|Preview for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix being raced at the Circuit de Barcelona.|
Our F1 fanatic discusses, the repercussions from the Russian Grand Prix and looks ahead to this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix.
We return to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend where the pre-season testing went down. A lot has changed since that testing period, however. Lewis Hamilton lags behind Nico Rosberg by a deficit of 40 plus points, and Mercedes reputation for reliability has been tarnished thanks to Lewis’s early season mechanical issues.
It may still be relatively early in the season, but catching up to Rosberg will prove a challenge that may be insurmountable to his fellow drivers. Only time will tell who grabs the Drivers' Championship this year; the smart money is on Rosberg though.
From a spectator’s point of view, the Sochi Grand Prix must have been like watching a good old American Demolition derby, barring the monster trucks. From the drivers perspective, it must have felt like Carmageddon, with crashes and engine failures and all sorts of tomfoolery going on.
Unsurprisingly, Mercedes-AMG Petronas driver Nico Rosberg aced the weekend with his first career Grand Slam: pole position, fastest lap of the race, leading every lap, and victory.
The opening lap of the race was filled with incidents that ensured the starting grid positions did not change too much. The drama started at turns 2 and 3. Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel lined up in seventh on the grid, because of a five-place gearbox penalty, while Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat sat next to him in eighth. Kvyat hit the back of Vettel's Ferrari in the braking zone for Turn 2, shoving Vettel into Daniel Ricciardo – Kvyat's teammate. Kyvat then clobbered the back of Vettel's car at the entry to Turn 3, spinning the German into the wall and out of the race.
Lewis Hamilton battled his own engine gremlins all weekend but still finished second, 25 seconds behind Rosberg. During the final qualifying session on Saturday Hamilton's car suffered the same MGU-H failure as in China two weeks ago. The problem relegated him to tenth on the grid. In the race, Hamilton showed some major skills and fought his way to second place by Lap 19 out of 53 laps and began closing the 13-second gap to Rosberg who must have been starting to sweat as he saw Hamilton going hell for leather behind him.
On Lap 37, Mercedes told Hamilton his car had a water pressure issue. The malfunction forced the Brit to manage his race and settle for second. Hamilton was confident that if that had not happened, he would have won the race. The reliability and performance that Hamilton's car showed during the testing in Barcelona was not present in this race and the only thing his vehicle has been consistent in is giving him problems.
The rest of the top ten barely changed throughout the race. The first five positions on Lap 21 crossed the finish line in that order 32 laps later. Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen took the final podium position ahead of the Williams duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa.
The next five runners effectively locked into position as of Lap 36, with a retirement deciding the final order –Max Verstappen parked his Toro Rosso from sixth place with an engine failure. That promoted Fernando Alonso to sixth for McLaren, ahead of Kevin Magnussen scoring Renault's first points of the season, and Romain Grosjean getting Haas back in the points. Force India's Sergio Perez finished ninth, McLaren's Jenson Button rounded out the top ten.
With all the testing that happens on this track, the F1 teams are all familiar with it. However, familiarity does not translate to having an easy run. Barcelona's mix of high and low-speed corners, plus its abrasive and rather bumpy track surface, makes for a physically and mechanically taxing race.
Tyre wear is particularly high and the varying winds that cut across the circuit mean an optimum set-up can be hard to find.
On the spectators side, there is one particular corner to keep their eyes on. Called the Elf corner it is one of the few overtaking opportunities on the track. For the drivers, it is the final two turns, known collectively as New Holland, which provides one of the biggest challenges of the season. A fast exit is essential in order to maximise speed down the start-finish straight into Elf.
The length of the circuit is 4.655km with a race distance of 307.104km in 66 laps. The straight in sector two after corner 8 sees the first DRS detection zone come up and turning the 9th corner there is the first DRS activation zone. The second DRS detection zone comes after the sharp number 15 corner and then the activation zone comes a bit after the gentler 16th corner on the long final straight of the track. Spain usually has nice balmy warm weather, this weekend it looks like that there may be a chance of rain on Friday, but it will stay warmish with a high of 18 degrees Celcius. The rest of the weekend will see some clouds but with warm weather maintaining throughout ranging from 18 degrees Celsius to 21 degrees Celsius.
To Win Outright
Lewis Hamilton 12/10 | Nico Rosberg – 12/10 | Sebastian Vettel 11/2 | Kimi Raikkonen 16/1 | Valterri Bottas 50/1 | Daniel Ricciardo 66/1 | Felipe Massa 66/1 | Daniil Kyvatv – 150/1
Fastest Qualifier: Lewis Hamilton 11/10
I know, I know. So far Lewis Hamilton has not lived up to any of our expectations, but it’s not because he is a poor driver, the man is just having a torrid run of luck. I think that this streak has to end sometime and I am going to put my money on it ending in Barcelona. Hopefully, he can get his mechanical problems sorted and if he does that there is not reason why he should not be the fastest qualifier and score himself a nice pole starting position.
To Win Outright: Nico Rosberg 12/10
Although I still have hope for Mr Hamilton, it looks like Nico Rosberg streak will not end anytime soon. Betting on him to win outright may not net you buckets of cash, but it is a good way to hedge any risky bets you want to make. Personally, I think Rosberg will take this championship as he already has his hat-trick of wins in the bag and history shows that once a driver has that, he always takes the Championship.
Podium Finish: Sebastian Vettel 4/10
Ah Ferrari, you try and you try but you always come up just a little bit short. I think having Sebastian Vettel as a podium finish is a smart bet to make as barring the kind of carnage we saw in Russia, I think Vettel is a good bet to make either for a podium finish, or possibly the fastest qualifier knowing how fast the Ferrari cars are. While 4/10 aren't the hugest odds ever, I'm confident enough to lay a large stake on the German ending up on the podium.