Red Bull scores full marks at Montmelò, with no end in sight to the dominance of Max Verstappen and the Milton Keynes squad. The RB19 is approaching the record-breaking dominance of the iconic F2002 and the MP4/4 machines.
Several tenths behind, Mercedes showed good progress on a W14-friendly circuit (as it did for the W13 a year ago).
Data analysis from Spain shows Ferrari and Aston struggled, while Alpine confirmed its place in the pecking order and largely matched Aston Martin’s performance.
Hamilton and Russell were also very competitive at this track in 2022, which seems to enhance the best characteristics of the W14. The car produced in Brackley is efficient (albeit not quite on the RB19’s level) and good in medium and high-speed corners.
Without Hamilton’s mistake in Q3, the Englishman would have started from the front row, ahead of Sainz.
The Spaniard’s qualifying performances partly disguised one of the SF-23’s worst performances of the season over a flying lap.
Spain Data analysis: Doubts about Ferrari concept confirmed, Mercedes improves
Not since qualifying in Australia has the Ferrari SF23 suffered so significantly over one lap as it did in Spain.
On the other hand, Ferrari’s pace confirmed all of the doubts surrounding it going into the Spanish GP Weekend: Removing the slow chicane in the final sector was especially detrimental to the team’s performance.
The RB19 is balanced and generates plenty of downforce, which has been improved thanks to the new high-downforce rear wing they have introduced.
This is a luxury that Maranello cannot afford, given the weaknesses of the front. The difference between the two cars was almost 5 km/h in medium and high speeds corners.
In the race, Sainz only held up to the excellent pace of the Mercedes in the first stint on the softs, a stint where Hamilton was three-tenths faster, only to lose out massively on the harder compounds.
This confirms an unwanted characteristic that was already present before the latest updates. Mercedes expected an improvement of about two-tenths per lap with the new package, and between Miami and Barcelona, this seems to have been recovered relative to Red Bull.
With the same compound, Hamilton was four-tenths per lap slower than Verstappen in the last stint. It will be important to confirm this gap in Canada and the following races to ensure that the Spanish GP is not an exception, as it was in 2022.
Aston Martin’s weekend started well on Friday, with Alonso and Stroll just a few tenths behind the Red Bulls in qualifying simulations and showing good signs in race runs.
However, after a lap in Qualifying, Spain’s home hero damaged the floor and lost a possible first or second row. In the race, the AMR23 suffered massively on the C3 compound, as seen in Bahrain, losing almost six-tenths to Mercedes.
The strategists decided to mount another set of soft tyres in the second stint before putting on the hards for the final stint – where Alonso equalled Sainz’s times.
Overall, the Silverstone car paid 9-tenths a lap from the leader, an unprecedented gap in 2023.
The rest of the group is very compact, with four teams separated by just over a tenth in race pace. The pecking order in Spain was Aston Martin, Alpha Tauri, Alpine and then Alfa Romeo.
After their Baku updates, the AT04 seems to have found something extra, showing two good performances in Monaco and Barcelona, even accounting for the fact these circuits should suit the Faenza squad.
Sunday’s race reconfirmed a defect present from the very first race when Tsunoda was unable to overtake Albon and lost tenth position – the single-seater from Faenza suffers a lot on the straight.
This was clear when the Japanese driver failed to overtake Ocon and had a tough time defending against Zhou, later receiving a much-discussed penalty.
Alpine and Alfa Romeo showed similar pace, with Ocon, Zhou and Gasly occupying the last positions in the points.
Bottas revealed that his car “had damage to the floor (…) and this cost us a large chunk of performance,” preventing the Finn from being able to fight for the points after an equally disappointing Qualifying.
Haas confirms itself as a ‘copy’ of the SF23, reflecting many of the characteristics of the Maranello car.
On Saturday, Hulkenberg brought his VF23 to Q3 thanks to a good performance, only to suffer a lot on Sunday when having a stable and predictable car is essential.
Accompanying the American team is McLaren, third on the grid with Norris and then occupying the role of eighth force in Sunday’s 66 laps on a track that is quite suitable for the MCL60.
All on its own in terms of race pace was Williams, a team whose relatively simplistic floor was exposed at the start of the weekend.
The Grove team could only manage P18 and P20 in Qualifying before finishing P16 and P20 in the race (two seconds behind Max Verstappen’s pace).
Most significantly, they were more than three-tenths behind their rivals. After years of financial struggles, the difficulties faced by Frank Williams’ teams appear to continue – at least for the short term.
Author: Andrea Vergani
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang