Sebastian Vettel aims to rebound from his Canadian mishap at the European Formula One Grand Prix but the world champion will face stiff resistance again from the McLaren camp.
In addition, Ferrari star Fernando Alonso wants to shake off recent disappointments in front of a Spanish home crowd on the 5.149-kilometres street circuit.
The Red Bull driver Vattel has won five of the seven races contested this season and finished second in the other two for a runaway championship lead.
He is 60 points clear of Jenson Button, but the McLaren driver and his team got a big boost when Button managed to overtake Vettel for victory in the final lap of a spectacular Canadian race after a rare error by the German.
“We’ve proved we can challenge and beat Sebastian, and we know we can fight for this world championship,” said Button on the McLaren website.
“I wouldn’t say that winning in Montreal has given me extra motivation, because I was already totally committed, but I think it will help to sharpen the focus and conviction of everyone in the team.” Vettel readily admitted to a mistake against the charging Button but at the same time was happy that he “got away with second” in a turbulent race.
After all, the former world champions Alonso and Lewis Hamilton never saw the finish line as they slipped further behind in the championships, trailing Vettel by 92 and 76 points, respectively.
Hamilton, whose form has dipped after winning the Turkish race, had to dismiss a Red Bull link after meeting with their team principal Christian Horner in Canada, and now hopes for better times in Valencia.
‘Weekend of consolidation’
“For me, Valencia will be a weekend of consolidation after two disappointing results in Monaco and Canada,” said Hamilton.
Alonso, meanwhile, has mixed feelings about the Valencia race.
While he sees a general chance of winning in an improved Ferrari, he also recalls last year’s race where all but everything went wrong for him in what finally was a poor eighth-place finish.
“I know that our fans are eagerly awaiting our first win of the season and I can assure you that the same goes for us,” he said.
“At the last two races, we showed we were clearly capable of winning ... Now we go to a track with reasonably similar characteristics to Montreal and there is no obvious reason why we should not be competitive here too.” Also in the frame, ranked third with a 68-point deficit, is Mark Webber in the second Bull. Like Alonso, he will have mixed feelings returning to Valencia where he miraculously walked away unharmed last year from a crash in which his car flipped over in the air.
Mercedes motorsport chief Norbert Haug, meanwhile, said in mid-week that his team will be no factor in the title race. But there is still hope for the Germans as record champion Michael Schumacher had a great race in Canada for fourth place and hopes for more now.
The Spanish race will have an element of uncertainty as Pirelli is introducing medium compound tyres for the first time this season.
In addition, changes in engine mapping between qualifying and the race have been outlawed with immediate effect while the Valencia race will be the last in which on-throttle blown diffusers are permitted.
Red Bull are said to have benefited from both methods, but Horner has dismissed suggestions that the bans will slow them down.
“I doubt the impact will affect us any more or any less than any other team,” said Horner.