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F1 2017: Spanish Gp Preview – Back To Europe

There isn’t too much about Spain’s circuit de Catalunya that isn’t already known. As the fifth round of the 2017 season this staple of the Formula 1 calendar has, over the years, become the definitive barometer of car performance.

The 4.6-kilometer layout of the Spanish circuit comprises the perfect mixtures to test car balance and aerodynamic efficiency while the start/finish strait provides a modest test of power output. The high and medium speed turns, which litter the first sector, test stability and grip while the lower speed third sector is the perfect test of low speed mechanical grip. A quick car through the twisty bits of Catalunya’s final sector invariably translates into a good at street circuits such as Monaco and Singapore.

From this, it would suggest that Ferrari would be favourite and they are. The stellar aerodynamic package that they have produced in 2017 will be the Italian team’s biggest weapon. In Bahrain the Ferrari excelled in the high to medium speed first sector and in Russia both the Ferrari’s performance in the final, twisty, sector dwarfed what Mercedes was able to produce. Combine these two sectors and you have a layout similar to the circuit de Catalunya.

TEST F1/2017 - T2 SPAGNAWhat may be Ferrari’s Achilles heel are the compounds which tyre supplier Pirelli has nominated for the weekend. While the track surface in Spain tends to be more abrasive in order to get the soft, medium, and hard compounds to its optimal working range will require a substantial track temperature. “I’m not sure if it’ll help us or not but I just don’t think it’s going to be good for anyone,” said Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. “Hopefully for Barcelona’s sake it’s hot and therefore these harder tyres work, but if it’s cold then it’s going to be a struggle for everyone.”

The Spanish grand prix weekend, while important for every team and driver on the grid, is vital to the rest of Red Bull’s 2017 campaign. In 2016 the Milton Keyes based team left the Spanish circuit with Max Verstappen as a first-time grand prix winner and with great expectations. The overhaul in regulations held the expectation that Red Bull would be a championship contender in 2017. Nevertheless, the season has started with the team significantly off the pace but they hope that their plan to rectify this begins to fall in place this weekend.

red-bull-tagThe hope is that the introduction of a B-spec car and a “revamped” chassis will allow the team to make a significant step forward. “I hope we can be a bit closer to the top teams or that we can at least follow them,” said 2016 Spanish Gp winner Max Verstappen. “That would already be a good step forward.” Ironically, even without a chassis upgrade the characteristics of the Spanish circuit traditionally plays well to the strengths of the Red Bull.

In Russia, for reasons unknown, Lewis Hamilton was considerably off the pace. And while both Ferraris and his teammate beat him up it gave Valtteri Bottas a crucial boost of confidence that could be telling. As for Ferrari, their biggest asset is the belief that they have more than a good chance of being at the sharp-end. And if the temperatures soar it’ll likely take more than a good performance to topple them this weekend.

About Natalie Le Clue

Natalie Le Clue is an F1 aficionado of the most dedicated vein. And, true to form for any F1-enamoured junkie, she readily admits to crying the first time she saw a F1 car, calling it an ‘overwhelming moment’. Natalie has won the 2010 gSport Woman In Media award, the 2015 Woman In Media Print award, and has been named as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in South African Sport by the Department of Sport and Recreation. Natalie is currently serving as SAfm's F1 correspondent. Follow Natalie on Twitter @nlc27

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