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The travelling circus that calls itself ‘Formula One’ is back in Europe this weekend. I know Russia is technically in Europe too, but for the teams, they consider European races to be the ones that can be reached by truck. This means fancy double story transporters outside the back of the pits, and there is more of a homely feel about the weekend.

The long straight and wide sweeping bends make for close racing in Spain.

Barcelona, in Catalonia Spain, hosts round 5 and it is the most used track in Formula One. Over the decades it’s been the place of choice to test at. The good weather year round and the high-speed nature of the track makes it an ideal reference point to gather data to compare progress (or lack of in some cases) in the constantly changing world of race car development. Its relevance is doubly important these days as testing is limited.

It’s an important weekend as it’s usually the first point of the year that teams target to bring big updates for their cars. Firstly, it’s a good reference point to measure progress as we do the pre-season testing there in February, but also because it’s an appropriate time from when they tested for the first time this year.

Time is a resource (or lack of) that teams are acutely aware of in their continuing hunt for more lap time. It would have been almost three months since their 2017 cars furiously blasted around in circles for the first time. That’s just enough time to identify weaknesses, find solutions, and build the fixes to get them onto cars.

This year Barcelona takes on added significance as the brand new regulations means there is a larger scope for improvement as we are still early in the development curve.

So I’m expecting to see lots of new parts and in some cases- like Red Bull- there is so much being changed that they are even referring to their chassis as a “B-spec”. If they have gotten their homework right, we should see a massive improvement from the team based in Milton Keynes- especially as Barcelona is not considered a horsepower track.

It’s been a Ferrari/Mercedes battle so far this year.

However, I think most people’s eyes will be on the two teams leading the way in the drivers and constructors championships- Ferrari and Mercedes. The battle between them is too close to call and a significant step by one of them could be a key factor in deciding this year’s championship. That shows how important this weekend is especially when you consider how early in the season it still is.

Another sub-plot will be the battle of the number two’s in Ferrari and Mercedes. I refer to them as number two’s only because they are behind their teammates in the championship and not because I think them incapable of beating their higher ranked colleagues.

Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari may have not had the results yet, but I do feel he is driving quite well. He just needs to work on bringing his whole weekend together.

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas however has shown in Russia just how good he is when he won his first ever Formula One race. I hope he can build on that, because it would be exciting to see him join his teammate, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel in a three way fight for the driver’s title. He definitely can’t afford a moment’s rest because Hamilton will be hurting from being so much slower than Bottas in Russia and I expect the Englishman to be back stronger than ever.

Alex Yoong

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