2014 Spanish Grand Prix Preview

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After a three week break, Formula 1 returns to Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix following four flyaway rounds, and there is an air of optimism lingering around the paddock at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

As the first grand prix on European shores in 2014, it marks the first opportunity for the teams to introduce a significant upgrade package for their cars, having got to grips with the new regulations in the previous four races. Therefore, we could yet see another shake-up of the pack, and perhaps even a more serious threat to Mercedes’ dominance in 2014. Or, alternatively, the gap could widen yet further between the Silver Arrows and the chasing pack.

This race is one of the true challenges for teams on the F1 calendar. Although overtaking is limited, the track requires a setup that is balanced between the fast, sweeping corners and the more technical sections of the circuit. It is also one of the toughest circuits on tires, with last year’s race being won by Fernando Alonso on a four stop strategy.

2014 Spanish Grand Prix – Talking Points

Surely Mercedes can’t go even faster?

Well, yes, the team can. And it most probably will. The upgrade package that each team introduces always marks a big step forwards, and given that we’re just four races into a new set of regulations, this ‘step’ could be bigger than normal. Mercedes’ lightening start to the 2014 season doesn’t look like stopping any time soon, and if the development rate is as good now as it was in the lead-up to this year, the gap at the front could get bigger.

Red Bull and Ferrari seek resistance

It’s odd to think that the neutral might be actually cheering on Red Bull and Ferrari – the two dominant forces in F1 since 2000 – this weekend in Spain. If the championship is to realistically stay alive until the end of the season, then both of these teams need to show their true colors this weekend. Red Bull’s phenomenal rate of development could put it in good stead, whilst Ferrari has the backing of the crowd as Fernando Alonso goes in search of a third Spanish GP victory on home soil.

That sinking feeling for McLaren?

After a disastrous 2013 campaign, 2014 had the makings of something a little more promising for McLaren when Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button reached the podium in Australia. Since then, though, neither has been particularly impressive, and Spain will be an important race to mark a revival. After being the bottom Mercedes-powered team in China, bouncing back in Barcelona is crucial for McLaren.

Some points for Sauber and Lotus, perhaps?

It’s crazy to think that two teams which have regularly finished on the podium over the last two years are now on a par – mathematically – with Caterham and Marussia. Lotus came close in China, only for a gearbox problem to rob Romain Grosjean of some points, but Sauber has never looked capable of finishing in the top ten. Both teams need a change this weekend.

The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain – or not

That old rhyme doesn’t have much relevance this weekend. We look set to have just our second all-dry race weekend of the season, which should allow the teams to show their true pace. Wet qualifying in Australia, Malaysia and China masked much of their potential, whilst the colder conditions at night in Bahrain also posed a headache. If we are to trust the forecast, we may finally get an idea of the pecking order in Spain.

Track: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya (4.655km)
Laps: 66
Corners: 16
Lap Record: Kimi Raikkonen 1:21.670 (2008)
Tire Compounds: Medium (Option); Hard (Prime)
2013 Winner: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
2013 Pole Position: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:20.718
2013 Fastest Lap: Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) 1:26.217
DRS Zones: Main straight (T16 to T1); T9 to T10

Click here for the complete TV schedule and details on how to follow the Spanish Grand Prix live with NBC Sports.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.