ROUND FIVE: F1 SPANISH GRAND PRIX
After a three-week break, the F1 action resumes. DAVID HOOPER previews the first European race of the year, the Spanish Grand Prix.
JUST as we get back into this year’s Formula 1 campaign, it all grinds to a halt for a three-week break.
Now though, the waiting is over, and F1 returns to our screens this weekend – and we’re back in Europe for the first time this year at the Circuit de Catalunya.
The first grand prix was held at this venue in 1991, and this weekend the cars will complete 66 laps of the 4.655km track, a race distance of 307.1km.
Kimi Raikkonen, who is one of the drivers on good form in the early part of this season, holds the lap record of 1.21.6 seconds, which he set in 2008.
There’s been quite a bit happening off the track in the last few weeks, but perhaps the most significant bit of news is that James Allison, the respected technical director of Lotus is leaving the team.
His destination remains a mystery at the time of writing this preview, but his slot at Lotus has been filled by Nick Chester, who has been promoted.
The news must come as a blow to Lotus, especially with Kimi currently sitting second in the world championship standings.
Elsewhere in the field, all eyes will be closely watching the Vettel versus Webber battle at Red Bull – will the two clash again? I think they will – and fairly soon, unless the team can employ some tactics to keep the two apart on the race track.
I don’t think Webber will let Vettel get away with what he did and will be looking for some payback at some stage in the season, especially if the championship is closely contested at the end of the season.
For this reason, I still believe Fernando Alonso in his Ferrari remains my favourite to take this year’s title, especially after the news from Lotus. Despite having a weak car for much of last year, Alonso took the battle for the title down to the last race.
This year, his car is much better straight out of the box – if he gets a bit of luck going his way, you’d be foolish to bet against him in my opinion.
McLaren, meanwhile, are still playing catch-up after a fairly dismal start to their season. It will be interesting to see this weekend if they have made up any ground on the opposition during the break.
Mercedes are another team to watch, with ex-McLaren star Lewis Hamilton staking his claim to be the number one driver, ahead of Nico Rosberg.
The news that Robert Kubica has driving the team’s simulator will gladden the hearts of many fans after the pole was nearly killed in a rallying accident. He still harbours hopes of returning to the sport – time will tell if he will regain enough fitness to be able to compete at the highest level of motorsport.
This time out, the teams will also get an extra set of Pirelli tyres for the practice sessions in Spain made from a more durable, harder compound, while the tyre manufacturer has said that its regular hard compound tyre has been made slightly more durable for the Spanish race.