Text: Alex Yoong / Photos: | posted May 11, 2013 19:47
2013 Spanish Grand Prix Preview
With almost a quarter of the season already gone, we head back to Europe’s and F1's heartland. Barcelona this weekend is such a significant race as it usually gives a very strong indication of who will be favourite for the rest of the year. Although this is not a hard fast rule as we saw Maldonado win last year and we know he did not come close to producing that form for the rest of the year.
Nonetheless, it's the race where all teams bring significant upgrades for their cars to improve their performances and they do this for a variety of reasons. Firstly, with all the F1 teams based in Europe, it's the first race close to home and it's easier to bring bulky parts to. Secondly, it's the circuit that is tested most on, so teams and drivers know exactly how and why any new parts would work (or don't work in some cases).
Thirdly, Barcelona has a good variety of corners and straights which gives you better insights to other tracks further into the calendar. Also, the first two sectors make up some long medium to high speed corners where you need a good aerodynamic balance in the car. Aerodynamics are still king when it comes to producing a fast F1 car.
Red Bull as championship leaders will be feeling the most relaxed of the teams coming into this weekend’s race. Historically, the first sector has always been Red Bull territory but from what I've seen over the last year, the others have made big steps in medium to high speed corners and I don't think they will be any quicker through those bits. Where they seem better now are in slow corners with excellent traction and good rotation mid corner. So I actually think they will be hard to live with through the third sector now. Red Bull should be confident of fighting for the win.
Ferrari on the other hand will be under pressure to produce a win. It's Alonso's home track and he always pulls off something special there, especially in an underperforming car. However he doesn't have that this year, because Ferrari is actually very quick now and even better on tyres than Red Bull. What they need to do is to cut down the mistakes to zero (in contrast to Bahrain) and challenge for the win which I expect them to.
The best car on the grid for race pace has to be the Lotus as they look after their tyres so well. As a slightly smaller team compared to others like RedBull or Ferrari, this weekend will show if they have the resources to fight for the title. If their updates work and they take a race win, then you will have to say that they are very much in the championship fight.
Of all teams on the grid, McLaren will be the one most under the microscope. As one of the biggest teams and such a rich heritage, they need to perform better. Button was playing down the updates they will be bringing but I think that's to try and release some of the tremendous pressure they are under. The package they bring to Barcelona must work if they are going to be a contender this year and they will at least be hoping to fight for a chance on the podium.
In 2014, there will be such changes in the regulations and the cars themselves, all of the teams have split their resources so that they can work on next year’s car as well as develop this year’s 2013 car. But by the end of the weekend, if some of the smaller teams look like they are not getting on top of their current car, I can see them directing more attention on the 2014 car and in effect giving up on the 2013 car. Another reason why this race in Barcelona is so important.
There will be battles up and down the field and I will enjoy seeing which teams have got them right.
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