Spanish Grand Prix Preview

Written by@OMGitsTarrynLee for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

Spanish Grand Prix | Sunday 12 May | Circuit de Catalunya | 14:00

This weekend the Formula One action moves to Spain for the fifth round of the 2013 season and the first race in Europe, which also happens to be Fernando Alonso’s home race. The Spanish fans come out in droves to support their countryman and watch as the teams battle it out in a race that is considered a good indicator of how well drivers will perform at the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks time. This weekend the teams will bring their first major updates to the cars, with the Circuit de Catalunya providing a great track on which to test aerodynamics. Some teams are in need of mechanical evolution more than others and hopefully fans will witness the floundering McLarens produce the competitive times expected of the racing giants.There are seven past winners in the field including of course, hometown hero Alonso. It will be interesting to see whether Sunday will bring a repeat winner (a possible third win here for Raikkonen) or a fresh face in first place. 

Previous Race
The season began with a new winner at each race but Bahrain saw the end of this, as Vettel silenced his critics with a fantastic drive to win his second, and less controversial, Grand Prix of the season. Rosberg secured pole and tried valiantly to fend off the faster cars behind him but was inevitably overtaken by Vettel and Alonso. Vettel raced off into the distance while Alonso’s hopes of challenging the German were dashed by his dodgy DRS, resulting in a faulty rear-wing flap that refused to close and more trips to the pits than he would have liked. Paul Di Resta showed some surprising speed, highlighting the improvement of the Force India team. Bahrain produced another spat between teammates. This time it wasn’t the ever-dueling Red Bulls, but surprisingly the McLaren team dealing with driver dramatics. It was a case of veteran versus rookie as Button and Perez battled it out on the track, much to Button’s annoyance and Perez’s delight, as the young Mexican finished sixth, four places ahead of his disgruntled teammate.

The Track
Circuit de Catalunya is a firm favourite with teams. As a popular track for pre-season testing, drivers welcome the familiarity of the circuit located just North of Barcelona. A lap is 4,655km long and the race is 66 laps in its entirety.The track is a combination of high and medium speed corners and chances for overtaking are limited with the exception of turn one, where the cars are forced to brake after a DRS straight. Not surprisingly, with overtaking being rare, the last twelve races have been won by the pole-sitter. The Spanish circuit is relatively easy on the brakes, but tough on the tires, so Pirelli have selected their medium and hard compounds for the race. Wind is a big factor here but unlike previous races, chances of rain are low and temperatures are tolerable. 

To Win Outright
Sebastian Vettel 2/1
Fernando Alonso 11/4
Kimi Raikkonen 9/2
Mark Webber 9/1
Lewis Hamilton 12/1
Felipe Massa 20/1
Jenson Button 22/1
Nico Rosberg 22/1

Fernando Alonso 11/4
Alonso is obviously among the favourites on Sunday. The Ferrari driver receives nothing less than adoration from the home supporters, something that becomes clear as the camera pans over a crowd peppered with Ferrari flags and messages of encouragement for the Spaniard. He won here in 2006 with Renault but hasn’t managed it with his Ferrari, yet. Coming off a less than stellar performance in Bahrain, Alonso will definitely be aiming for a repeat of China and another home win. He needs the 25 points to close the 30-point gap between him and Vettel in the Championship, so look out for some sublime driving from the Spaniard as he tries to improve on last year’s second place.

Sebastian Vettel 2/1
There’s always a good chance Sebastian Vettel will take the checkered flag. He won the last race relatively easily and it would be silly to discount him. He won here in 2012 and his Red Bull is always a prominent fixture at the front end of the field. He’s also rather good at setting great lap times in qualifying, which may be the edge he needs to take a victory ahead of Alonso, who hasn’t yet managed to start on the front row this year.

Kimi Raikkonen 9/2
I don’t think anyone expected the former World Champion to resurrect his Formula One career in such a ferocious manner, especially after he spent a couple of years dabbling in rallying and Nascar (the horror). But, the Finn is back and he’s eyeing another World Championship. He’s won here twice before and with two second place finishes in the last two Grand Prix, I would be surprised if he wasn’t on the podium on Sunday. 

Lewis Hamilton 12/1
Hamilton has managed two third and two fifth place finishes this year, as well as a pole position, but for some reason the checkered flag has eluded the British driver. It will be interesting to see how the Mercedes performs with the updates. The car is pretty fast already but if the engineers have made some decent improvements, it may just be quick enough to secure a win.

Top 6 Finish: Pastor Maldonado 20/1 and Sergio Perez 33/10
Maldonado is worth a mention after the Venezuelan’s stellar performance last year to beat out Alonso and take top position at the Ferrari driver’s home Grand Prix. Despite his impressive drive at the track in 2012, Maldonado has failed to really impress this year and the chances of him getting his Williams on the top spot of the podium for a second year running are slim. However, 20/1 for a finish in the Top 6 makes taking a bet on this more realistic possibility, pretty worthwhile - if Maldonado can pull it off. 

Another young driver to watch is Sergio Perez. His tenacious driving style is refreshing and his duel with his McLaren teammate in Bahrain made it pretty clear the youthful Mexican is looking to make a name for himself in the sport. He’s a rookie who is brave enough to challenge the “big name” drivers (he narrowly lost out to Alonso for a win in Malaysia last year) and I’d say he’s in with a good chance of another Top 6 finish, so put some money on it at 33/10.

Pole Position: Sebastian Vettel 27/20
Vettel is a high possibility for pole as always, but Hamilton managed to set the fastest time last year only to be relegated to the back of the field because he ran out of fuel. The recent fashion of drivers avoiding setting a lap time to save tires might come into play, but with little overtaking and the high importance of starting from the front row, it seems unlikely. I’d expect fast times from the usual Q3 contenders but with the major modifications expected from teams, pole position could be a surprise. Depending on how well the cars respond to the updates, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Mercedes or a Lotus challenging for the front row. Right now, I’d take Vettel at 27/20 because of his ability to pull off that one flying lap when he needs it.

TO WIN: Fernando Alonso 11/4
With this track’s history of producing pole-sitting race winners, it’s probably a good idea to bet on whoever manages to set the fastest time on Saturday. At this point though, I’d put my money on Alonso, he’ll be motivated by the Spanish supporters, his Ferrari is quick and he’ll be looking to take top points after being denied them last year. It will be interesting to see if any teams do manage to pull off some major improvements and perhaps on Sunday there could finally be a McLaren or Mercedes driver on the top of the podium.

Think we've got it wrong? Well leave your comments below and tell us how you think this one is going to play out.