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Page last updated at 18:13 GMT, Saturday, 22 August 2009 19:13 UK

David Coulthard column

David Couthard
By David Coulthard
BBC Sport in Valencia

So we are back on the Formula 1 circuit after the summer break only to find the championship has just got even more interesting.

With Lewis Hamilton's emphatic pole at the European Grand Prix in Valencia, McLaren have established themselves, not only as a winning team, but as a car with enough genuine pace to boss qualifying too.

Lewis Hamilton
McLaren have established themselves, not only as a winning team, but as a car with enough pace to boss qualifying

What that means for championship leaders Brawn GP and their main rivals Red Bull is that racing is now a lot more complicated.

Instead of fighting over guaranteed podiums the dominant teams of 2009 are now fighting over points.

I suspect that Brawn have better performance relative to Red Bull here in Valencia than they have had in the last three races.

This type of street circuit does not suit the Adrian Newey-designed cars; there are a lot of low-speed corners so it is sort of point and squirt.

It's been a difficult weekend so far for Red Bull, with Sebastian Vettel claiming fourth on the grid and team-mate Mark Webber ninth.

They will be trying to salvage what they can around Valencia's waterfront; and that means desperately trying to finish one place in front of the Brawns rather than one behind.

Red Bull had an informal debrief after qualifying and both drivers feel the car is a bit tricky to drive.

They are not as bullish as they have been at other races and their strategy will be about keeping out of trouble at the start and seeing how the race unfolds.

There were also some rumours floating about that Red Bull are considering introducing the power boost Kers system, designed by Renault, to try to gain some advantage over Brawn but my view is that they will not be introducing it this season.

Things look a bit more rosy for championship leader Jenson Button. He is 18.5 points ahead of his closest rival Webber in the standings and if Brawn come away with a positive points tally over Red Bull then it will help cushion his lead.

Button won't be too happy with fifth in qualifying but with Webber four places behind him, he'll feel he has him under control.

Ed Bone

Vettel is his main competitor on the grid now and the German is one place ahead of him in fourth but he is also 23 points behind him in the title race and so Button will not be as disappointed as he could have been, given his championship position.

As far as Button is concerned, he's just counting down the last seven races and making sure he keeps his buffer to the next closest guy.

At the opposite end of the spectrum sits Luca Badoer, who is propping up the grid for Ferrari.

Team boss Stefano Domencali explained that the Italian team do things differently and they decided to reward the Italian test driver's loyalty by giving him the drive once Michael Schumacher declared himself unfit for the rigours of returning to F1.

I admire the loyalty and sentiment but loyalty can only go so far and now Ferrari need to react to what they've seen on the track.

I've got nothing against Luca, and we have to give him the benefit of the doubt when faced with driving a new car around an unknown circuit.

But he is an immensely experienced F1 test driver and the gap between himself and his team-mate, and himself and the back of the grid, is simply too big.

If he gets through the race on Sunday then he will inevitably be lapped with that sort of pace.

There are hefty rumours that Fernando Alonso will move to Ferrari next season...but until that is confirmed we have to take them as just that, speculation, for now

And although Ferrari aren't in the battle for the world championship, it is still a Ferrari and that means the car has to be driven as quickly as it can go - and right now it's not.

What should Ferrari do now?

Well, I say they should give Badoer another go during first practice for next weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.

Then if he shows that he is not able to deliver, the team will have to put fellow reserve driver Marc Gene, who has raced at Le Mans this season, or someone else in the car.

I believe I could have done a better job than Luca Badoer. If I had had a serious opportunity to do it then I'm sure Red Bull would have let me go - but Ferrari have been looking internally so far.

There are hefty rumours that Fernando Alonso will move to Ferrari next season, but until that is confirmed we have to take them as just that, speculation, for now.

Alonso in any car is a daunting prospect for the other drivers on the grid. Renault's double world champion is a great, great driver and pushes in every car he's ever driven.

Even if the Spaniard goes to Ferrari it doesn't automatically follow that the Italian team will have a race-winning car back in the garage.

What is obvious is that having battled his way through a single tumultuous season with McLaren in 2007, he has to try his luck at the other giant team on the grid and I think Ferrari and Alonso is an exciting combination.

David Coulthard won 13 Grands Prix in a 15-year F1 career. He is a BBC Sport pundit and a consultant for Red Bull. He was talking to BBC Sport's Sarah Holt.

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see also
Hamilton storms to Valencia pole
22 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
European Grand Prix qualifying photos
22 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Alonso 'will switch to Ferrari'
21 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Vettel pens new Red Bull contract
21 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
McLaren talk up Kers 'advantage'
20 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
Button out to reignite title push
20 Aug 09 |  Formula 1
F1 on the BBC
01 Dec 11 |  Formula 1

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