Formula 1 moves to Western Europe with Spanish Grand Prix this weekend and this year roles are reversed for Mercedes’ drivers. Last year Lewis Hamilton’s hot start of the season was interrupted by Nico Rosberg at the Circuit de Catalunya. Twelve months later, the roles are inverted as Rosberg is chasing fifth win in the fifth race of the season while Hamilton is struggling with his car and already trails 43 points behind his teammate. However, Hamilton has a chance to start closing that gap down as he took the pole position ahead of his teammate in Saturday’s qualifications.
The Grand Prix at Barcelona is usually the race where teams bring their biggest updates to the cars due to the closeness of their headquarters and the tests that have been done during the races in Australia and Asia.
The biggest news in Formula 1 going into Spanish Grand Prix is Red Bull’s decision to promote Max Verstappen from Toro Rosso in place of Daniil Kvyat, who has been demoted to their daughter team. The previous race in Russia was catastrophic for Kvyat, as he hit Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel twice in the opening lap. After, Kvyat came under strong criticism from Vettel and team officials of Red Bull, which ultimately has led to his demotion for the rest of the season. Verstappen immediately responded with excellent display in qualifications as he took fourth place behind his new teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
Nico Rosberg has a chance to match Nigel Mansell and Michael Schumacher who are only two Formula 1 drivers that have won five races in a row from the start of a season but he will have to do it starting behind his teammate on the grid. Lewis Hamilton needs a good race after two events which have been spoiled by car troubles while Ferrari, who also must challenge for the podium with both drivers after a difficult start of the season, will have Raikkonen and Vettel start from the fifth and sixth place. Williams, who finally showed improved form in Russia and were thought to have a chance to threaten Ferrari and Red Bull in the battle for podium places will have Bottas start from the eighth but Felipe Massa will launch from the lowly 18th place. We’ll see if new upgrades to the cars could bring some surprises from Toro Rosso, McLaren, Force India and Haas.
4.6 kilometers long Circuit de Catalunya is a track where Formula 1 holds its preseason tests so it holds few surprises for the drivers. However, this track and its surface are sensitive to weather changes so teams know to expect their cars will perform very differently in the warm conditions this weekend unlike to the cold environments of three months ago. Although the race in Barcelona is usually held in summer weather, this weekend is predicted to be relatively cool but race day should stay dry for the 20th consecutive year. The race starts on Sunday at 14:00 Central European Time.