In the lead up to the Spanish Grand Prix, Fernando’s home circuit, the Spanish driver is “ready for this challenge,” after winning the WEC 6hrs of Spa last weekend.
Spurred on by his first WEC win, Fernando Alonso is set to tackle at his home race at the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend at the Circuit de Cataluyna.
“It’s great that we’re back in Europe, in Spain and thus at home! It is an incomparable feeling when you are allowed to race in front of your home crowd.” says the McLaren Renault driver.
“I am very fortunate that a race is taking place in my home country, because not all drivers have this opportunity. And every year, the support of the Spanish fans gets bigger and better”
“The Spanish GP marks the start of a tough program, the months before the summer break in August are very stressful – for McLaren and also for me with my other duties outside Formula 1. But I’m ready for this Challenge and very curious as to what the next races bring for us.”
However, the 36-year-old is realistic about the team’s prospects, despite a big upgrade packaging coming.
A radical new nose expected for the Spanish Grand Prix
According to Auto Motor und Sport, the most striking feature of the updated car will be its radical front wing and nose assembly, the team taking an extreme departure from their current aero concept.
“It’s quite possible that McLaren says goodbye to the stub nose, perhaps doing something similar to Force India and Mercedes.” says an insider.
Despite an anticipated leap in performance Alonso is circumspect about predicting a sudden amazing result at the Spanish Grand Prix: “Barcelona is an opportunity to try some new things, see where we are and the direction we will take for the rest of the season”
“I know that we have some new parts in the works, but we also know that there is no silver bullet that will take us to the top of the field overnight”
What to expect from the Spanish Grand Prix
Nico Rosberg warned the field that to beat Lewis Hamilton to the world championship a driver would have to take full advantage of any off days from Hamilton. They didn’t listen! While Lewis may have struggled to get fully comfortable with the Mercedes W09, he has jumped to the top of the driver’s standings thanks to his victory in Baku.
If Sebastian Vettel is to take advantage of Ferrari’s wonderful winter development, then a victory at the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend would seem to be a must – he had better start converting his chances into victory soon, as its surely only a matter of time before Lewis gets to grips with this year’s Mercedes machine and goes on a run similar to the second half of last season.
The Spanish Grand Prix will see plenty of upgrades from the teams as they hope to boost their competitiveness, but they can’t all move up the grid, so it promises to be an exciting weekend full of questions. Will Mercedes have gotten on top of their tyre woes? Will Ferrari have done enough to maintain their edge? Will Red Bull’s latest upgrades prevent Bull on Bull violence?
Whoever you fault for the Baku Bull bash there can be no doubting that the pressure is beginning to pile up on Max Verstappen, but don’t forget his wonderful drive to his first F1 victory at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix – can this be the race that Max finally gets it all together, or will Ricciardo prove to be the driver worth betting on for 2019? Outside the big three, Renault continue to gain momentum, while Haas continue to miss out on opportunities. Force India were the big midfield winners in Baku, with Sergio Perez giving a timely reminder of his talents to teams with a vacant driver seat in 2019.
McLaren will surely find themselves under close scrutiny once again in Spain, and now that Fernando Alonso has tasted victory with Toyota in the WEC, one wonders how much longer we will see him at McLaren (and indeed in F1), if they are not able to lift themselves up the grid, and well clear of Toro Rosso and Honda on track!
Williams got the boost of a points finish in Baku from Lance Stroll, albeit behind a Sauber (Leclerc beginning to show the form that saw him dominate F2 last year) and the battered McLaren of Fernando Alonso – if just another 5 cars had broken down Stroll would have repeated his 2016 podium! At least Stroll made it to the finish, while Sergey Sirotkin looked to have promising pace in Baku, he wasn’t able to show it when it mattered. Williams will be hoping for some sign of progress Sunday, as they look to try to claw their way off the bottom of the standings.
