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Spanish Grand Prix 2014 Preview

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

Spanish Grand Prix | Sunday 11 May | Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya | 14:00

f1spainintroThree quiet weeks have gone by without the sound of Formula One engines, and teams have been hard at work on improving their cars. The start of the European season brings with it the first big upgrades of 2014, along with a collective sigh of relief from many of the teams desperately scrambling to break the monopoly the Mercedes has on the front row.  The season resumes in Spain and on one of the most challenging tracks of the year.  Alonso is the clear favourite among his home crowd but Hamilton could be a reason for disappointment among the Spanish natives this weekend.

Previous Race
f1spain3Hamilton was on form in China, claiming his third Pole Position as well as a hat-trick of wins with an early waving of the checkered flag that didn’t change much in the standings. If Hamilton’s season continues in this manner, he will certainly add another World Championship title to his repertoire. Rosberg failed to make any kind of impact at the start and was rather on the receiving end of an impact from Bottas. His front suspension held up and he managed to regain the lost places steadily through the race to make it a Mercedes one-two finish. One of the most notable drives, apart from Hamilton’s at the front, was from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard managed to claim his first podium of the season, one that was desperately needed at Ferrari. A bump with former teammate Massa’s Williams at the first corner was surprisingly uneventful for the Ferrari, but Massa found himself much further back in the pack than he would have liked. The Red Bulls battled among themselves, Vettel’s tyres created problems for the German, and despite his response of “tough luck” when told to move over for Ricciardo, his younger teammate managed to deftly pass the champion to finish ahead of him in fourth. The other Ferrari was much further from the podium, Raikkonen finishing a mediocre eighth. Perez and Hulkenberg cracked the top ten for the Force India team, earning them a good haul of points. Rookie Daniil Kvyat earned his third points finish, proving him a worthy replacement of Ricciardo at Toro Rosso. Both McLaren’s had a dismal weekend and finished outside the top ten.

The Track
The teams are very familiar with the Circuit de Catalunya (recently renamed Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya) as the Spanish track has been used for pre-season testing for years. What they don’t know is how the new 2014 cars will perform in Spain because this year’s testing was restricted to Bahrain. The 4,655km track is one of the most challenging and being a fairly short distance outside Barcelona, ensures legions of Spanish fans sporting Alonso and Ferrari memorabilia will swarm to the track this weekend. The race is 66 laps long and with the tough nature of overtaking, a good performance in qualifying and a great start on Sunday are imperative. A DRS zone along the straight may help a few cars pull off some overtaking manoeuvres to keep the crowd enthralled. The track is a good mix of fast and medium corners topped off with a long straight, all of which thoroughly test the aerodynamics of the cars and are a good way to get a sense of the upgrades the teams have brought. Tyre management is crucial in Spain and Pirelli’s toughest tyres, the Hard and Medium compounds, have been chosen to resist the destructive nature of the track.

f1spain1To Win Outright
Lewis Hamilton 11/20
Nico Rosberg 5/2
Fernando Alonso 14/1
Sebastian Vettel 16/1
Daniel Ricciardo 18/1
Kimi Raikkonen 40/1
Valterri Bottas 66/1
Felipe Massa 66/1
Nico Hulkenberg 80/1
Jenson Button 100/1

Nico Rosberg (5/2 a win, 1/5 a podium)
Rosberg currently sits at the top of championship points standings but with his teammate steadily approaching, he needs more wins under his belt. Steady podium finishes have secured him the points but as teams bring out their upgrades, the stronghold Mercedes has on the podium could soon face some challenges. If Rosberg wants to continue on top, now is the time to seriously compete. The fair-haired Monaco native is smarter than he looks, and I expect some shrewd driving from the current points leader. He could very well fall behind this weekend but I’d give him the benefit of the doubt and go each way.

Daniel Ricciardo (18/1 a win, 16/10 a podium)
Ricciardo has proved himself a feisty contender now that he’s behind the wheel of a Red Bull. He’s finished ahead of his more experienced teammate in the last two races and overtook Vettel in China, although Vettel claims he allowed it. The young Aussie definitely has a lot of potential, even gaining a podium in his home country which was sadly excluded because of a technicality. The challenges from his fellow drivers may be enough to prevent him from a win for a while, but it seems likely in the future. For now, I’d back Ricciardo for a podium at 16/10.

Felipe Massa (66/1 a win, 8/1 a podium)
Williams has battled to match their pre-season pace during a Grand Prix, with the team’s results being average at best. Massa is a previous winner here in Spain and also managed a strong finish here in 2013 with Ferrari. He has failed to finish anywhere noteworthy this season but has had a couple of top ten finishes. It’s a long shot but at 8/1, a bet on Massa for a podium could pay off for the brave.

POLE POSITION:  Lewis Hamilton 4/10
f1spain2Hamilton is the obvious choice for a Pole Position this weekend, considering he secured the top spot for three of the four previous qualifying sessions. He always seems to manage to pull out a lightning quick lap whenever it’s needed so there’s a good chance he’ll be at the front this weekend. A start on pole usually guarantees a win in Barcelona and at 11/20 it’s another banker. But I’ll be looking elsewhere this weekend.

TO WIN: Fernando Alonso 14/1
Alonso won in Spain last year and is the only driver to win here without qualifying on the front row. His podium in China inspires some hope that the double World Champion may pull off another Spanish victory in front of the adoring home fans. Although Alonso is notoriously mediocre in qualifying, he usually pulls off a spectacular start. I would consider him the main threat to Hamilton for the checkered flag and at 14/1 he’s worth a lot more value if he pulls it off.

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

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