2013 Spanish Grand Prix Preview

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The three week break between races is rarely a favorite among the fans, yet it does give teams the opportunity to work on upgrades for their 2013 cars which will debut at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix. The opening European round of the season could be a good indicator of how the rest of the year will pan out, and every team will be keen on making big gains at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Spanish Grand Prix Talking Points

Red Bull look to bring the killer blow

It would be unfair to say that Red Bull could have the championship sewn up after round five of the championship, but if they do bring significant upgrades to the race and storm to a 1-2 victory, it would be hard to bet against the team for a fourth title. However, the team has struggled in Barcelona before, and if testing acts as a form guide, Mercedes and Ferrari will be the teams to beat.

Life after Allison begins at Lotus

James Allison’s departure may have come as a shock to many, but for Lotus it is a question of getting back to business. Nick Chester has a wealth of experience which should make his move into the technical director role seamless. The question will be whether Kimi Raikkonen is bothered by his absence in Barcelona, with the Finn trying to claim his third win at the circuit.

Spanish hopes rest firmly on Alonso’s shoulders

Fernando Alonso may have won just once at home in Spain, yet his record is an impressive one. Last year, he was edged out by Pastor Maldonado, and he has consistently challenged for the win in front of his fellow countrymen. A few Ferrari upgrades will be required if the Italian team is to bring its killer instinct to the Circuit de Catalunya.

McLaren, Williams with the most to gain

McLaren and Williams have both made dire starts to the season (by their own high standards), so the Spanish Grand Prix is a big turning point for the teams. Relying they bring the upgrades required, both teams could move up the grid. For McLaren, they have not built this up to be a ‘make or break’ weekend, yet it has that aura. The race could also cap off Williams’ fall from grace: Maldonado’s win here last year was dominant; in 2013, the target is to score a point. How things change.

Caterham and Marussia resume battle

Honors even so far in the battle of the backmarkers. Caterham and Marussia have both promised big upgrades, and the teams are also running a reserve driver in FP1 (Kovalainen and Gonzalez respectively). It will be fascinating to see how the tussle pans out, with this being a track that all of the drivers have experience on, although much of their success will rest on the upgrades.

Track: Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona (4.655km)
Laps: 66
Corners: 16
Lap Record: Kimi Raikkonen 1:21.670 (2008)
Tire Compounds: Medium (Option); Hard (Prime)
2012 Winner: Pastor Maldonado (Williams)
2012 Pole Position: Pastor Maldonado (Williams) 1:22.285
2012 Fastest Lap: Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1:26.250
DRS Zones: Main straight (T16 to T1); T9 to T10

Friday – Free Practice 1: 10:00am local/04:00am ET
Friday – Free Practice 2: 14:00pm local/08:00am ET
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 11:00am local/05:00pm ET
Saturday – Qualifying: 14:00pm local/08:00am ET
Sunday – Race: 14:00pm local/08:00am ET

You can watch FP2, qualifying and the race on NBC this weekend via http://stream.nbcsports.com/liveextra/, or on their phone or tablet by downloading the apphttp://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/25481063/.

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.