Turnouts for testing aren't bad: pre-season 2011, photo by Gil Abrantes

Turnouts for testing aren't bad: pre-season 2011, photo by Gil Abrantes

The first Pre-Season test of the year is currently taking place at the Circuito de  Jerez, the circuit is at Formula One standards already and the Formula One circus comes here to test most years. The convenience of being in Europe yet with relatively warm, and reliable, weather for this time of year is what brings Formula One here plus the fact that outside of this area there are few other Formula One grade circuits with sufficient facilities and safety features apart from those that already host Formula One. Iberia though seems to have plenty of top class circuits including Jerez, Valencia (not the street circuit another), and Aragon in Spain and Estoril and Portimão in Portugal.

 

Even in the UK Brands Hatch is no longer at modern Formula One standards meaning Silverstone is the only place in the UK where Formula One could take place, after the development of Donington was scuppered by finical problems. In France the Paul Ricard circuit, a long time testing favourite, is now set to host Formula One from 2013, alternating with Spa. Could Jerez be a new venue for the Spanish Grand Prix with both Barcelona and Valencia unsure of whether they want to continue to host their races?

 

Valencia is widely considered the worst circuit on the calendar, before the introduction in the 2000s of many new circuits designed by Tilke Barcelona was thought of as one of the most boring circuits and it is still not exactly known for exciting races now.

 

As a new circuit Jerez hosted Formula One from 1986 until 1990, after which it was replaced by the new Barcelona circuit; the European Grand Prix has been held here as recently as 1994 and 1997 though. 1997 of course is a famous race: as the closing race of the season, standing in for the cancelled Portugese Grand Prix at Estoril, the race saw the coming together of title protagonists Michael Schumacher and Villenueve that put out Schumacher and also got him disqualified from the championship.

 

One of the main reasons for the Spanish Grand Prix going to Barcelona from 1991 was the location of Jerez being relatively remote; the problem could always be for the Jerez circuit that it might struggle to pay the fees from gate receipts that Bernie demands, having said this Jerez currently has Moto GP and ticket sales are good and turnout for F1 testing is impressive too. This then may not be a problem if Alonso can start winning again in 2012 to boost interest in Spain and if private investment to lay out the fees can be found. Barcelona and Valencia currently rely on public money from the Catalunyan and Valencian governments respectively, which has it seems dried up.

 

In either case it seems likely that Jerez would offer a better spectacle and a lot more overtaking than Barcelona or Valencia, or perhaps both put together. The Curva Dry Sac, turn 6, where Villeneuve was overtaking Schumacher in 1997 is a good overtaking opportunity after a long straight and the turn 11 chicane is another opportunity. The hairpin is moderately open and overtaking here is possible going on to the start finish straight and the first corner is a difficult third gear right hander with an up hill braking zone with a blind apex where a pass can be made with a little bravery or if a mistake is made by the car in front.