Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Circuit Length: 4.655 km (2.892 miles)
Race Length: 307.104 km (190.825 miles)
Last Race (2016)
Pole Position: L. Hamilton Mercedes 1:22.000
1. M. Verstappen Red Bull-TAG Heuer 1:41:40.017
2. K. Raikkonen Ferrari +0.616secs
3. S. Vettel Ferrari +5.581secs
Fastest Lap: D. Kvyat Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:26.948
The F1 calendar is back for another weekend and this time we’re at the (usually) sunny Catalunya track. The Spanish Grand Prix has previously been a key race as we see how the cars perform in a run of races in Europe. Although criticised for being a track where overtaking proves difficult, it has the tendency to throw up eventful races. We all remember what happened last year but we’ll get in to that later. What we do know is that we won’t have a race which will be dominated by Mercedes as Ferrari have joined the party.
Last Time Out
Last Grand Prix weekend in Sochi, Valtteri Bottas recorded his first ever victory in F1; much of a surprise to many. The Finn wasn’t expected to win a race so soon into his Mercedes career. He won the race fair and square and received nothing but congratulations and praise from his fellow drivers. With talk of him playing second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton so early into season, you could say it was a much needed win to put those talks to bed. He’s been on a role and no doubt he’ll want that to continue this weekend. Bottas was followed by the two Ferrari’s in 2nd and 3rd as Lewis Hamilton proved no challenge due to being unable to get his car working. Ferrari would have loved the win but they won’t mind the result they got last weekend. Toto Wolff was probably the happiest man in the paddock all things considered. Another win for Ferrari would have the Mercedes car truly questioned but the Bottas win would have suggested Mercedes are still very much ready to fight for the championship. Red Bull would have been disappointed with 5th and a DNF and providing no challenge to the front four cars from the get go. Nico Hulkenburg got a very good result for Renault in 8th, especially as his teammate Jolyon Palmer, continues to put in dreadful performances. The Force India duo also did well to finish in 6th and 7th in a race that didn’t see much overtaking.
1 Year On…
All F1 fans remember what happened in the Spanish Grand Prix last year and the significance it had. For those who don’t know, the two Mercedes drivers collided and that was the end of the race for both of them. The number 1 rule in F1 is do not crash into your teammate, so as expected, there was talk after the race regarding team orders. Talks which were further heightened by the collision in Austria a few races later. Nonetheless, Toto stuck to his guns and re-emphasised that the drivers will be allowed to race. A Mercedes 1-2 finish in the order they started would’ve seen a Lewis Hamilton win and meaning an extra 7 points over his teammate. There are many championship-defining moments over the course of the season and this was one of them considering Lewis lost the championship by 5 points last season. However, let’s not forget what the crash allowed…it allowed us to see the teenage sensation Max Verstappen win his first ever F1 race, and go down as the youngest Grand Prix winner in F1 history at just 18 years old. It shouldn’t be forgotten that that was his first race for Red Bull as the bosses made a ruthless decision in demoting Daniil Kvyat back to Toro Rosso with Max going the other way. The 18 year old barely had time to settle but he still managed to pull off the victory with an experienced Kimi Raikkonen pushing him all the way. Whether we’ll see such dramatic events happens this year is unknown but it would be crazy to rule it out!
Important Weekend For Lewis?
This has already been a bit of a different season for Lewis Hamilton as he finally has some competition from someone other than his teammate. Ferrari have improved their car drastically from last season and now arguably have the best race car on the grid. The two teams have both recorded two victories each with Lewis Hamilton winning one race. If the season pans out the way everything believes it will (Lewis Hamilton vs. Sebastian Vettel), then he doesn’t want to see his rival get too far ahead of him. A win for Sebastian Vettel this weekend will mean three wins to Lewis’s one. The German also has the comfort of knowing that he is the effectively the number 1 driver at Ferrari, and so Raikkonen will be asked to help out or be sacrificed for the good of Vettel. Lewis Hamilton doesn’t have that comfort and even less so after last weekend. This is an important weekend for the three time world champion. There’s no doubt that he wants to get back to winning ways and prove that he is the top dog at Mercedes as well as letting Sebastian Vettel know that the fight will be going down for the wire.
Red Bull Woes
Last season saw Red Bull win two races, suggesting that they were the closest to Mercedes albeit a large gap of speed. Ferrari had a terrible season and failed to record a victory for the entire season. With the new 2017 season, we saw a multitude of rule changes which usually gives teams the opportunity to get a head start on the others teams if they have designed their car well. Taking last season into consideration, Red Bull may have thought that they would be the car to take the challenge to Mercedes this season; yet they have done nothing of the sort. Ferrari have leaped above them in performance and they are the team pushing Mercedes. It would signify that the team failed to get their car in order corresponding to the new rules changes. With a certain Adrian Newey still on board, you can’t help but feel that they should be worried about their lack of progression. Red Bull have been throwing their toys out of the pram ever since Mercedes have been dominating the sport. At the very least, they always had a piece of mind knowing they were the closest car to Mercedes, but this is no longer the case. Last weekend in Russia, the Mercedes’ and Ferrari’s drove WELL into the distance and this included a Mercedes car that didn’t work anywhere near as well as it could. Verstappen finished a whole minute behind the leader and I imagine this is not where Red Bull planned to be when developing 2017’s car. It will be interesting to see how they do over the next few races but it’s looking like this is not the season where they will challenge for the championship.
The Future of McLaren
Ah man, McLaren. A team that was once at the pinnacle of the sport sadly have a car reminiscent of the 2007 Super Aguri. Maybe that’s a little harsh but McLaren have a car on the grid that is unacceptable for the resources they have. Although a lot of the blame with lie with Honda and their engine, the team do have to look at themselves and ask why there has been zero progression over a substantial amount of time. Many occasions over this and last season, two time world champion Fernando Alonso, has been a sitting duck to cars that he thought he’d never be passed by so easily. You have to feel sorry for not just him but also for Stoffel Vandoorne is his rookie season. The Belgian is yet to have the chance to impress as the car has either failed him or just generally isn’t fit enough to be on an F1 track. Ron Dennis’ attempt to revive the team after Martin Whitmarsh was well out of his depth has backfired majorly. The decision to use the Honda engine was a poor and detrimental decision, which not only has seen McLaren credibility fall massively but also lost Ron Dennis his job. Zak Brown has a massive challenge on his hands to get McLaren back to where they were. Nevertheless, he seems very open to ideas and it could well see McLaren once again use the Mercedes engine, something Ron Dennis was too stubborn to consider. Switching engines would be a good start and they already have a great team principle in Eric Boullier. With the right decisions and hard work, we will (hopefully) soon see McLaren back at the front the grid where they belong.
There’s a lot riding on the race this weekend despite it being so early into the season. It very rarely rains in Barcelona but I’m sure we can still expect a thrilling and gripping race. The Spanish Grand Prix weekend schedule is below. Be sure to tune in!
Spanish GP Weekend Schedule
12th May Practice 1 09:00
12th May Practice 2 13:00
13th May Practice 3 10:00
13th May Qualifying 13:00
14th May Grand Prix 13:00