The European F1 season kicks off this weekend with the Spanish Grand Prix. Teams are particularly familiar with the Circuit de Catalunya as it hosts pre-season testing. Nico Rosberg currently leads the pack on 100 points – four out of four wins so far this season.
Due to the familiarity of the circuit and the fact it is ‘closer to home’, teams traditionally bring their first real big upgrades to the Spanish Grand Prix. Mercedes’ upgrades include a new pointier nose, while Force India have a new front wing along with rear and floor updates. Haas and Sauber will receive upgrades to their Ferrari engines with Haas also set to debut a new front win. McLaren are bringing the second iteration of their new front wing as well as a significant aerodynamic configuration change. Renault are another team to upgrade their front and rear wings as well as a new chassis for Jolyon Palmer. Manor have a number of tweaks to their car planned, including bodywork.
Circuit: Circuit de Catalunya
Number of Laps: 66
Circuit Length: 4.655km
Number of Corners: 16
Lap Record: 1:21.670 Kimi Raikkonen (2008)
Previous Spain winners still on the grid: 7
Most Successful Team: Ferrari (12 wins)
DRS Zones: 2
Pirelli Tyres: Soft, Medium and Hard
The big news ahead of this weekend’s race was the surprise move by Red Bull to switch Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen. Red Bull felt that Kvyat was struggling to find form and so, from the Spanish Grand Prix onwards he will drive for Toro Rosso. This means Verstappen has been promoted to Red Bull much earlier than expected. All eyes will be on the pair this weekend as they face new challenges – Verstappen to prove he deserves the promotion, and Kvyat to show that he can find form.
The Circuit de Catalunya is notoriously a difficult circuit to overtake on meaning qualifying as far up the grid as possible is more essential than at other tracks. It features a mix of low, medium and high speed corners – the focus placed on the latter two, with only three taken at less than 100kmh. There is a long pit straight as well which provides probably the best opportunity for overtaking. Grip levels are high and brake wear is medium with 63% of the lap spent at full throttle.
Rosberg is the form man and his team-mate Lewis Hamilton will be hoping to finally beat him this weekend. Elsewhere the Ferrari boss has said that he expects his team to start winning in Spain and they weren’t far off in 2014 but Kimi Raikkonen ran out of laps. Williams finished solidly with both cars in the points in Russia to capitalise on their main rivals Red Bull finishing outside the points. McLaren were another team to take a double points finish – their first of the season, although not their first point but it certainly boosted their position. Renault scored their first points of the season thanks to Kevin Magnussen meaning just Sauber and Manor are left to score any points.