Hamilton scored the second victory for McLaren in Canada. But without a doubt, the most surprising victor was Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado who gave Williams their first victory in eight years by winning the Spanish Grand Prix.

There are just a few candidates who could become the eighth winner of the eighth race at the street circuit of Valencia. Mercedes Team Principal Ross Brawn and Pirelli’s Head of Motorsport Paul Hembery have tipped Michael Schumacher, who has been without a win since the 2006 Chinese Grand Prix, and very desperately wants to win a race after he returned to the sport in 2010.

Brawn said, “I’m thinking of Michael [Schumacher] in our car, but the Lotus is good and they haven’t won, while Sauber have put in some great results too.” Indeed, Lotus is also strong and especially Romain Grosjean has made very promising progress since his return to Formula One. The Frenchman was third in Bahrain and second in Canada and is currently seventh in the Drivers’ Championship behind another returnee: his team colleague Kimi Raikkonen.

Who is the third candidate as the Finn’s last win dates back to the 2009 Belgium Grand Prix, where he beat Giancarlo Fisichella who had stormed to pole position for Force India, a team still to secure their first Formula One win.

Team owner Vijay Mallya commented ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix, “The teams that we have been comparable with in the past few years like Sauber and Williams have been on the podium, and I’m sure our time will come, as long as we get things right.”

But whether Paul di Resta or Nico Hulkenberg would be able to win at Valencia remains to be seen. Valencia being a street circuit poses all kinds of problems even for the very experienced drivers, leaving from pole would be a huge advantage but Force India is at the moment simply not fast enough to take pole position.

Sergio Perez is also a possible candidate, but like Force India, Sauber is currently not fast enough to score a pole position.

Romain Grosjean, Lotus

Bruno Senna is also still ‘win-less’, Williams have shown they have a fast car, but (no offence intended), Senna is not ready for a pole position or a win at this stage of his career, but heck, that’s what they said about Maldonado as well!

I would put my money on Grosjean, despite the fact he retired from three races, he is still only two points behind Raikkonen, who did finish all seven races. He always qualified in the top ten, while Raikkonen only qualified in the top ten four times, and conquering a high position on the start grid is very important at Valencia.

But of course both ex-World Champions Schumacher and Raikkonen are also high on the list, and let’s not forget the other ex-World Champions Alonso and Hamilton, and current World Champion Vettel, who could easily score their second victory of the season and could simply turn this Great Eight story into a story of wishful thinking …

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