Whitmarsh: Valencia will set the F1 standard Mercedes CEO Martin Whitmarsh has predicted that the new Valencia street circuit will 'set the standard' in Formula One when it hosts the European Grand Prix for the first time next weekend.
The Spanish city will become the first new venue on the calendar this season, with a race still to come in Singapore, and is set to provide drivers with a new challenge as it winds its way around the downtown marina.
The street circuit has already played host to rounds of the Spanish F3 and GT Championships as a pre-cursor to the Grand Prix, with a few minor issues now being worked on ahead of the ‘main event' but Whitmarsh admitted that everything that he has seen so far suggests that the event will be a success.
"Clearly, Spain has become a tremendously important market for Formula 1 over the past five years - and the addition of a second Spanish race to the calendar rightly reflects the sport's success and popularity in the market," he said. "We launched the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes partnership here in 2007 and the city was a stunning backdrop to the event.
"Everything we've seen about the city and the organization of this event leads me to believe it will be a fantastic success and set a new standard for Formula 1. More importantly, it marks a return to city racing - something we will also witness in Singapore and next year in Abu Dhabi - and that's something that really engages the people and fans far more than at a purpose-built circuit out of town. This is an important time for the growth of the sport and everybody at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes will be hoping the weekend is a fantastic success - both for the team itself and the sport as a whole."
However, Whitmarsh admitted that going to a new venue would present his team with a series of challenges when the on-track action kicks off with Friday practice with no-one knowing exactly how things will pan out until the cars hit the track.
"The most important thing is to be thorough, methodical and iterative," he said. "Although we arrive at a new racetrack having undertaken a huge amount of research and armed with an enormous amount of data, the reality is that it's really only the starting point for our engineering team.
"We begin Friday practice the way we would at any other circuit, but in this instance, we need to pay particular attention both to driver feedback and the data generated from the car. The important thing is not to react too hastily - it's vital that you don't end up going down the wrong path, because you only have a limited amount of time to tune the set-up before qualifying."