The Spanish Grand Prix will see the 11 Formula 1 teams introduce a raft of upgrades for their cars for the first time this season, and the race also marks the first real chance for defending world champions Red Bull to cut the gap to current leaders Mercedes.
Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo have both ran well so far this season to place Red Bull second in the constructors’ championship, albeit some 97 points behind Mercedes. However, both drivers are aware that a well-balanced setup will be key to a good performance at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya next weekend.
“The circuit is varied with 180 degree bends, fast, sweeping corners and elevation changes,” Vettel explained. “There isn’t much opportunity to overtake, so getting a good start position in qualifying will be crucial.
“The long, fast curves of Montmelo mean that it will suit a car with highly efficient aerodynamics. The track is very challenging on the tires because of the same very fast corners, so lots of pit stops are likely in the race.”
Teammate Daniel Ricciardo is also focusing on a balanced setup between speed and cornering, saying: “It’s a good track to defend on, but one that demands a lot of concentration and the right setup.
“The trade-off is that you need fairly low downforce on the long main straight but that compromises the rest of your lap and makes the car difficult to control. Finding the right balance isn’t simple.”
The track is a favorite for testing as it does challenge every aspect of a car, although it is not suited for overtaking. Tire wear will unquestionably be a problem for all of the teams, and it would be unsurprising if it requires another four-stop strategy to win the race as used by Fernando Alonso last year en route to victory.
Red Bull Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo is confident the team has not missed its last chance to win a race in 2017 after losing out to Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in Singapore.
Red Bull ran strongly throughout the Singapore race weekend, with Ricciardo boldly stating the team would win after qualifying third for the race.
A wet-dry affair marred by a start-line crash allowed Hamilton to sweep from fifth to first, while Ricciardo was left to settle for P2 for the third straight year in Singapore.
With none of the remaining circuits appearing to suit Red Bull’s RB13 car as well as Singapore, Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to share the spoils through the final six races of the year.
However, Ricciardo is sure that Red Bull will get another opportunity to add to its surprise victory in Baku earlier this season, which came about in surprising circumstances.
“Malaysia, obviously there were a few incidents last year but I think our general pace wasn’t too bad so we might be stronger than we think there,” Ricciardo said, looking ahead to next weekend’s race in Kuala Lumpur.
“Malaysia, Japan and then we’ll see. I think we can be podium cars, probably Malaysia, Japan, Austin.
“We might need some alternate conditions to really give us raw pace to fight for a win.
“I’m not going to sit here and say we’re not going to win one.
“I believe we’ll get at least one chance somewhere.”
Formula 1 teams will be allowed to use their latest-spec cars at demonstrations organized by the sport from 2018, the FIA has confirmed.
F1 hit the streets of London, England ahead of the British Grand Prix in July for a live demonstration that attracted a crowd of over 100,000 fans.
Due to restrictions on the use of current cars outside of official testing and grand prix weekends, all teams were required to appear with older chassis models in London, most coming from 2015, the most recent year allowed to be used freely.
The restrictions meant that Haas, which only became an F1 team in 2016, could not field a car at all in London.
As part of the updated sporting regulations approved by the World Motor Sport Council and issued by the FIA earlier this week, a rule tweak was confirmed to let teams use their current-year cars at “demonstration events organized by the Commercial Rights Holder”.
Teams are still allowed to complete two filming day events with their current cars, with the majority opting to use one prior to pre-season testing to act as a shakedown of their new models.
While no further demonstrations such as the one in London have been confirmed by F1 yet, they are understood to be in the works after the success the July event enjoyed.
Maverick Viñales will start Sunday’s MotoGP race at Motorland Aragon from pole position after topping qualifying for Yamaha as teammate Valentino Rossi made a stunning return from injury.
Having broken his leg during a training accident at the end of last month, Rossi was cleared to race this weekend by MotoGP’s medical officials on Thursday, with the nine-time world champion gingerly returning to action in practice.
Rossi battled through to Q2 by finishing final practice 10th-quickest, before then producing a rapid final lap in the session to secure third place on the grid for Sunday’s race.
Teammate Viñales bagged his fifth pole of the season with a best lap of 1:47.635, lapping one-tenth of a second quicker than Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo. Rossi was a further 0.08 seconds behind in P3.
Cal Crutchlow took fourth for LCR Honda ahead of Marc Marquez, who fell ahead of his final run and was unable to improve his initial lap time in Q2.
Marquez’s chief title rival Andrea Dovizioso will start seventh behind Dani Pedrosa, while Aleix Espargaro, Alvaro Bautista and Andrea Iannone completed the top 10 in qualifying.
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier has conceded the team is “a little behind” in developing its Formula 1 car for next year after only finalizing its 2018 engine plans last week.
McLaren saw its long-running engine saga end in Singapore when it agreed a deal to end its current Honda supply and link up with Renault from the start of next season.
The move is expected to give McLaren a lift in performance and allow it to fight further up the field, but the delay in being finalized has put the team slightly behind schedule in developing its new car.
“We are flat out working on the 2018 car. There are a lot of changes in terms of layout of the engine, so we have to redesign some of the parts we already had in our mind,” Bouller told the official F1 website.
“We are a little behind in terms of decision. I would have loved this decision to have been made a couple of weeks ago.”
McLaren will no longer enjoy exclusive works status in 2018 as it has done with Honda, with Renault also supplying engines to Red Bull and its own factory team.
Boullier remains confident of a strong partnership between McLaren and Renault, though, and is sure it is the best path for the future.
“We are ‘privileged customers’ with Renault. We have the same engine and access to information as Enstone or Red Bull Racing, so this is a real partnership with Renault,” Boullier said.
“We also have the possibility to work with them – to put ideas in the box for the future that might be taken into consideration. That will allow us to influence in the future. But yes, a full works team is different from our situation in 2018.
“But it is like in school: you look at the plusses and the minuses, and looking at all the plusses and minuses we made our decision, which we believe will be the best one for McLaren for at least the next three years.”