Spain Preview - who's taken the biggest step forward? 06 May 2010
The world championship battle really starts this weekend as the Spanish Grand Prix signals the commencement of the European leg, if you believe Ferraris Fernando Alonso. As his national race celebrates its 40th running since 1951, the Spaniard lies third in the title chase with 49 points to McLarens Jenson Buttons 60 and Mercedes GPs Nico Rosbergs 50.
Alonso insists that the opening races just underlined the general trend of winter testing, but that from this race onwards the development race has really got underway. In Europe it is time to show who is going to fight for the title and who isnt, he said at a recent press conference in Spain.
Being third in the championship, very few points away from the leader, I believe is a very good situation. With the potential that we have, with the super team that I have, this is just the beginning and I have a real chance to fight for the world championship. Im enjoying it again, and Ive felt that bug from winning a race or winning the championship again, and thats the most positive thing about the start to this year.
All of the major teams have significant aerodynamic upgrades for this crucial race, which should signal the direction in which form will go from now on. Ferrari will try their F-duct again in practice, as will BMW Sauber, but Red Bull have indicated that they are in no hurry to rush ahead with their own version.
McLarens Martin Whitmarsh says: For 2010 we feel we have a car that generally excels in high-speed corners, and while that in itself isnt enough to suggest a complete reversal of our recent fortunes in Spain, we feel that the useful upgrades were bringing to this race, which include new front and rear wings, will help us consolidate our position among the leaders and, hopefully, enable us to close the gap to the cars at the front.
At Mercedes GP, Ross Brawn says: In addition to a major aerodynamic and bodywork package, we have made changes to the wheelbase of the car which will help the overall handling and weight distribution. Michael (Schumacher) will use a different chassis for Barcelona as we take the opportunity of having the cars back at the factory after the flyaway races to repair some damage to his original chassis. He will switch to our first chassis which was previously used during the pre-season tests.
Red Bull and Renault are also bringing significant updates, while Williams will appear for Monaco. Though the major support from the huge crowd that is expected will be for Alonso and Ferrari, this will also be a very important race for BMW Sauber, with Pedro de la Rosa; Toro Rosso with Jaime Alguersuari; and HRT, the latter driver and the new team making their first-ever appearance at a race on their home ground.
"I grew up in the city centre of Barcelona, and my parents always had a summer house close to where the circuit is. From 1991 onwards I loved to listen to the fabulous sound of the Formula One engines from there when teams where testing, De la Rosa says. Its a very demanding circuit - tough on the cars, the engines and the drivers. Its a track I really, really like. Turn Three is very fast and very long - its a true neck killer. There is a great variety of corners - high- and medium-speed, and a couple of slow ones in the last sector. We had a good winter test there and I have the feeling our car suits Barcelona better than some of the more recent tracks. We will have a new aero package in place. I'm sure at the end of the race we will either be close to or in the points."
This is it is my home track and there is plenty of support for me, making for a great atmosphere, Alguersuari says. This will be the first time I race in the Spanish Grand Prix and I expect there will be a lot of my friends and fans coming to watch, also because there are several Spanish drivers on the grid this year. One important factor is that this is the first track of the season I have driven on before, so that should make life easier for me.
HRT team principal Colin Kolles says: "We reached our next goal with our two cars making it to the finish again in China on our fourth-ever race weekend. We have used the time since China to work on the car and to introduce new parts. We hope to understand it better and need to improve the performance as well as hit a new target and finish again with both cars."
The most prominent feature of the 4.655-kilometre Circuit de Catalunya track is the very long pit straight, but its the combination of different corners that is very hard on tyres. As in 2010, Bridgestone will bring their hard compound as the prime and the soft as the option.