x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Just no stopping runaway Red Bulls

However, the team expect 'significant' loss of performance at British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Lessons learnt from Valencia

1. FIA back to square one

The plan implemented by the governing body for world motorsports to thwart Red Bull Racing running away with both the constructors' and drivers' championships was proved futile as Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber appeared stronger than ever at the European Grand Prix in Valencia on Sunday.

The FIA's decision to impose a regulation prohibiting the alteration of engine set-ups between Saturday qualifying and Sunday's race was expected to pin back Christian Horner's Red Bull team, who had secured pole position at every race this season.

Instead, the team secured a front-row lockout on the Saturday before Vettel coasted to his sixth win in eight races the next day. Webber finished third only after a late strategic mistake.

The FIA's last remaining hope is now pinned on the British Grand Prix in 10 days time. Another regulation change means the use of off-throttle exhaust blown diffusers will be prohibited and Adrian Newey, Red Bull's chief aerodynamicist, has already admitted his team's loss of performance will be "significant".

"I don't want to put a number on it because I don't know if that number is bigger or smaller than other [teams]," Newey said.

2. Valencia should vanish

The lacklustre atmosphere as Vettel strolled from pole to podium was unmistakable.

With the introduction of power-enhancing regulations it seemed processional races were a thing of the past, and yet the Valencia Street Circuit proved any such theory optimistic.

For the fourth consecutive year, the European Grand Prix arrived in the Spanish coastal city and for the fourth consecutive year it failed to provide a racing spectacle. For the first time in the sepia-tinged history of Formula One, 24 drivers finished a grand prix. There were no penalties, no collisions and, ultimately, no excitement.

Next year's provisional calendar has 21 races, but Jean Todt, the FIA president, has already said one will be removed.

It is widely expected that means the end for the Turkish Grand Prix, but there would probably be few complaints if Spain's second race vanished.

Drivers enjoy the challenge of Istanbul Park and its illustrious Turn Eight; in Valencia they complain of the impossibility of overtaking. Bernie Ecclestone, the commercial rights owner, should listen to the drivers rather than his bank manager. Nobody wants to watch 57 formation laps.

3. Jaime proves his worth

Jaime Alguersuari, ahead of his second home race in five weeks, had to field questions about his Toro Rosso future. He batted them away nonchalantly and it is hardly surprising - he has had much practice of late.

The growing threat of young reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo has put pressure on 21-year-old Alguersuari, who endured a tough start to the season.

In Valencia, however, the Spaniard enjoyed the best drive of the day, fighting from 18th place on the grid to finish eighth. The result means he has now finished a career-best eighth in his last two grands prix.

Toro Rosso have already confirmed Ricciardo will be given a seat next season, so Alguersuari knows he must continue to beat his teammate Sebastien Buemi if he wants to remain in Formula One.

4. Schumacher slips up

Michael Schumacher, having won seven world championships, is long accustomed to providing the excitement in Formula One and during a dull European Grand Prix he was the only driver to provide anything close to drama. But it was not the way the Mercedes GP driver would have intended.

The German damaged his front wing when he clipped Vitaly Petrov's Renault while rejoining the race following a pit stop. The accident curbed his chances and he eventually finished 17th.

It was a return to reality for the 42-year-old German, who had shown glimpses of his old form in Montreal when he found himself as high up as second during the weather-affected Canadian Grand Prix before he eventually fell back in the closing laps to finish in fourth place.

Schumacher accepted the blame entirely for the small shunt and said he will now focus on improving ahead of Silverstone, which he described as "one of our home races". Mercedes race under a British licence.

5. Same same, but different

Sergio Perez's softly-softly, one-stop strategy saw him finish seventh at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix before being disqualified for an illegal wing.

In Valencia this weekend he was asked to recreate such a performance, despite the top seven placed drivers all employing a three-stop strategy. Perez again managed to complete the entire 57-lap race with only one pit stop, but the strategy did not pay off as it would have in Melbourne.

Sauber's Mexican rookie was returning to the track for the first time since his massive shunt in Monaco, but as his tyres deteriorated, he struggled to fight in the middle of the pack and, although recovering well as the end approached, he missed a points finish by six seconds on his way to placing 11th.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae