Following four flyaway races and a three week gap, this weekend Formula One heads to Barcelona for the Spanish GP. The race, which kicks off the European leg of the season, was won last year by Pastor Maldonado. It was Williams’ first win since Juan Pablo Montoya in 2004. The picture looks distinctly different this year – Sebastian Vettel has a comfortable lead in the championship, backed up by two race wins. The Bahrain GP was a case of deja vu, with Vettel winning the race ahead of Lotus’ Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean – an identical result to 2012.
Spanish GP Stats
Circuit Name: Circuit de Catalunya
Number of Laps: 66
Circuit Length: 4.655km
Lap Record: 1:21.670 K Räikkönen (2008)
2012 Results: 1.Pastor Maldonado 2. Fernando Alonso 3. Kimi Räikkönen
There are seven previous Spanish GP winners still on the grid: Pastor Maldonado, Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Jenson Button, Kimi Räikkönen, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.
- For the past seven years, the Spanish GP has been won by a different driver
- From the current grid, Kimi Räikkönen is the only driver to have won it more than once. He won it in 2008 for Ferrari and 2005 for McLaren
- Ferrari are the most successful team at the Circuit de Catalunya with seven wins under their belt
- The Spanish GP was first held at the Circuit de Catalunya in 1991 and so 2013 will be the 23rd running of it
- Of the 22 races held the race winner has come from pole 18 times
- Heikki Kovalainen will once again get behind the wheel of the Caterham for FP1
- Alan Jones will be the driver steward this weekend
With the start of the European season generally comes a raft of significant upgrades. The Spanish GP is another one which can prove to be tough on the tyres and proves to be notoriously difficult for overtaking. There are a number of high speed corners, as well as medium and low-speed, and a long pit straight – generally a little bit of everything thrown in for drivers to contend with. Teams have a long history of testing at the circuit pre-season and so drivers all well accustomed to it come race weekend. Pirelli will bring the hard and medium compound tyres to this race. There will be two DRS zones – one between Turn 9 and Turn 10, and the other on the pit straight.
What came before?
Sebastian Vettel took a controlling victory at the Bahrain GP, ahead of Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean to produce an exact replica of the 2012 results. Paul di Resta equalled his best ever finish by bringing his Force India home in fourth while Lewis Hamilton came back from a difficult opening stint to finish fifth. While team orders came to the fore after both Red Bull and Mercedes deployed them at the Malaysian GP, they were in the spotlight again in Bahrain but for a different reason. Having been urged by Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh to get his elbows out, Sergio Perez came out all guns blazing. After failing to make the pole-position shoot out yet again, while team-mate Jenson Button slipped through, Perez revealed his car was set up for the race. The pair were involved in a spirited on-track battle which saw them bang wheels and run each other off the road. Perez eventually muscled his way through to finish sixth while Button had to make another stop and ended the day in tenth. Perez finished the race just seven tenths down on Lewis Hamilton.
Elsewhere, following his commanding win in China, Fernando Alonso had a disappointing race. A DRS problem, which saw the flap jammed open, left him having to pit two times to close it. He then spent the rest of the race having to defend and attack with no DRS available to him, and ended up finishing in eighth place. His team-mate Felipe Massa was not so lucky as to salvage points after picking up a puncture, ending the day in 15th spot. Pole sitter Nico Rosberg lost out in the race and he also made an extra stop, dropping down to finish tenth.
What’s to come?
The Spanish GP is traditionally where teams bring their first significant upgrades of the year, having spent the first four races of the year in Australia, Malaysia, China and Bahrain. So look out for an array of new parts, including front wings, sidepods, and rear wings, as teams look to maximise their car’s potential. All eyes will specifically be on McLaren as they look to pick up the pace, quite literally, after a disappointing start to the season. They currently lie sixth in the constructors’ championship, with 23 points – 86 behind championship leaders Red Bull already – and a best placed finish of fifth place. For a team who are used to winning races – they won seven in 2012 – their revolutionary car has not yet paid off. 2012 race winners Williams are another team currently in the doldrums and are looking to get their season back on track. Williams took the opportunity during the break to complete an aero test at Idiada, following which they will be bringing updates to Spain. The Spanish GP can prove to be an important race in terms of shaping the remainder of the championship.
This weekend will see teams provided with an extra set of the prototype hard tyres, with Pirelli tweaking the compound to make it more similar to 2012 in terms of durability.