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Last year’s Spanish Grand Prix saw Mercedes Lewis Hamilton come from behind to snatch victory from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton had started from pole, but a better getwaway from Vettel saw Seb swoop into the lead into turn 1, while behind, an overcautious Valtteri Bottas backed away from his teammate into the first corner, and into the clutches the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and the fast starting Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
3 into turn 1 do not go, and Kimi took a bump from Bottas, the Ferrari then running wide into Verstappen. Kimi and Max were out, and the race was down to a shoot out between Vettel and Hamilton as Bottas struggled to keep up. Vettel looked to have the race in the bag, but Ferrari were hesitant on the pit wall, and contributed to their own downfall. Ferrari pulled Seb into the pits first to avoid the risk of Hamilton getting the undercut, ceding track position.
Mercedes let Hamilton rack up 7 extra laps before calling him in, and while he had dropped time to Vettel, he had not only the advantage of fresher tyres, but also Mercedes crucially opted to leave Bottas out, switching Bottas to a one stop strategy and using him to hold up the Ferrari. Vettel would indeed lose significant time behind Bottas before he forced his way passed, taking to the grass in a right-light-right double move into turn 1.
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Vettel’s lead had been reduced, but he slowly started to extend it again, and still seemed to have the race under control, but Ferrari hesitated when the VSC came out for a crash between Felipe Massa’s Williams and the McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne, with Lewis stopping under the VSC while Seb would not come in until a lap later, with the race back underway.
The lost time meant that when Seb emerged from the pits Hamilton was on him, and the two almost touched into Turn 1, Seb holding firm and pushing Lewis wide. But Ferrari had been too cautious in their tyre choice, and Seb was now on mediums while Lewis had a set of softs, with Lewis taking full advantage of the extra grip of the softer compound tyre to swoop past Vettel into Turn 1 just a few laps later. Somehow, Ferrari had lost a race that looked to be comfortably theirs to win….something they are already all too familiar with this season!
Michael Schumacher holds the record for the most Spanish Grand Prix victories with six wins, while of the current drivers Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso have won the Spanish Grand Prix twice, while Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen both have a single Spanish Grand Prix to their name.
History of the Spanish Grand Prix
The home of the Spanish Grand Prix is the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, and as the site of winter testing the teams are intimately familiar with the track. The Spanish Grand Prix has been held here every year since 1991, but it wasn’t always the home of Formula One in Spain, with 7 other circuits hosting the Spanish Grand Prix in the years before the race settled in its current home.
The first race to take the title Spanish Grand Prix dates back as far as 1913, with three laps of just over 100km of public road close to Madrid being used to stage the race, with the honour of victory going to Carlos de Salamanca driving a Rolls-Royce.
The next event to take the title Spanish Grand Prix would not be staged until ten years later, when a majestic 2km oval featuring 60 degree banking was built in Stiges. The oval would stage the Spanish Grand Prix in in 1923, but unfortunately the track was in financial problems from the get go, and would not stage another international race as a result.
The next track to take on the mantle of the Spanish Grand Prix was the 17.7 km long Circuito Lasarte that was already used for the San Sebastian Grand Prix. The Spanish Grand Prix would be staged here from 1926-1929, and again from 1933-1935.
After the war the Spanish Grand Prix returned in 1951, its first appearance on the modern Formula One calendar, finding a new home on the streets of Barcelona. The race was held on what was known as the Pedralbes circuit, a fast 6.3 km section of roads which had held a non-championship round in the inaugural season of the Formula One championship under the banner of the Penya Rhin Grand Prix.
The Spanish Grand Prix of 1951 was the final round of the season, and saw Juan Manual Fangio seal the first of his five world drivers’ championship in style with a victory for Alfa Romeo. Another F1 race would be staged at Pedralbes in 1954, but after the Le Mans disaster of 1955 a greater focus on spectator safety would see the demise of the street race, and the Spanish Grand Prix would disappear until 1967.
