F1: Spanish Grand Prix Predictions and How To Watch

Scuderia Ferrari

F1 is back this weekend for the Spanish Grand Prix. Let’s see if the mix of car upgrades and a revised circuit will equal drama in Spain.

Just one week after a rainy Sunday in Monaco, it’s time for the F1 Spanish Grand Prix for the second of back-to-back races. With several teams ready to show off upgrades, we may see a slight change in the pecking order after Sunday.

Last weekend, we saw the debut of the new-look Mercedes, stripped of its “zero sidepods” in favor of a more traditional design similar to what we’ve seen at the front with Red Bull and Aston Martin.

The car also saw upgrades to other aspects such as the front suspension and floor, though the Monaco streets didn’t allow the team to get a full scope of their progress.

They’re hoping things become clear this weekend at a more traditional circuit. Both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell had positive feedback after last Sunday’s race so in the short term things appear to be trending in the right direction. At the very least, there seems to be a long line of upgrades ahead for the Silver Arrows, so incremental progress is the desired outcome.

The team behind Mercedes in the constructor standings is set to debut upgrades this weekend.

Just as Mercedes ditched their sidepod concept, Ferrari appears to have left behind the curvy “bathtub” sidepods they’ve run since the beginning of 2022. They have also gone more traditional and will hope to negate any gains made by Mercedes.

Red Bull and Aston Martin will be bringing some upgrades to Barcelona, but it remains to be seen just what they’ll bring and how substantial the upgrades will be.

A Revised Layout in Barcelona

While the cars themselves will see changes this weekend, so too will the circuit. This year, F1 decided to adjust the track layout near the end of the lap. The final four corners have been shortened to just two, as the chicane at the end of the lap has been forgone and the outer ring used by MotoGP will be used this year.

Previously, drivers would make a slow right-hander at Turn 13 into the even slower chicane of Turns 14 and 15 before the final corner that led back to the main straight.

Now, Turn 13 will utilize the MotoGP layout of the track and become a wider, faster corner that skips the chicane and goes right to the final corner. If that sounds a bit confusing, refer to the track map below.

The MotoGP layout was used by F1 in the past before safety concerns saw the slower final section added. Now, with added gravel and better safety precautions in place, the faster alternative can return.

The change will hopefully create better overtaking opportunities on the main straight. The chicane has long been a complaint of drivers for doing the exact opposite. It will also create more tire wear, which may make for some differing strategy calls on Sunday, weather permitting.

Whatever the result, perhaps the most hated set of corners on the calendar is finally gone, which is a win for drivers and fans alike.

The Circuit

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a 4.65 km (2.89) circuit in Barcelona, Spain. The circuit has hosted the F1 Spanish Grand Prix since 1991, along with numerous other racing series encompassing two-wheels, four-wheels, and even dirt racing.

Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton are tied at six wins for the track record.

Max Verstappen won last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, with he and Hamilton combining to win every race at Barcelona since 2016.

Lap times will look different this year due to the track changes. For reference, though, the last time the final chicane wasn’t used was in 2006, and the fastest lap during that year’s race was a 1:16.648 by Felipe Massa.

The circumstances are certainly different between then and now, but it’s a good ballpark number to have ahead of the weekend.

This weekend the teams will have the C1 (Hard), C2 (Medium), and C3 (Soft) available to them from Pirelli. These are toward the harder end of the range.

Typically we’d be worried about hot weather in Barcelona, but the slick tires may get a break again this weekend as rain is forecast for both Saturday and Sunday at the track. After the chaos it caused last week, I don’t think anyone would mind a little more rain for the second week in a row.

A Lap of Barcelona

The lap begins on the long front straight where one of two DRS zones is located. The drivers then face a fast chicane at Turns 1 and 2 before the long, swooping right-handed Turn 3.

Turns 4 and 5 are downhill medium-speed corners. Right after, drivers take the slight kink at Turn 6 and the tricky chicane of Turns 7 and 8 to climb back up.

At the crest of the hill is the rapid Turn 9. Look out for the tight exit, as it will be a track limits hotspot this weekend. It leads onto the back straight where the second DRS zone is located.

Turn 10 is a slow left-hander that was slightly adjusted in 2021 to flow better for the drivers. Turn 11 is another small kink while Turn 12 is like a smaller, slower Turn 3.

Drivers have to be patient on the throttle as they round it, with the exit being another track limits hotspot. The final two corners are two fast right-handers that lead back onto the main straight.

We’ll see how far the drivers push it at these turns and if they’ll be flat out at any point (assuming some dry running this weekend.) The main thing to watch for is how much momentum they can carry from them on to the main straight to aid with overtaking. That small change may give life to a typically dull circuit.

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Image courtesy of F1

Points Standings

Here’s a look at where things stand heading into Barcelona.

Driver Standings

  1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing – 144 points
  2. Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing – 105 points
  3. Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin – 93 points
  4. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes – 69 points
  5. George Russell, Mercedes – 50 points
  6. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari – 48 points
  7. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari – 42 points
  8. Lance Stroll, Aston Martin – 27 points
  9. Esteban Ocon, Alpine – 21 points
  10. Pierre Gasly, Alpine – 14 points

Constructor Standings

  1. Red Bull Racing – 249 points
  2. Aston Martin – 120 points
  3. Mercedes – 119 points
  4. Ferrari – 90 points
  5. Alpine – 35 points
  6. McLaren – 17 points
  7. Haas – 8 points
  8. Alfa Romeo – 6 points
  9. AlphaTauri – 2 points
  10. Williams – 1 point

Predictions

Last week’s prediction of Charles Leclerc winning his home race didn’t go so well. To bounce back, I think there’s only one place we can look: Red Bull. They’ve won every race this year and don’t seem to be under threat despite all the upgrades this weekend. Between Verstappen and Perez, I’ll go with the former to extend his championship lead this weekend.

  1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
  2. Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing
  3. Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin

How To Watch – F1 Spanish Grand Prix (U.S. and U.K. times)

Featured image credit: Scuderia Ferrari