This weekend is the first European leg of the season with the Spanish Grand Prix. The circuit is located just outside of Barcelona and is home race for double world champion Fernando Alonso. This weekend’s grand prix will be the first race of the year where the development battle will unfold. Most of the cars in the field are bringing major upgrades to the race in a bid to turn fortunes in some cases, and keep on the perfect start to a season for others. Here is the team by team breakdown for this the Spanish Grand Prix.
Ferrari- The Italian squad has made more changes to their car than probably anybody else on the grid. Kimi Raikkonen will be piloting the “F60B”. The second iteration for the squad out of Maranello for this season. The chassis is lighter by nearly 15 kilos and is made of lighter material to get the most out of the KERS device. The car also features a super diffuser which will provide greater levels of downforce as well as other aero devices that are said to give .7 seconds a lap back to the driver. Marc Gene ran the car last weekend and the team is claiming the results were very promising. My pick for the win this weekend will go to Kimi purely off the fact that he is good at this circuit and if the new car puts out like advertised, then they have to be a favorite in the field. However, if the car fails, their championship will be all but gone.
McLaren- The team from Woking has been relatively silent this off week and have no major upgrades planned. The silver and black have already been running a super diffuser and have made marginal improvements on their lap times week after week. One advantage will be the end to all of their drama they had during the first four rounds of the championship. Ron Dennis is gone and they dodged punishment from the FIA so this team will now finally be focused on racing and not politics. Look for a solid performance out of Lewis Hamilton and another below snuff run from Heiki.
Renault- Fernando Alonso has been showing some real promise during qualifications this year in the R29. The car is still off the pace and can only really perform on a light fuel load. The team has built a diffuser 2.0 finally and should be looking for a good result at Alonso’s home venue. Piquet Jr. also had a good run in Bahrain and will be looking to build on it or risk being ousted from his seat at the end of this year if not sooner.
Brawn GP- Things could not be going better for Ross, Jenson, and the team after taking three of four races so far this year. The team got a shot in the arm this week as news of upgrades for their car surfaced. Sir Richard Branson’s wallet is pretty deep, and with him fronting seemingly endless cash to the team, the team should be on par to keep the great performances coming. There are little details on the actual upgrades themselves, but Brawndoes admit that the battle to stay on top through Europe will be a tough one. The team currently own a hefty lead in both championships and do have a little room for error this weekend if needed.
BMW Sauber- If their could ever be a nightmare start to the season, BMW could tell you about it. They have had a dismal start to their season, a season that brought hopes of a constructors title and more victories. At this point the team needs to focus on just finishing a race. As stated on a previous article, BMW will not be running their highly developed KERS nor a super diffuser for Spain this weekend. The KERS has actually been put off until after Monaco and there has been no date on the super diffuser. The team stated major upgrades for the car but one must ask themselves what those upgrades could be. You have no KERS and no super diffuser…so what do you have? Dr. Mario Theissen has stated that there have been significant improvements to the front wing as well as the sidepods which will increase performance. Either way the team has cancelled plans for the championship and is looking to just finish races.
Red Bull Racing- Another team with a great start to the season is the parent Red Bull team. Not many upgrades are expected for the team, however it has seemed as though upgrades have npt been necessary lately. I believe full that the RBR is faster than the Brawn on the track. I also think the RBR has a better total package that will allow for better development as the season continues. I predict at least a P2 for Vettel and another hefty points paying day for Mark Webber. The Aussie will be looking to bounce back after a pathetic qualifying attempt in Bahrain. The advantage RBR has is their quickness while carrying fuel on-board early on in the race. A strong performance in Spain and an off weekend for Brawn would see the drink racers catching up in both title standings.
Force India- Coming off of a great Bahrain Grand Prix, the boys from India will be looking for more of the same results. They have scrapped their KERS also and have focused on the aero package as well. Both Sutil and Fisichella need good results as there are capable and competent drivers waiting for a turn.
Toyota- A Toyota 1/2 qualifying effort in Bahrain sent team morale through the roof only to finish 3rd and 7th. The Japanese team has been working on new parts as well in an attempt to finally get to the top step of the podium. Toyota will win this year, it is only a matter of time and the timing is getting a good strategy that works for the team. Toyota are in the thick of the constructor’s title heading into Spain and require a good result from both Trulli and Glock if they are to stay in the mix.
Scuderia Torro Rosso- STR will be hoping Sebastian Buemi can continue his impressive start to the season and bring home more solid points. LeSeb will be happy if he even completes a race. The performance of both drivers has been extreme with Buemi putting on a clinic in all three sessions of the weekend. No specific upgrades have been mentioned, however if other teams are working hard on aero, it would make one thing STR have a few planned up their sleaves.
Williams- In what has been yet another disappointing season for Sir Frank Williams, the team have practice speed but are not able to convert it into race results. The flywheel KERS has yet to be deployed and Kaz has not been putting up results for the team. Nico Rosberg continues to grow frustrated with the team as the car under-performs. Rosberg will be aiming to put up a solid points paying race in an attempt to make Sir Frank relevant once more.
There is a lot riding on this Spanish Grand Prix and titles can be broken at this point for a few teams. There should be a good amount of heat in the air and on the track for the race. The results will also be subjected to one other variable this weekend. That variable is the tire compound that Bridgestone brings to the race. The current regulations are forcing teams to center strategy around the tire usage. This in my opinion is a ridiculous move on the part of the FIA as we continue to see teams struggle to make a setup that is gentle on the tires. The super softs came apart in Bahrain but were able to put up great runs. This trend has not always been the case this year, and the sharp corners and heavy braking may be enough to tear up the tires before significant data can be collected. Either way, this race is huge on so many levels and promises to provide a few stories in regards to car and performance as well as the first real development face on these new cars. Open paddock will be following the results all weekend and bring any breaking news to the site for a little opinion to be shared.