The Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona will allow us to draw conclusions about the rest of the Formula 1 season.
The last Grand Prix in Miami could have been a huge hit in terms of show. But from a purely sporting point of view, the next race in Barcelona (Sunday, 3pm live on Sky) will be the benchmark for the new season. That’s why champions and connoisseurs alike look to the Circuit de Catalunya, located at the gates of the capital in the heart of Catalonia, at the weekend.
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Former Formula 1 driver Marc Surer (70), who has lived in Spain for years, explains why. Surer on F1-Insider.com: “The track in Barcelona offers all kinds of corners and separates the wheat from the chaff in terms of car power. The car that runs in Barcelona is also good at most other racetracks. And vice versa. This is why the track is also the course. The preferred training for engineers for the test drive.
Surer continues: “Teams don’t have more data on any other route. It’s a gauge and shows where the trend could go for this season. During the winter testing, Ferrari and Red Bull were strong. Then they also dominated the first five races.”
What’s more at the weekend: traditionally, all the teams in Spain show more developments in their cars. Ferrari comes with a refurbished car, as does Red Bull. Mercedes is trying an entirely new set of aerodynamics to get the slow-yet-slow “rebound” (jump) straight under control. Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin team is introducing a so-called B version of the current car. In Formula 1 circles, the letter B is a nickname for a completely new car.
Surer also knows what makes racing so groundbreaking this year: “This year, the teams no longer have much opportunity to develop extensively due to the limited development budget. This means: the Barcelona special update should work. You basically only have this one shot at the beginning.”
The Spanish Grand Prix may be the most important for the Mercedes team, which has been used to success over the past eight years. The reason: Next year’s concept car will be finished by July at the latest. Mercedes will soon have to decide which direction to take in 2023. Sticking with the current concept, which is very different from the rest of the field and looks perfect on paper but doesn’t yet work in practice? Or go to new ways? That’s why Norbert Hauge (69), former director of Mercedes Motorsport believes: “After the race, the engineers at Brackley will know if they have found the philosopher’s stone for their progressive concept or if they have to take a completely new direction for next year.”
Alone: Haug thinks that the champion team’s problems in recent years are not just about rebound, but also about the optimum use of the Pirelli tires that are so important. Hogg: “On Friday in Miami, you can see that Mercedes can be ahead if you can get the tires in the window. I think the Silver Arrow is very sensitive in this area. At Ferrari, for example, the window looks very big. It works. Ferrari always keeps the tires running optimally. At Mercedes, this window is only slightly open. And it is very difficult to find exactly that.”
However, opinions differ as to who will come out on top in the current duel over Barcelona’s first place. Ferrari is the favorite of Marc Saurer. “They brought a major update that would make them a favorite again, especially in Spain. The track has also matched Ferrari’s driving characteristics beforehand.”
Norbert Hauge, on the other hand, sees Red Bull in the lead. Hogg: “It seems to me that they’ve really started running since Imola. Both there and in Miami, Red Bull dominated and especially Max Verstappen. I have to say that Max is driving at a very high level at the moment.”
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