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.