European Grand Prix Preview

There's little doubt that Renault wouldn't have been facing the ludicrous penalty of a one-race ban had Massa not made connection with Rubens Barrichello's flukily bouncing rear spring on the Saturday of the last GP weekend.

Pit-stops cock-ups happen all the time, but it takes the mind of a Machiavelli to think that Renault might have deliberately sent Alonso back onto the track knowing that he would lose a wheel.

Thankfully common sense has now prevailed and the Renault team are allowed to race in Valencia, but it took an act of blatant stupidity to impose such an inappropriate penalty in the first place. Presumably FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting will now face similar charges for failing to black flag Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari after he drove round with a flailing exhaust chimney at the French GP in 2008.

The excitement at the prospect of seeing Schumi race again, in Massa's stead, was very real while it lasted. Presumably the former World Champion wanted to drive the current machinery to check out whether his 'secretly fractured' neck would stand up to the strain. When various teams - including Williams, who owe him at least one pie in the face - vetoed a ride in an F60 he must have calculated that the risk of failure was too great.

In his place Luca Badoer will face a tough test at a circuit he doesn't know, in one of the few Ferraris he's had little time in. Certainly the car that he'll be presented with on Friday will be a quantum leap forward from the one he drove in pre-season testing.

It wouldn't be a surpise to see Kimi Raikkonen put a whole second between himself and the Massa replacement. Ferrari are in a bit of a dilemma right now. There are stories doing the rounds that Raikkonen is going to be offered a lot of money not to race for them in 2010 so they can bring Alonso on board.

What they can't know is how Felipe Massa will react to his big accident. Williams' Patrick Head is fond of the theory that after drivers have experienced major accidents they are never quite as fast again. Amongst those he cites are Ralf Schumacher who had a big testing accident at Monza while he was with Williams.

It hasn't seem to have deterred Robert Kubica after his titanic shunt in Canada in 2007, but Patrick's seen enough drivers to know what he's talking about. Ferrari will have to make a decision about 2010 before they can know the true state of Massa's recovery.

Back at the World Championship Brawn should have had enough time to analyse the data from Hungary and work out why they weren't fast on a hot track that was supposed to favour them. Button is good on street circuits and if he can nudge his Brawn in front of the two Red Bulls in Valencia and the following race at Spa, which is a track at which he excels, then he can start to feel less nervous.

The good news for Jense is that Mclaren are looking good for back-to-back wins, with Hamilton supremely strong at the Hungaroring and Kovalainen being given the hurry up from the team. Raikkonen is also looking quick and on home soil Alonso rarely disappoints.

So if all that lot are in front of the Brawn GP cars and the Red Bulls, then Button will not be at all worried. If Red Bull are in front, but Brawn are behind, then it's very bad news indeed. Team orders are an easy call for the Brawn team but for Red Bull any intervention is still a long way off.

With a fine win in Hungary and yet more swanky new parts for the McLaren, Lewis Hamilton will be looking to make it two wins on the trot at the European GP. What's more, he and Raikkonen have the advantage of the KERS boost button which they both used to their advantage on the similarly tight confines of Budapest. Ferrari and McLaren may have given up their Championship-winning ambitions, but they'd both like to finish third in the Constructors' title.

Williams will also be looking to join in the fun and demote either the Red Bulls, or more likely the Brawns down the order, while Toyota will be struggling to hold back the tide of Ferrari and McLaren development and retain fourth in the Constructors'.

Both Fisi and Adrian Sutil are good on street circuits and Sutil in particular will be pitching in there for Force India's first points. Surely his luck has to turn sooner or later. After all, Mark Webber's did.

Romain Grosjean will be making his debut for Renault and all eyes will be on him to see if he can close the gap between the two Renauts. This is probably not the race to do it, though. Don't expect an exhilarating overtaking fest from the dock side - sorry, harbourside - circuit of Valencia, but whatever happens, there will be some significant action.

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