Odds analysis: Vettel & Hamilton favourites for Spanish Grand Prix 2018
The next venue to take over the reins of the Spanish Grand Prix was the Circuit del Jarama, a tight 3.4 km track north of Madrid. A non-championship Grand Prix was staged in there in 1967 (won by Jim Clark in a Lotus) before Jarama would hold a round of the world championship in 1968 (which Graham Hill would win for Lotus). The Spanish Grand Prix would then alternate between Jarama and a circuit in Barcelona, Montjuic Park, another street race but this time set in the hills above Barcelona.
Montjuic Park was a wonderfully fast 3.79 km track that would stage the race every two years between 1969 (with Jackie Stewart winning in a Matra) and 1975. Montjuic Park was one of those gloriously unsafe venues that provided a thrilling challenge but was simply not safe for Formula One. Prior to the 1975 race there was trouble as GPDA were unhappy with the state of the barriers around the track, and a strike was threatened. The race did go ahead (without Emerson Fittipaldi, who refused to participate), but would end in tragedy, with 5 spectators killed when Rolf Stommelen’s car went into the crowd after its rear wing failed while leading the race.
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Jochen Mass would take his sole Grand Prix victory in a McLaren in the shortened race that also saw Lella Lombardi score half a point for finishing sixth, but the accident would spell the end of the track. Jarama would continue to hold the Spanish Grand Prix then up until 1981, in a race that saw Gilles Villeneuve take his last ever victory, famously leading a train of cars home across the line (just 1.2 seconds separated Villeneuve from Elio De Angelis Lotus in fifth position!), Gilles taking of advantage of his Ferrari’s power to hang on to the lead on Jarama’s short straight and placing his Ferrari where it needed to be in the corners to hang on for the win.
Villeneuves great win in 1981 however underlined that the tight Jarama was just not suitable for Formula One, and when the Spanish Grand Prix returned in 1986, it would be in a new venue, Jerez. The first Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez would be won by Ayrton Senna for Lotus…barely holding off a charging Nigel Mansell by just 0.014 seconds, with both cars weaving across the track coming out of the final corner, Senna taking the win by the finest of margins.
Jerez would host the Spanish Grand Prix from 1986 through to 1990 (a Ferrari 1-2 with Prost leading home Mansell), before the race was switched to its current home in Barcelona in 1991.
That 1991 race was an instant classic, Nigel Mansell winning with a storming drive for Williams in a wet/dry race that will always be remembered for the image of Mansell and Senna going wheel to wheel down the main straight, sparks flying as neither driver ceded an inch. Since then the track has produced some a mixture of memorable races and more sedate affairs with overtaking difficult on the circuit and a premium placed on qualifying – but the has witnessed some classic races – from Michael Schumacher’s dramatic first victory for Ferrari as he sailed serenely past his opposition in atrocious conditions in 1996 through to more recent races including Pastor Maldonado’s shock win for Williams in 2012 and Max Verstappen’s debut win for Red Bull in 2016 after the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg took each other out of contention on the opening lap.
While the track does not always produce the most memorable races, it has in spite of its use in off season testing refused to be dominated by a single team or driver in recent years, believe it or not prior to Lewis Hamilton’s win last year there had been 10 different winners in the previous 10 Spanish Grand Prix!
The track at Barcelona is regarded as a good test venue for the teams due to the nature of the circuit, if a car is good here then it should be good everywhere. The 4.655 km long track features 16 turns and some 29.6 m in elevation change.
Off the grid there is a very long drag down to Turn 1, so there is always a chance for a lightning starter to make up for a poor qualifying session (or for the polesitter to blow Saturday’s good work). Given the lack of overtaking opportunities around the track the race can well be decided at the start or in the pits, so expect sparks to fly here on the opening lap, and also around the pit window, as the pit exit feeds into Turn 1.
