The F1 teams are in Spain this weekend for round 5 of the Formula 1 season with tension heating-up on and off the track.
The Spanish Grand Prix is one of the iconic races on the F1 calendar. First held in 1913, the location has changed a few times before settling at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in 1991.
The teams know the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya intimately. Beyond the regular races at the track, the 2016 pre-season testing was held there and it will also host the mid-season testing after the race.
But familiarity does not make the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya any easier for drivers.
The Spanish Grand Prix is the first European race of the season and is renowned for being the form guide for the remainder of the year providing the teams with a clear indication of their relative strengths and weaknesses.
“The reason Barcelona is a test track is because it has almost every type of corner. It has chicanes, it has fast corners, it has slow corners, it has big braking zones, it has corners when you prioritize speed on entry and it has corners where you focus on the exit: it has everything,” said Renault’s Kevin Magnussen.
“It’s a perfect test track, but if anything it does have more high speed than low speed corners so you need a nicely balanced car and tyre wear can get a little bit tricky: you can’t really run the softest tyres there.”
With just two corners below 100km/h, the track mixes medium and high speed turns putting the focus on aerodynamic efficiency. It also makes it notoriously difficult to overtake and places huge importance on securing pole position. In fact, the race has been won from pole 19 times from 25 outings, and only twice has it been won by a driver starting lower than front row.
Spectators can also expect the teams to use different strategies at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya with its higher speed corners and abrasive surface meaning that tyre degradation is particularly high and getting an optimum set-up can be hard to find.
Driver Changes at Red Bull
Daniil Kyvat has been the center of attention recently and it climaxed this week as he was dropped to the Torro Rosso team and replaced at Red Bull by rising sensation Max Verstappen.
Kyvat’s problems began in China where he shunted into Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari like a “torpedo” at the first corner. This was compounded in Russia when Kyvat again hit Vettel twice over two corners to end the Ferrari’s race.
Vettel – an ex-Red Bull driver – is still well regarded by their hierarchy including Christian Horner and Helmut Marko. It is reported that Red Bull were embarrassed by the incident. And, simultaneously, Kyvat hasn’t fully delivered on his potential and is regularly outperformed by his Australian team-mate Daniel Riccardo.
Many have described the switch as a Red Bull masterstroke. Verstappen is said to have attracted strong interest from Mercedes and Ferrari as a potential for 2017, and with tension evident among the Torro Rosso team, Red Bull has effectively locked-in their young driver for the medium term while giving Kyvat some clear space in their development team.
New Car Updates for Spain
The Spanish Grand prix is expected to see some teams unveil new updates to their cars.
McLaren will introduce a new floor, wings and bodywork in an effort to push into the third qualifying session. Elsewhere, Hass will run with a new tail wing and the upgraded Ferrari spec engine this weekend.
Renault will also be introducing some upgrades in Spain to find extra pace.
“For Spain, Jolyon Palmer will run with a new chassis – R.S.16-03 which we used at our filming day this week to shake down. For the race we have an updated rear wing as well as some updates for the front wing. For the [post-race] test we have a full raft of things to try; new suspension, further aero updates over various areas of the car, some mods to cooling as well as evaluating the B-spec power unit, so we should have a full two days,” said Nick Chester, Technical Director at Renault.
Meanwhile, Sauber will be absent from the post-race testing. With their ongoing finance problems, Sauber do not have any updates to trial and or a young driver that fulfils the FIA’s requirements.
The race will start at 14:00 local time and will run over 66 laps.