There’s little doubt that with the admonishments from Red Bull boss Christian Horner ringing in their ears that the duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will be more circumspect as the F1 circus heads to the Catalunya, Barcelona, circuit for this weekend’s fifth round of 2018.
And it’d be warnings the pair should heed as it’s the second time the pair had knocked up a pair of DNFs in three rounds. For the money being paid and for the expenses incurred, that’s a huge negative return.
What promises to not be a negative return is the Mercedes team; in the lat five years the Silver Arrows have locked out P1 and P2 four times. It was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel that nailed pole at Barcelona in 2017.
The circuit has seen, in the past, ten different winners in a row. With the form the top five drivers have been exhibiting, even with Hamilton’s come from behind win at Baku, there’s absolutely no certainty that the polesitter will take the win. Ricciardo has, apart from Baku, shown high speed and consistent form on track, Vettel is always a threat even though he’s never claimed pole in Spain, and if Hamilton wins he’ll become just one of a few that have chalked up three wins at Barcelona.
Valtteri Bottas is well and truly in the mix too, having out qualified his team mate in four of the last six races, meaning Hamilton must double his guard if he’s to be a chance.
Baku also threw up some surprises, such as young New Zealand driver Brendon Hartley getting his first drivers points in his Toro Rosso. Charles Leclerc from Sauber scored for the first time as did Williams driver Lance Stroll.
Then there’s Fernando Alonso. The veteran Spaniard hasn’t scored higher than fifth in the four races held, and that was in Melbourne for round 1. The three subsequent races have seen Alonso place seventh, putting him sixth overall with 28 points in the driver’s championship, nine points behind Red Bull’s Ricciardo. He also hasn’t scored points in his home country’s event since 2014, something he’d no doubt be keen to change.
Renault’s Carlos Sainz will be looking to make a mark here too. He’s finished ninth, sixth, and seventh in his last three races in Spain and a top five finish would see him comfortably away from his current tenth overall position.
Eyes will be on Verstappen and Ricciardo though. The younger driver finished with a win here in 2016, in his debut for Red Bull and created a couple of records doing so. He was the youngest driver to win a F1 race (18 years, 227 days), the first Dutchman to win a F1 race and the first to win on debut after the season’s first race since 1954. That driver in 1954, by the way, was Juan Manuel Fangio.
Mexican born driver Sergio Perez sits inside the top ten and would be looking to improve upon his fourth place at Barcelona in 2017. If he can score a podium then he would be the first driver for Force India to do so.
After four rounds Lewis Hamilton sits atop the drivers ladder, courtesy of his win in Baku, but his lead is slender at just four points of Sebastian Vettel’s 66, but a clear 22 ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.
The race starts at 15:10 local time or 13:10 UTC, Sunday 14 May.