Williams F1 return as champions to the iconic Circuit de Catalunya for the 2013 Barcelona Grand Prix, following Pastor Maldonado’s surprise maiden victory last season. Fernando Alonso will hope to add yet another win to Ferrari’s record haul to claim a twelfth victory for the constructors.
Juan Manuel Fangio won his first world championship at the 1951 Spanish Grand Prix cementing its place in Formula 1 history. A total of eleven days, including testing, are spent at Barcelona, more than any other circuit.
Despite owning the luxury of 16 turnings, turn one is largely considered to be the only real overtaking place on the circuit. The potential for late breaking into turn one, the DRS zone, will gift midfield drivers with the opportunity to gain positions. This, combined with the need for high traction in turns 13 and 14 may be the reason that there have been no repeat winners since 2005 and why, besides the rookies, only four drivers (Di Resta, Ricciardo, Pic and Vergne) are yet to score points.
Nico Rosberg has acknowledged that the true racing pecking order will only be truly visible in Spain. After all, Caterham bring with them, a raft of new upgrades. Giedo Van Der Garde spoke sensibly and honestly about the realistic improvements that the new look Caterham may bring.
“We’ll be running the new parts from Friday and we’re not going to make any predictions about what they’ll bring. The most important thing is that we get the set up right with them first, then we can start really pushing and see where we are in quali and on Sunday.”
Heikki Kovalainen will replace Charles Pic in FP1 as he makes a return to his former team in a Reserve driver role. The Finn’s return at this stage may not be surprising. Experience is often seen as a key factor to affect racing – Maldonado’s 2012 win being an obvious anomaly to this rule. Michael Schumacher was victorious here six times whilst Jackie Stewart, Alain Prost, Mika Hakkinen and Nigel Mansell each have three Spanish Grands Prix to their name. Multiple champions at the circuit is not unusual.
McLaren’s last victory came in 2005 with Kimi Raikkonen at the helm. They will rely on the experience of 2009 winner Jenson Button to help Sergio Perez who has only claimed two points in as many attempts. The McLaren returns “visibly different” according to the Brit. China saw the unravelling of this partnership and a dominant performance from Sebastian Vettel following the ‘Multi 21’ scandal in Bahrain. Racing resumes after a three week break, so to do the headline making antics.
Pirelli too have been a talking point amongst fans; the tyre wear of the 2013 spec have been heavily criticised as many drivers decline the opportunity to post a timed lap in Q3. Pirelli have therefore announced some changes to their tyre compounds. The 2012 spec hard tyre will return in an attempt to make them more durable.
Either way, Spain will hope to put on a good show for the fans and for their two time championship winning driver, Fernando Alonso. The atmosphere following his 2006 victory was electric; an emotional response expected from Ferrari fans in Monza. One of my personal favourite victories comes courtesy of Michael Schumacher; his first win in 1996, a time that truly cemented his reputation for conquering wet races. A brilliant spectacle.
These wins, and the esteem in which they are held, are perhaps proof that, whilst Formula 1’s new racing calendar is dominated by fly-away rounds, Europe is where the sport’s heart beats most prominently?