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.
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastien Vettel are the two most decorated drivers currently on the Formula 1 grid, with seven World Championships between them (four for Vettel, and three for Hamilton).
However, their paths have rarely crossed on the track, and only in 2010 did both drivers battle each for a World Championship in the same year. They also battled Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber that year, with Vettel emerging on top to claim his first World Championship.
However, the 2017 season sees Hamilton and Vettel in the two best cars on the grid, and they have gone head-to-head multiple times already this year, with each claiming two victories through the first five races. Currently, Vettel leads Hamilton 104-98 in the world championship, and the two men are developing a strong on-track rivalry.
Monaco Grand Prix coverage continues with FP3 and qualifying on Saturday. Full times are linked here.
In Friday’s NASCAR AMERICA Motorsports Special on NBCSN, we take you behind the scenes during F1 superstar Fernando Alonso’s qualifying runs for the Indy 500, including when he was on the pole for a brief period. He’ll eventually start fifth.
On Friday’s NASCAR AMERICA Motorsports Special on NBCSN, Parker Kligerman and his backseat driver, Kyle Petty, took to the iRacing simulator to make a mock run around Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.
They look at the challenges of IMS, as well as the challenges two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will face in the first oval track race in his illustrious career. Alonso is among the favorites in the race and will take the green flag from the middle of Row 2 (fifth position).
Check out the above video.
Sunday is the biggest day of the year in motorsports, starting in the morning with Formula 1’s legendary Monaco Grand Prix.
Then, at Noon ET, it’s the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The final part of the tripleheader of racing is NASCAR’s longest race of the season, the 400-lap, 600-mile Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Newly-named NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018 inductee Ken Squier gives you a great primer for what promises to be a memorable day around the world (see video above).