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IT'S RACE WEEK: 5 storylines we're excited about ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix

Special Contributor

Chris Medland
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BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 22: Start of the F1 Grand Prix of Spain at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on

After Monaco’s thrilling weekend you don’t have long to wait to get your next fix of Formula 1 racing as the paddock makes the relatively short journey down the Mediterranean coast for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

And with plenty to look forward to and reflect on from the last race, here are some of the big talking points heading to Barcelona…

1. How does Perez respond?

The Monaco race weekend delivered plenty of thrilling action and a stunning qualifying session that was followed by the dramatic race, but for Sergio Perez it was a Grand Prix to forget.

His big crash in Q1 left him starting from the very back of the grid – and that meant he had a mountain to climb to try and get himself into the frame for points. After an early pit stop it just didn’t come together and the Mexican was involved in a number of incidents before ending up classified 16th.

READ MORE: ‘We knew this was the price we were going to pay’ says Perez after quali crash results in P16 finish in Monaco

It’s the first time he has failed to score this season, and coupled with Max Verstappen’s victory it drops Perez some 39 points behind his team mate in the drivers’ championship.

But he does get to try and bounce back at the earliest possible opportunity thanks to the back-to-back races – and he was a threat for victory in Spain 12 months ago. A clean weekend will be key to getting his title challenge firing again, and the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a track that should suit Red Bull’s strengths.

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 27: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing prepares to drive

Perez had a weekend to forget in Monaco - but has an immediate chance to bounce back

2. Fernando’s home race

Carlos Sainz has enjoyed excellent home support in recent years, but there seems to be an added something in the atmosphere at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya when Fernando Alonso is racing there in a competitive car.

Alonso’s last win in Formula 1 came here in 2013, and that was also his last podium at his home race. Since then, he has finished no higher than sixth and only scored points on three occasions. But the two-time world champion will be very hopeful of improving on that record this weekend…

Fresh from Monaco, where he was in with a chance of victory and picked up his best result since Hungary in 2014, the home fans will arrive with the Spaniard just 12 points behind Perez in the drivers’ standings.

READ MORE: Alonso says he ‘didn’t have a chance’ to take Monaco GP win as he praises Verstappen for driving ‘super well’

And with Aston Martin showing strong pace at every venue so far this season – as well as introducing updates in Monaco – who would be against the fairy tale of him finally securing win number 33 in front of his adoring crowd?

Spanish Scuderia Ferrari Formula One racing team racing driver Fernando Alonso standing on his F138

Alonso's last F1 victory came on home soil in 2013

3. A true view of Mercedes’ upgrades

The list of upgrades being brought to Monaco by all of the teams was a long one after the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix was called off, but it wasn’t the circuit that anyone was expecting to learn the most about their respective new parts.

Barcelona, on the other hand, provides a great opportunity to do so. It’s a track that has regularly been used as a testing venue in the past, with a combination of long, high-speed corners coupled with some slightly lower-speed sections that will all place a greater emphasis on aerodynamic performance and downforce.

And that is a layout that will allow Mercedes to learn a lot more about the components they brought to Monaco, having originally intended to run them in Imola. The front suspension, floor and sidepod changes were all expected to provide more performance at all circuits but Monaco made it tough to read due to the lack of consistent data that can be gathered, so it will be far more evident in Spain where that information can be gained and analysed.

READ MORE: TECH TALK - What have Mercedes changed on the W14 and can it take them back to the front?

But it’s not just Mercedes to keep an eye on. Ferrari have stated they will have some significant new parts on their car, while Red Bull could bring some updates after running limited developments in Monaco. None of the teams are standing still.

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 26: Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Great Britain  during practice ahead

The new-look Mercedes was on display in Monaco

4. A new track layout

I might have said Barcelona has been regularly used for testing in Formula 1, but that has tended to be on a layout that included a chicane prior to the final corner. That allowed teams to see how their cars would perform at low-speed and on traction, but it was a bit of an outlier compared to the rest of the circuit.

This year, the race organizers have agreed with the FIA and F1 to revert to the former layout that was last used in 2006. That means the chicane is bypassed, with the penultimate corner – Turn 13 – a faster, sweeping right-hander that then leads into the final corner at a much higher speed.

The change will mean teams will require different set-ups to the past, so Friday practice will be crucial in understanding the impact, while it will also allow us to see the latest generation of car at their best, producing downforce through high-speed corners.

READ MORE: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to feature new configuration for 2023 Spanish Grand Prix

With the long pit straight to follow two such quick right-handers, the ability to follow more closely in these cars than the generation from before 2022 should also mean there is still plenty of potential for overtaking down into Turn 1, as well as into Turn 10 – itself only remodelled in 2021 as the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya continues to evolve.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 20: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Aston Martin AMR22 Mercedes

Track changes mean there are now two fast right handed corners to slingshot the cars onto the main straight

5. The start of something at Alpine?

While there was increased scrutiny on Alpine around the Miami Grand Prix, the team performed well on race day in Florida and then brought a number of upgrades to Monaco as they looked to try and build on what is a strong baseline car.

But coming into the Monaco weekend, expectations were relatively low, with Esteban Ocon suggesting a top 10 finish would have been a result he’d have signed up for if offered it ahead of any track running. How little he knew.

READ MORE Delighted Ocon ‘on a cloud’ as Alpine claim first podium since 2021 in Monaco

Alpine improved with each session and Ocon ended up starting third with Pierre Gasly seventh after strong qualifying performances, holding onto those positions in the race for a points haul that moves them comfortably clear of McLaren in the constructors’ championship.

A bit like Mercedes, what is most exciting is whether Alpine can replicate that sort of performance on a very different track in Spain, because Monaco wasn’t earmarked as a venue that would suit them. If they can follow-up, then it could prove to be the start of a new phase of the season where the top four really does become the top five.

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