After the Monaco GP, the F1 Circus arrives in Barcelona – which will see a vastly different pecking order to last season’s race when Ferrari dominated in Qualifying with Charles Leclerc before the F1-75 suffered a reliability issue in the race.
The third sector, already modified in 2021, has been altered: the very slow chicane has been removed in favour of a faster corner. It is safe to assume that much faster lap times – and perhaps easier overtaking – will be the result of this.
Red Bull comes as a favourite, especially given the new updates they will bring to the RB19 – similar to the AMR23 and the SF23. Mercedes has already introduced its new package in Monaco and has already been able to gather some data.
This weekend will be important to evaluate the effect of the various update packages on a circuit that is as technical on Saturday as it is demanding on Sunday: tyre wear will have to be limited in the race, though temperatures shouldn’t be very high.
Spanish GP: with a modified third sector, the circuit has only two slow corners
The removal of the last chicane involves the modification of turn 13, covered at around 135 km/h in Qualifying in 2022. According to Vasseur, it will be difficult to go through the penultimate (and last) corner without lifting your foot from the accelerator.
Most of the corners will be travelled above 130 km/h on Saturday, including Campsa (turn 9), which last year was approached at around 250 km/h, and this suggests undisputed domination by the RB19.
The car of Milton Keynes has no rivals in this type of curve, and even the very balanced AMR23 struggles to keep up. Ferrari will have to rely on its own updates if it wants to come out of Montmelò with a good result.
The SF23 is the worst car among the top four teams in medium/high-speed corners where the lack of downforce is felt.
After several races at a good level, we can expect a slight step backwards from Alpine: also, the A523 has a similar problem to the Red one, i.e. it struggles to generate downforce at high speeds and could pay for it in the same way.
However, it would not be a surprise to see Ocon and Gasly in the top ten on Saturday and Sunday.
McLaren did well in Monaco, although from Barcelona, he will return to paying precious tenths of a second on the straight due to excessive drag on the MCL60, as well as Alpha Tauri, which has to deal with the least efficient car on the grid at the start of the season but which will be able to rely on a completely new foundation.
On paper, the Ferrari-powered ones should be more competitive: Alfa Romeo introduced a rather important package in Monaco but failed to score points (Botta’s eleventh), and Haas suffered a lot in Montecarlo due to the uneven surface, a problem that should ease for the Spanish GP.
Pirelli chose to bring the harder compounds ahead of the race: last year, Max Verstappen’s winning strategy was a three-stop race, with two stints on the C3 and another two stints on the C2.
However, the two-stop strategy seemed possible, and after the stop on the first lap due to a contact, Hamilton recovered into fifth position.
The C1 did not offer enough little grip, and only Magnussen, penultimate at the finish line, tried to run with them – to no avail.
Red Bull remains the favourite in all conditions, and we have seen how Verstappen and Perez manage to make the harder compounds work.
Alonso, with his AMR23, is also strong in this regard, while Mercedes and especially Ferrari suffer more. In all probability, a good weekend is not expected for the Maranello team, which will have to rely on the new parts it will introduce.
The forecasts indicate relatively low temperatures for most of the weekend, slightly above 20°C, and with a significant risk of rain.
In any case, most of the sessions will not be held under the classic Spanish heat, which often put difficulties with tires and Power Units, as happened in 2022.
In particular, rain is expected to hit the Catalan track on Sunday, and we could see the second race in a row in the rain.
Spanish GP updates: Ferrari introduces an important package – the RB19 will also have new parts
Red Bull has other updates planned after those introduced in Azerbaijan. The Austrian squad” will try something new”, according to Helmut Marko.
Ferrari hopes to go one step further with the first major package of updates that will mainly involve bodywork. For some Grand Prix now, Leclerc and Sainz have lacked several tenths of performance against Mercedes and, above all, Aston Martin.
The Germans introduced updates to the front suspension, bottom and bellies already in Monaco, but we’ll find out more about their potential here in Barcelona at a more typical track.
The Silverstone team brought adaptations to the extremely slow Principality track to the track in Montecarlo, while the first important updates will arrive between Spain and Canada.
In the ‘midfield’, most of the teams introduced the updates initially planned for Imola in Monaco. However, due to the particularity of the circuit, we did not necessarily see the full potential of the updated cars.
As always, the weekend of the Spanish GP will be among the most important events of the season to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each single-seater.
The teams will have to decide whether to adopt a high-load set-up or a slightly less resistant set-up to gain time on the straight and be able to overtake and defend themselves better on Sunday.
Author: Andrea Vergani
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang