Spanish Grand Prix preview – Barcelona is where the season begins in earnest

There is an adage amongst seasoned Formula One campaigners that the season only really begins when the European round of races gets underway.

And after a record four season opening 1-2 finishes for Mercedes on the bounce, Ferrari will certainly be hoping that maxim holds true.

For the bosses at Maranello, it has been a worrying start to the year. But having pushed through a new engine upgrade initially planned for Montreal, allied to the aerodynamic upgrade in Baku, now could really be the time to see Ferrari shine.

“It’s time for the Spanish GP, traditionally a race where most of the teams bring some updates, therefore we can expect to see a step up in performance from our competitors,” said Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto in the team’s official race preview. “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. Shell, in close collaboration with our team, has developed a different formulation of race lubricant that will also be introduced with the new power unit, delivering increased performance. It’s only down to a big team effort with everyone pushing hard to make up ground that we have been able to bring these developments forward.”

Ferrari was consistently the quickest car during pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, suggesting that they would be the team to beat from the outset. Yet reliability issues allied to some puzzling race tactics has seen Mercedes take full advantage.

“I have good memories from February’s testing, even if the conditions were very different back then, with very low air and track temperatures,” said team driver Charles Leclerc. “All the same, the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit is a benchmark, because if you go well here, you know you have a car that will be very competitive for the rest of the season. I can’t wait to get into the cockpit of my SF90, but then, that’s not exactly news!”

To win, which you feel they must, Ferrari must get past both Mercedes and a competitive Red Bull outfit, who have also brought some ‘subtle’ upgrades to Barcelona.

“It’s fairly subtle and it’s just evolution,” team boss Christian Horner is quoted on Autosport. “It will be the usual front and rear wing upgrades. It’s evolution rather than revolution. We’re looking forward to heading back to Europe now and we have a few circuits coming up now that should really suit us.”

Another team that will be hoping to further back up a string of impressive points finishes is Acronis partner team SportPesa Racing Point. Sergio Perez sits sixth in the drivers’ standings following his sixth-place finish in Baku, a result that sees the team fifth in the constructors’ standings above the likes of Alfa Romeo, Renault and Haas.

Barcelona is a track where we’ve already done so much testing and I don’t think there are any more secrets to discover from the track.

“Even after two weeks of winter testing in Barcelona, finding the right set-up for the race weekend remains a challenge,” said Perez in the team’s preview. “The data you have from testing is not the most relevant and the temperatures will be very different. Completing a clean and tidy Friday is therefore really important to get the tyre data for the race. It’s also famous for being a track where overtaking is extremely difficult so you have to focus on really maximising qualifying.”

Lance Stroll suring pre-season testing in Barcelona
Lance Stroll, Racing Point RP19

Fraser Masefield

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