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.
Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.
Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.
On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.
One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.
After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.
The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.
Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.
“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”
Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.
“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”
But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.
“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.
“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”
Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.
“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.
“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”
The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.