Last year’s race was no exception, with most of the action occurring into Turn 1, with Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen ruled out from a Turn 1 collision on the opening lap, while title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton were side by side into Turn 1 as Vettel exited from the pits, with Turn 1 seeing the moves for the race lead from Vettel on Bottas and later from Hamilton on Vettel, it’s definitely where the action will be!
The track dips down to its lowest position on the entry to the right hander Turn 1, the fastest point of the circuit during the race with the cars having travelled a kilometre along the start finish straight before braking hard and flicking right, DRS available on the straight to give an opportunity to pass.
The exit of Turn 1 feeds straight into Turn 2, a left handed curve as the track starts to wind uphill with the cars running wide right and immediately thrown into the long winding right hander Turn 3, the track rising continuously as the cars are eventually spun out to the right onto a short straight into Turn 4 (this is where the Mercedes of Rosberg and Hamilton came to grief on the opening lap in 2016, and just behind the spinning Mercedes Carlos Sainz took full advantage of a poor exit from Turn 3 from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to move his Toro Rosso around the outside of the Ferrari in Turn 4!).
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Another long winding right handed corner that sees the cars run wide out on the kerbs on exit and immediately thread their way back across the track as they are quickly braking hard as the track starts to dip down into the left hander Turn 5, running wide over the kerbs on exit and launching down a short straight flat out through a slight kink left at Turn 6, with the track starting to rise again as the cars are back on the brakes into the 90 degree left hander Turn 7, riding the kerbs on the exit immediately through the right hander Turn 8 , the cars opening out onto a short straight with the first DRS detection point, into a fast right hander Turn 9, with the track starting to fall back downhill as the cars burst down a straight with the first DRS activation zone and a chance to overtake under hard braking into a tricky left hander hairpin at Turn 10 (Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel pulled a nice move down the inside under braking on his current Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen here back in 2014, before repeating the feat on Valtteri Bottas Williams).
Turn 10 is a slow corner that sees the cars climbing back uphill on exit, stabbing the throttle for the quick flick left of Turn 11 before braking again into the long winding right hander Turn 12. The cars have a short stab of acceleration uphill to the highest point on the track before braking into the 90 degree right hander Turn 13 as the track falls steeply away through the turn, quickly into the left/right of the chicane at Turn 14/15, with the exit critical as the cars burst past the 2nd DRS detection point and pit entry into Turn 16, the final bend, a right hander that propels the cars onto the start/finish straight, with the best chance to overtake with the use of DRS into Turn 1.
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The tyre nomination for the Spanish Grand Prix goes softer this year, with the supersoft making its debut on the Circuit de Catalunya alongside the soft and the medium. The hard tyre has always featured in the past, but this year a new surface – which the teams experienced for the first time in pre-season testing just over two months ago – has altered the complexion of the Barcelona circuit, giving it more grip but with reduced wear and degradation. And that’s not the only thing that’s new in Barcelona this weekend…
THE CIRCUIT FROM A TYRE POINT OF VIEW
- The surface may be smoother, but the long and high speed corners remain, putting plenty of energy and stress through the tyres: the classic examples are Turn 3 and Turn 9.
- Wear and degradation rates will need to be re-assessed. Although the teams tried out the new surface at the start of the year, the weather was much cooler, and the cars were much less evolved. The new surface may have evolved as well.
- Conditions tend to be warm – sometimes very warm – during the weekend.
- Barcelona contains a good all-round mix of corners and loadings that emphasise every aspect of a car’s performance: one of the reasons why it is a popular testing venue.
- The new surface has led Pirelli to reduce the tyre tread depth by 0.4 millimetres. This has no effect on performance but helps to control slick tyre temperature. · The front-left tyre is worked hardest, with Catalunya being a front-limited track.
- Last year, with harder compounds nominated, the majority of the field stopped twice but with a variety of different strategies: in the past, Spain has also been a three-stop race.
