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Formula One Preview: Spanish Grand Prix

Written by Marcus Woodhouse, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Image Credit: Mark Thompson

A Formula 1 season ebbs and flows, as we find ourselves at the end of a calm spell of two-week breaks for the teams to relax and recharge in, before we head into a frenzied, frenetic European triple header. The story begins this weekend at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, so here is everything you need to prepare yourself for the spectacle that is the Spanish Grand Prix.

Circuit Guide

Image Credit: Formula One

Another of the drivers’ favourite tracks, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya maintains its detractors in terms of general racing entertainment. 

While the removal of the chicane at the end of the lap was designed to improve racing and facilitate more overtaking, we weren’t exactly treated to a classic last year, even after these modifications, so expectations for a great race aren’t exactly through the roof.

Nevertheless, a lap of the circuit starts with the first DRS (Drag Reduction System) zone in a fairly lengthy straight, followed by two fast jinks right and left. Turn 3 seems to last forever, as the drivers require the utmost precision to find a line where they can keep their foot down and accelerate smoothly out of the corner.

Then follows a short run down to the long right-hander of Turn 4, and similar left-hander of Turn 5, as the drivers try to carry the greatest speed possible through the exits of both corners. A curved, flat-out section of track then precedes the unsettling, uphill chicane of Turns 7 and 8, a classic spot for a driver to lose all traction and slide off into the wall on the left-hand side.

A fast and furious right-hander comes next, as the drivers charge flat-out, sometimes perilously near to the gravel trap on the outside, in order to gain the best possible top speed in the other DRS zone of the circuit. 

Brakes are eventually slammed on and the drivers do their best to slow the car down sufficiently to make it round Turn 10, keep it going through Turn 11, and switch the rotation of their car to ease it around the slow right-hander of Turn 12.

With no infuriating chicane to break all momentum, it’s a clear run for the drivers to go pedal to the metal around Turn 13. Although a slight lift-off may be required to make it safely around Turn 14, the speed of the cars is built up and the drivers may receive a helpful dose of DRS to ease them past the car in front.

Image Credit: Mario Renzi - Formula 1

Weekend Format

Schedule (in BST)

Practice 1 - Friday, 12:30 pm

Practice 2 - Friday, 16:00 pm

Practice 3 - Saturday, 11:30 am

Qualifying - Saturday, 15:00 pm

Race - Sunday, 14:00 pm

Weather Forecast

Sunny skies look to be setting the scene in Spain this weekend, with minimal chances of rain interrupting the running, and only light winds. Temperatures are likely to be fairly high as well, with an approximated average of 24oC (75oF) over the course of the grand prix.

Major Talking Points

  • Red Bull Edging the Competition - It’s been a tough last few weeks for Red Bull, with Max Verstappen only taking two wins from the last four races, but he was able to fractionally outdo his competitors in Montreal. How much longer will it be until Red Bull either bring some effective upgrades and streak clear of the competition again, or simply come up short and fall to the ruthless advances of the teams around them?

  • Ferrari’s Canadian Catastrophe - The highs and lows of Formula 1 have never been more evident than a Monaco Grand Prix, in which home hero Charles Leclerc took his first win there to the delight of pretty much everyone around the world, preceding that disaster of a Canadian Grand Prix for Ferrari, in which everything that could go wrong did go wrong and both cars could only convert Q2 exits into early retirements come Sunday. 

Can they bounce back once again, or is their momentum too disrupted?

  • Alpine Success Undermined by Off-Track Shenanigans - It was a double points finish for the French team in Montreal, a hugely successful result for a team that has struggled to put its cars further forwards than the back row of the grid at times so far this season. 

Yet, the ugly way in which their long-serving driver Esteban Ocon is being ejected from the team and the seemingly unwanted seat he is leaving behind have detracted from the celebrations somewhat. 

Can Alpine sort out the situation and secure a driver for 2025 or will they become overwhelmed by off-track politics and hurt their racing performance as a consequence?

Image Credit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images

Last Race Recap

Mercedes were the talk of the town heading into qualifying, after both Silver Arrows were setting the pace in FP3 (Free Practice 3), but it was all to play for heading into Saturday evening. 

We were certainly not disappointed either, as a hectic qualifying session began with a shocking Q1 elimination for Sergio Perez, before both Ferraris found themselves lacking the pace to make it out of Q2.

We headed into the final shootout and what a spectacle it was. Verstappen and George Russell both managed to set a time of 1:12.000 but the Mercedes driver got to it first and claimed a highly commendable pole position. Lando Norris led the two McLarens to fill out the second row of the grid, while Daniel Ricciardo responded to his critics in style with a brilliant P5 to start the race.

Race day came around quickly, and it was a crazy start to proceedings as the rain beat down, and every team opted for the long-term gain of intermediate tyres, apart from Haas who put their drivers on full wets. 

It seemed to be paying off for them as well, as both Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg were slicing through the field and looked set to make it all the way to the front, before the rain sadly relented and their wet tyres had to be swiftly replaced.

Engine issues hounded Leclerc who was still frustratingly stuck outside of the points, while Verstappen couldn’t find the pace to make a move on Russell, before the Dutchman took a trip through the grass. 

This handed Norris the impetus to breeze past him, and soon after he swept past Russell to take the lead of the race on lap 21. Russell lost concentration for a moment and Verstappen was past him, but Norris looked to be the fastest car on track out front.

He managed to construct a 10-second margin to his challengers, until a spin for Williams’ Logan Sargeant brought out the safety car and undid all his hard work. Everyone behind him pitted straight away for another set of intermediates, but Norris had to wait a lap after missing the opportunity the first time around. 

It was tight on the exit but he had been passed by both Verstappen and Russell to his dismay. Meanwhile Leclerc took the gamble to put slick tyres on before the rest of the grid, with not much to lose and everything to gain.

Image Credit: Bryn Lennon - Formula 1

To nobody’s surprise though, it did not pay off and the Monegasque driver was forced into yet another stop to get intermediates back onto his car. Not much was changing at the front until the drivers all started to box for slick tyres as the track finally dried out, while Leclerc came into the pits only to retire the car and cap off a miserable weekend. 

Norris tried the overcut on Verstappen and Russell with almost great success, if not for his cold tyres when he finally emerged from the pits that allowed Verstappen to make light work of him and regain the lead.

Norris and Russell traded positions a couple of times before incidents started to occur behind them. 

Perez lost control of his car and ended up backing into a wall to put an end to his race, while a spin for Carlos Sainz unfortunately took Alex Albon down with him and knocked the pair of them out of contention. The ensuing safety car allowed both Mercedes drivers to come in for a fresh set of tyres.

Russell scrapped hard with both Oscar Piastri and his teammate Lewis Hamilton but managed to emerge victorious (in that scrap at least) and take a podium position ahead of Hamilton and Piastri respectively. Verstappen made no mistake in converting his lead into a fifth win of the season, while Norris had to settle for second after another impressive drive.

The Aston Martins both managed to get ahead of Ricciardo, but a four point haul for the Aussie was still a very good weekend and one he desperately needed to keep one hand on his seat for 2025. 

Ocon was left fuming after team orders allowed Pierre Gasly past him, but a double points finish for Alpine was a great result nonetheless. The two Haas cars narrowly missed out on points in P11 and P12.

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