There is a common adage amongst purist Formula One fans that the racing season only truly begins when the European circuit starts. This year, the European calendar starts with the Spanish Grand Prix, scheduled on the 12th of May 2019.
Ferrari, arguably the biggest name in Formula One racing will certainly be hoping that this maxim holds true. The Italian giants have had a horrible start to their campaign, losing out the front grid in all the four races so far to rivals Mercedes. Both their drivers, Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc have failed to hit the ground running, with the cars not helping their cause either. Team Principle Mattia Binotto will be hoping for the narrative to finally change this time around, while Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will look to preserve their lead for Mercedes once again.
Before the chequered flag is waved at the Circuit de Catalunya, here are five things you should know about the Spanish Grand Prix:
1.Ferrari will be making another engine upgrade
Already trailing Mercedes by a massive 74 points in the Constructor's Standings, Ferrari has decided to push through a new engine upgrade to the SF90, despite it being initially scheduled for Montreal. They had already made an aerodynamic upgrade for Baku, so it will be interesting to see if the latest one makes any changes to the team’s fortunes.
According to Binotta, “We are currently behind in the championship and we have to catch up, which we know means that our development work will be the key to this season. Having brought a new aerodynamic package to Baku, we will also bring some developments in this area to Barcelona. On top of that, we will have a new power unit that we are introducing ahead of schedule, as the second specification was due to be brought to Canada.”
Ferrari has reason to be hopeful as well, as their car was consistently the fastest at the same track during pre-season testing in February. It thus remains to be seen if an upset is due or not.
2. The Spanish Grand Prix is stepped with history
Having been operational since 1951, the Spanish Grand Prix has seen some of the finest racers and individual performances in the history of the sport. Michael Schumacher’s fifth-gear drive in 1994 to finish a strong second, Gilles Villeneuve’s win in 1981 and the Vettel v Hamilton duel in 2011 that saw the former win by just 0.63 seconds are ones that spring to mind instantly. Hamilton is the defending champion and he will be eager to underline his dominance once again and regain his seat at the top of the Driver’s Championship, on which he now trails teammate Bottas by just one point.
3. Mercedes will be weary of complacency
Having made Formula One history by locking out the 1-2 positions in four successive races, Mercedes will be weary of overconfidence sets in. Both Hamilton and Bottas are, however, experienced enough to know that once the European circuits kick in, races come thick and fast and everything could change in a few weeks.
While speaking to the media, team boss Toto Wolff said,” The Spanish Grand Prix will be anything but easy. Despite the good start to the season we remain quite skeptical of our own performance and know that there are a number of areas where we can and must improve. We anticipate a tough and competitive weekend, first against our rivals and also between our drivers."
4. Sportspesa Racing Point could be the dark horses of the Spanish Grand Prix
Racing Point( formerly Force India) has been one of the most impressive teams in the mid-table, outmaneuvering the likes of Alfa Romeo, Renault, and Haas to sit pretty in the fifth spot in the Constructor’s Standings.
Sergio Perez, Racing Point’s most impressive driver has been in fine form this season and finished sixth in Baku. Just like Ferrari, they had also conducted a lot of pre-season tests in Barcelona and one would be well-advised to keep an eye out for them.
5. Tributes will be paid to Senna and Ratzenberger at the Spanish Grand Prix
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the deaths of Formula One legend Ayrton Senna and Austrian racer Roland Ratzenberger in separate accidents at the Imola track in Italy. In an effort to commemorate the tragedy, the Spanish Grand Prix winner will be laying a half Brazilian and a half Australian flag at the first place on the podium. Moreover, all fans will be handed out similar flags during the opening ceremony of the Grand Prix.
Apart from these, a life-size status of Senna weighing 160 kilograms made by British sculptor Paul Oz has been unveiled at the Palau Robert in Barcelona, which will be taken to the circuit on race day and placed behind the main paddock. A selection of 15 historic Formula One cars will also be exhibited to the public in an effort to recognize the origins of the sport.