2012 Spanish GP Preview – All to play for

May 10, 2012 1:34 pm
As we entered the controversial Bahrain Grand Prix weekend with three different winners, this weekend Formula One rocks up in the sunshine of Catalunya close to the classical city of Barcelona with four drivers triumphant so far in 2012.

Spanish fans will be eager to see if the recent in-season test session at Mugello in Italy has solved Ferrari’s aerodynamic woes and can give home-hero Fernando Alonso a car capable of taking his second victory in his native land.

British duo Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are both determined to avenge their lacklustre performance in the desert heat of Bahrain and get their respective title bids back, quite literally, on track. ‘You need to have absolutely every box ticked if you’re going to win at Barcelona.’ claimed Button when interviewed by the F1 website prior to the event. ‘It’s a place that punishes poor balance like almost nowhere else – if your car is understeering around here, then you’re going to really struggle.’ Lewis Hamilton added a further note of caution to his team-mate. ‘Our performance at Barcelona during winter testing looked promising – but the form of the season is still very hard to read, so it’s difficult to predict who’ll be at the front next weekend’ said the 2008 World Champion.

Lotus Renault come into the Spanish GP weekend on the back of their strongest result since 2006 when Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean pushed Sebastian Vettel for victory in Bahrain last time out. Team Principal Eric Bouillier was upbeat in his interview with F1.com ahead of the race this weekend. ‘We’ve been able to look after our tyres quite well during the races so far but the Barcelona track is very abrasive, especially for the front left tyre. Maybe we’ll do a better job than our rivals in this area. The only question mark is our performance relative to the temperature. A pattern

Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) leads Lewis Hamilton (Mclaren) at the 2011 Spanish GP

started to emerge over the first four races, where we seemed to be more and more competitive in hot conditions. We’ll see.’ In typically laid back fashion, Finnish hero Raikkonen added his own opinion on how the weekend will shape up. ‘I expect Lotus to be very competitive at Barcelona.’ he smiled. ‘It’s going to be very, very close between the top teams. This is the only circuit where the teams have already tested with the new cars, and the set-up is crucial as the track changes with the wind and temperature. All the teams have updates for the first European race, which makes it even more interesting and even tighter at the top.’
Ferrari enter the weekend facing an acid test; should their car fail to improve on recent showings, attention will switch to the 2013 car and 2012 will be written off according to team sources last week.  Should this happen, Felipe Massa in particular will have a hard job for the rest of the season to convince Ferrari ‘Don’ Luca Di Montezemelo  that he is worthy of the second Ferrari seat next year. Alonso for his part will perhaps feel that this is another betrayal by the Scuderia of the immense talent he has placed at their disposal in that the prancing horse has so far failed to build a car capable of taking that elusive championship.
In the ever-fraught midfield Williams, Sauber and Force India will all be going great guns to steal a march on their bitter rivals by grabbing a serious haul of points at the circuit used every winter for extensive testing. After an equal-career best finish of 6th in Bahrain, Scot Paul Di Resta sounded a note of caution on Wednesday. ‘There’s still plenty of work to do in free practice to get on top of the car, but we’ve already done the basic checks. I probably know Barcelona better than any other track on the calendar. We did two tests there in the winter and I had four days in the car so I already feel quite well prepared, but it’s the same for everyone. I expect the field to be incredibly close once again.”

2011 champions Red Bull arrive in Barcelona fresh from their maiden 2012 triumph courtesy of the indomitable Sebastian Vettel. Despite his near-dominance in Bahrain, Vettel remains cool about his prospects this weekend. ‘In general, a car that functions well aerodynamically in Barcelona will work everywhere – so it will be an interesting weekend. We have been working on the package for Barcelona at this week’s test, but we will still have set-up work to do there on arrival.’ said the young German. Team-mate Mark Webber on the other hand is eager to re-establish the hold he had over Vettel in the first three races prior to Bahrain. ‘I like the Barcelona track, we do a lot of work there and it’s a track that’s been good to me in the past.’ claimed the jovial Aussie.  ‘I got pole there for the last two years and converted it to a win in 2010, so I’m looking for a strong weekend.’
The Circuit De Catalunya where this weekend’s Grand Prix will be staged is used extensively for pre-season testing during February and early March, so the teams have comprehensive knowledge of how their respective cars will behave. This makes the Spanish Grand Prix the first real acid-test of the year, often providing the real data as to who really has the fastest car after the chaos and disarray of the opening four flyaway contests in the far and Middle East.

By Sunday evening we will know who that will be.

 

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