Formula One arrives in Spain this weekend for the first race of the European leg of the season, which stretches through to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in September. Contrary to previous seasons, this year there is no doubt who is expected to win – read ‘dominate’ – in Barcelona. Mercedes’ flying start to 2014 could not have gone better, with Nico Rosberg leading Lewis Hamilton in the driver’s championship and the team crushing it’s rivals in the constructor’s standings.
Does Spain offer any hope of challenging the Silver Arrows for their biggest rivals?
McLaren opened their account with a solid race in Australia that saw both drivers finish on the podium after Daniel Ricciardo’s post-race exclusion from 2nd, but the early constructor’s championship lead they enjoyed has been obliterated in the face of dire races in Bahrain and China. A return to the plumetting downward spiral of 2013 looms all too large in the minds of disillusioned fans, but McLaren insist they will return to the front.
“The root of our under-performance has been comprehensively analysed; we know the areas where our package falls short, and we’ve taken steps – both short- and long-term – to address those.” claims team Racing Director Eric Boullier.
“While not all of those will be in evidence in Barcelona this weekend, they mark the start of a fresh push and spirit within the whole organisation.”
Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen have experienced unfair criticism from parts of the British Formula One fanbase over the problems faced by McLaren, most notably the 2009 World Champion who has been a target for some ever since joining fellow Brit Hamilton at McLaren in 2010.
“One thing we can be sure of is that Jenson and Kevin will both be pushing to the limit.” says Boullier.
“In China, it was difficult to watch two hard-pressing drives go unrewarded, but both drivers performed fantastically in Shanghai, and only lost out on points due to the inefficiency of our car.”
New Chassis For Vettel
Sebastian Vettel is Red Bull’s reigning World Champion and ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in the driver’s championship thus far, but many feel the German has been found lacking compared to the Australian in the opening quartet of races. Vettel – and his team – have pinned much of the blame for this on the touch needed to extract the maximum from Adrian Newey’s inspired but underpowered RB10 design.
Vettel will recieve a new chassis for Spain this weekend, a change Red Bull say was scheduled before the season as part of their ongoing race preparations.
“Sebastian will get a new chassis for Barcelona, which was scheduled at the start of the season and then the next one will be for Dan at some time around Silverstone.” Chief Designer Rob Marshall claimed.
“Normally we make four or five chassis during the year, maybe six, so it wouldn’t be unusual for each driver to change at least once or twice during the year. Normally they would use at least two.”
Alonso Still Big At Home
Fernando Alonso, predictably, is the biggest draw for Spanish F1 fans this weekend as they flock to see whether their hero can repeat his against-the-odds victory of 2013. It’s unlikely, given the depths Ferrari plunged to in Bahrain (fighting for 9th and 10th places) but not impossible as Alonso proved by finishing 3rd in China in a car that probably didn’t deserve to be there.
“With Fernando we’ve seen an extraordinary level of performance, scavenging every possible point at every possible opportunity.” said Ferrari Technical Director James Allison.
On the other hand new team-mate and Ferrari returnee Kimi Raikkonen has struggled with the characteristics of the new rules for 2014, and has been underwhelming so far.
“Kimi is working extremely well with the team, collaborating with the engineers, helping us to drive this car forwards.” said Allison in his defence.
“He has class written all over him and in a very short space of time, I’m sure we will also see the results of that on the track.”
Friday – Low 16’c/High 23’c – Cloudy
Saturday – Low 17’c/High 24’c – Cloudy
Sunday – Low 15’c/High 21’c – Sunny
Race Start Sunday – 13:00GMT