The Spanish Grand Prix has been held at the Circuit De Barcelona in Catalunya since 1992 and has always marked the beginning of the European season of the F1 calendar. Yes I know that Russian GP was held before Spain this year, but due to the distance from Baku to Western/Central Europe, it’s still considered a fly away race and not yet part of the European season.
Barcelona is also the race that the teams bring their biggest updates. It’s proximity to their head quarters and the fact that they have all tested there so much, means that it’s a lot easier to evaluate how the updates are working – or not working as may be the case with some teams.
It’s a fast flowing circuit with long sweeping corners – especially in the first two sectors. Sector three is more start-stop, with slow corners. Teams usually use that third sector as a good barometer to measure how quick their car will be for the Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks time.
The biggest news of the last week has to be the Red Bull shuffle. They have promoted Max Verstappen into the senior team and demoted Daniil Kvyat back into Torro Rosso. It’s certainly a ruthless move by them and certainly harsh for Kvyat who has not done a bad job over the last year really. Is it the correct move though?
For me, Max Verstappen is a definite World Champion in the making and while it’s perhaps unexpectedly early, I can see this as being a good move for Red Bull. They were always going to make the move and by doing it early, they now get the chance to see if he can truly measure up to their most recognized talent on their roster – Daniel Ricciardo. And if it doesn’t work out, then if they lose Verstappen later, it won’t be such a big loss for them. By keeping Kvyat in Torro Rosso, there is always a chance for redemption. That’s a lot better than every other driver that has fallen out of favour with Red Bull.
Over at Mercedes they have had to deal with some conspiracy claims from angry Lewis Hamilton fans over the last couple of weeks. I’d just like to say that the talks of the team favouring Nico Rosberg over Hamilton are just plain crazy. There is no evidence of that from what I can see and certainly trying to point at some unreliability over such a short time frame (couple races) is certainly not big enough of a data set to look at.
However, the pressure is on for the team (to ensure Hamilton has a reliable car) and for the World Champion to try and take back some points from Rosberg. The lead between the two Mercedes drivers is getting quite large now, and Hamilton has to strike back with a win this weekend.
Barcelona is a critical race for everyone – not just for results or as an indicator of form in Europe – but also a reference point in seeing how their updates are working from a strategic point of view. If they work, that’s great and it’s full steam ahead. For the less funded team, if they don’t work, then some of them might decide to then focus attention on the 2017 car. There will be big changes for next year and an early switch of focus could pay off in a big way.