Formula 1 heads to Barcelona this weekend for the Spanish GP, which will be a pivotal point in the 2023 season.
The Circuit de Catalunya is very familiar to drivers and teams who have played regular test sessions over the years. Several teams will be running upgrades on their cars this weekend, either for the first time or in representative conditions.
„Barcelona is the best judge of a chassis – it’s all about the chassis and the aero.” Sky Sports F1Vin Martin Brandl said.
As the development battle escalates, could we see the true pecking order of F1 2023 begin to emerge?
Expect Red Bull to continue to lead the way
Traditionally, Barcelona have not been too happy in Red Bull’s hunting grounds. The team has won there just four times – in 2010, 2011, 2016 and 2022 – and last year’s victory was aided by Ferrari engine trouble when Charles Leclerc was leading the way.
But Red Bull is still unbeaten in 2023 and has yet to hold another car within 20 seconds of finishing a Grand Prix in racing conditions.
Circuit de Catalunya modifications also draw on the RB19’s strengths. As the F1 circuit returns to its original final two corners, the slow chicane will not feature in the final section this weekend, and the high-speed right-handers will help Red Bull sling shot the long pit straight to its straight-line speed advantage. can increase.
„It was a Red Bull weekend,” former Williams and McLaren driver Juan Pablo Montoya said on the latest Sky Sports F1 podcast.
„It’s a 100 per cent Red Bull track. It’s a high-speed track and Aston Martin is characterized by slow speed corners and they’ve done away with the slow corners in the final sector.”
Sky Sports F1David Croft added: „I don’t see anyone like that at the moment [gets ahead of Red Bull]. It’s very fast in a straight line and very fast in high-speed corners.”
Red Bull will reportedly have updates later this week, Helmut Marko, a consultant to the Austrian company, said. oe24 The team is „going to try something new in Barcelona.”
While Red Bull is expected to be out, how will Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari fare with their upgraded machines?
Mercedes gets a real read on the W14’s upgrades
The big intrigue heading into Barcelona will be how Mercedes’ upgrades to their W14 will work.
Initially scheduled for the canceled Emilia Romagna GP, Mercedes introduced their new bodywork, flooring and front suspension in Monaco. Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished fourth and fifth in Monte Carlo, although the unique nature of the street circuit made it difficult to judge their actual performance. As Brundle put it: „It’s like racing a washing machine.”
However, Hamilton, Russell and team boss Toto Wolff felt there were immediate positive signs from the updated W14 and will be looking to confirm its true potential this weekend.
„We’ve been mixed with Aston Martin and Ferrari. On a positive note, it’s probably encouraging because we’ve never been good here,” Mercedes boss Wolff said after the Monaco GP.
„But we have to be really careful, we have to go to Barcelona and gather more information, it’s a new baseline. I don’t expect us to clean Aston Martin and Ferrari there either. It’s more about understanding, OK, what this car can do now, how to set it up. .”
While the fourth-fastest car so far in 2023 looks to be on pure pace, Mercedes is just one point behind Aston Martin in second place in the constructors’ championship.
Is Aston Martin closing up or falling behind Red Bull?
Aston Martin have had the second fastest car so far this season and only Max Verstappen’s brilliance and some bad luck with the intensity of the rain cost them a pole position and a race win in Monaco.
Fernando Alonso heads to his home race – and the site of his most recent victory in 2013 – with five podiums in six grands prix for the surprise team of 2023. Aston Martin will introduce the second half of the upgrade initially at Imola at the Spanish GP.
The question is whether these updates will offset the improvements made by Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari, and see them move closer to the championship leaders or see them struggle to climb onto the podium.
„We have to see on a normal circuit, what improvements Mercedes’ package and Ferrari will bring to Barcelona,” Alonso said.
„So we have to keep our feet on the ground, as I said in Miami, we have to be seventh and eighth some weekends in the year, we have to accept that and we will fight for some more podiums.
„So I won’t enter Barcelona thinking I’m going to win and let anyone down. We have to keep our feet on the ground.”
Substantial upgrade by Ferrari to improve Sunday form?
Ferrari is introducing a substantial upgrade to their inconsistent SF23 car, which had to be delayed by the cancellation of the Emilia Romagna GP.
Leclerc managed to battle for a pole position in the qualifying sessions, Monaco and Carlos Sainz struggled to gain confidence in the car and were criticized for the „knife edge” of their driving in the coming race days.
Ferrari has already brought a new floor and diffuser to their car, and this weekend’s update will include new bodywork.
„We’ll have a good look at race pace this week,” said team principal Fred Vasseur. „Barcelona is very suitable and we will take a good look at the situation.
„I hope we will take a step forward in Barcelona, but that will not be the end of the car’s development.”
Will Alpine create a five-team battle for podium spots?
The mood around Alpine has changed over the past month. At the Miami GP, Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi labeled the performances „unacceptable” and „amateur” and threatened immediate changes if the team’s form did not improve.
But Alpine’s improvements have brought that high with the team taking double points in the US before Esteban Ocon secured a fine podium at the Monaco GP and Pierre Gasly took a season’s best seventh.
The French team is positive about being in the fight for the final podium positions behind Red Bull.
I fully expect to be alongside Mercedes and Ferrari at the next race, said sporting director Alan Bermane, while confirming another upgrade would be at the Alpine in Barcelona.
“Max is far away and when Czecho is on his game, so is he.
„Fernando will be very difficult, but I don’t see why we can’t race with Ferrari and Mercedes, as we have done here (in Monaco) and in Miami.
„At the end they were faster than us, but we were racing with them. That’s what we’re aiming for.”
F1 returns to a 'traditional’ circuit
This weekend will be the first time Formula 1 will race on a 'normal’ track since the season-opening Bahrain GP.
The 2023 season is headlined by Grands Prix on the street circuits of Jeddah, Melbourne, Baku, Miami and Monaco.
But now drivers and teams have a traditional F1 weekend to look forward to; Three practice sessions on a predictably evolving circuit to dial in their car set-ups for qualifying and race day.
The old adage is that if your car works well in Barcelona, it will work well anywhere. If that trend continues, this weekend could provide a glimpse of how the rest of the season will play out.
Live Spanish GP schedule from Sky Sports F1
Thursday, June 1
2 pm: Drivers’ press conference
Friday, June 2
8.50am: Exercised F3
10.00 am: F2 exercise
12pm: Spanish GB Practice One (session starts at 12.30pm)
1.55pm: F3 Qualifying
2.50 pm: F2 Qualifying
3.45pm: Spanish GP practice two (session starts at 4pm)
5.15pm: F1 show: Spain
Saturday 3rd June
9.25am: F3 sprint
11.15am: Spanish GP practice three (session starts at 11.30am)
1.10pm: F2 Sprint
2.15pm: Spanish GP qualifying build-up
3pm: Spanish GP qualifying round
6.15pm: IndyCar – Detroit GP Qualifying
Sunday, June 4
8.50am: F3 feature race
10.20 am: F2 feature race
12.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday Spanish GP build-up
2pm: Spanish Grand Prix
4pm: Checked flag Spanish GB reaction
5.45pm: Indy NXT – Detroit GP
8pm: IndyCar – Detroit GP
Will Red Bull’s winning streak continue at the Spanish GP in F1 2023? Catch all the action live on Sky Sports F1 from June 2-4 Get Sky Sports
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