MARIO ISOLA – HEAD OF CAR RACING “This year, Barcelona isn’t exactly like going to a new circuit for the teams: but the changes to the surface are still significant enough to alter some of the track’s fundamental characteristics. We too have made a change by reducing the tread depth on the slick tyres to reduce the risk of overheating, as we will also do for Paul Ricard and Silverstone, but it’s not a change that any of the drivers will notice in terms of performance or stint length. The teams already have some knowledge of the new asphalt from pre-season testing, but the weather is now much warmer, the cars considerably faster and there will also be some ageing of the surface. This year, we bring the supersoft to the Spanish Grand Prix – effectively, two steps softer than the softest nomination in 2017, as all the compounds are a step softer anyway – so the homework done in free practice will be particularly important”.
- A lot of things: Formula 1 returns to Europe, new asphalt, the supersoft in Spain, and also a slightly thinner tread on the slick tyres.
- All three top teams – Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull – have made different tyre selections for the Spanish Grand Prix.
- The 2018 GP3 season begins, alongside Formula 2, which is also in Barcelona.
- The first two-day in-season test will take place after the Spanish Grand Prix, with McLaren and Force India running a second car on each day for Pirelli’s 2019 tyre development programme.
MIN. STARTING PRESSURES (slicks) EOS CAMBER LIMIT 22.0 psi (front) | 20.5 psi (rear) -3.25° (front) | -1.75° (rear)
Memorable Moments for the Spanish Grand Prix
1991 – A wet/dry race that will be remembered for the image of Nigel Mansell and Aytron Senna going wheel to wheel down the straight on a still damp track, sparks flying as the two engaged in a battle of nerves. Mansell came out on top, and although he would fall behind Senna again in the pits, would not be denied, with Senna spinning in the tricky conditions, Mansell charged through to pass Gerhard Berger for the lead and take a famous victory.
1996 – Smooth sailing for Michael Schumacher gives him his first Ferrari win as he leaves the field in his wake, surging clear as the rest of the field slip and slide in the soaking conditions
2012 – The day the stars aligned and Pastor Maldonado delivered a perfect race to take his only F1 victory for Williams, biding his time after losing out at the start to home favourite Alonso in the Ferrari before snatching the lead in the pits, and holding firm from Alonso’s attempts to harry him for a sensational victory.
2016 – Max Verstappen became the youngest winner in F1 history as he took victory on his Red Bull debut. Mercedes title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg took each other out of contention on the opening lap, and while Daniel Ricciardo led early from Sebastian Vettel, Verstappen.
Support Races for the Spanish Grand Prix
It’s the first round of the GP3 season, with F2 also on the menu.
In F2, McLaren protégé Lando Norris continues to lead the way in the series, with Baku feature race winner Alex Albon up to second, just ahead of Sergio Sette Camara. Norris will be thankful to still lead the championship despite a disappointing race in Azerbaijan, where it all went wrong for himbefore the race began as he stalled from second place on the grid on the formation lap, and had to start from the pits. Norris recovered to finish in 6th place to cut his losses. The race had been led comfortably by Mercedes junior George Russel, until a safety car deleted his lead, and disaster struck Russel on the restart as Nyck de Vries went in too hot on the inside of Russel into the first corner and left Russel no where to go, with Russel dropping out of the points in a race where he had looked in total control. Russel put in a determined showing on Sunday to win the sprint race from 12th place on the grid, and he will surely be one to watch this weekend!
It’s a fresh slate for the GP3 drivers, this years field sees Callum Ilot, Pedro Piquet (son of Nelson), Will Palmer (Jolyon’s younger brother), Nikita Mazepin and Jake Hughes among those joining the likes of established GP3 drivers Anthoine Hubert, Giulano Alesi, Dorian Boccolacci, Alessio Lorandi and Tatiana Calderon as they bid to move up the motorsport ladder.
Previous Results of the Spanish Grand Prix
|2016||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-Tag Heuer|
|2011||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2010||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault|
|2005||Kimi Raikkonen||McLaren Mercedes|