2015 Spanish Grand Prix Preview

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MONTMELO – Whilst many Formula 1 fans will have been frustrated by the three-week break between the last race in Bahrain and this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, the period has given the teams a much-needed chance to work on their cars and prepare for the European leg of the 2015 season.

Starting in Spain this weekend, eight of the next nine races will take place on the continent, with the only exception being the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal at the beginning of June. These are the ‘home’ races for the F1 teams and paddock, putting an end to long flights and treks across the globe for grands prix.

Lewis Hamilton heads to Europe in complete control of the championship fight, enjoying a 27-point lead over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg after clinching his third win of the season in Bahrain.

The more worrying statistic for Rosberg is that his head-to-head record with Hamilton is 0-4, and he has beaten the Briton just once in the past eleven races. It is not the kind of form to carry when you’re hoping to fight for a world championship, not can it continue.

The Spanish Grand Prix also heralds the first batch of upgrades for the majority of the field, which could act to shake up the pecking order somewhat. Mercedes will want to retain its advantage at the front, but with Ferrari sniffing and a number of others on the charge, Hamilton and Rosberg will need to keep an eye on their rear-view mirrors.

Here is our full preview of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

2015 Spanish Grand Prix – Talking Points

Updates aplenty in Spain

With four races of the season now in the books, the teams are now well prepared to make the first major changes to their cars and give themselves a boost heading into the Spanish Grand Prix weekend. You can expect to see some differences in the way of bodywork, but some of the changes will be hidden in the depths of the power units. For Ferrari, the race is on to catch Mercedes, whilst the likes of McLaren and Manor will just be hoping to improve their pace and move a step closer to the other runners.

McLaren’s new look

As well as making a number of changes to the workings of the MP4-30, McLaren has revised its livery for the race in Spain, as promised by Ron Dennis during pre-season. The new design does away with the chrome/silver look, favoring a more ‘granite gray’ color with some red McLaren ‘swooshes’ mixed in. Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button will hope that the new livery – and perhaps more importantly the upgrades on the car – mark a turnaround in fortunes after the team’s worst ever start to an F1 season.

Rosberg’s needed revival

Nico Rosberg’s start to the season has been far from ideal, even if he does sit second in the drivers’ championship. Not only has he lost to his teammate, Lewis Hamilton, in all four races, but he has also finished behind Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen on occasion. The three-week break should have given Rosberg a chance to refocus, but if he can’t turn things around quickly, then the title race may slip even further away from his grasp.

Another Ferrari challenge?

The Spanish Grand Prix is one of the most variable for tire usage and strategy, with races being won on two, three and even four stops in the past. Given that Ferrari’s advantage lies in the less aggressive tire usage of the SF15-T, the Italian marque could be poised to mount another challenge to Mercedes this weekend. If Vettel and Raikkonen can make a two stop work, Hamilton and Rosberg would need to keep an eye on their pace and tire wear to make sure they don’t get jumped by the prancing horse yet again.

Wolff’s practice run-out

Susie Wolff ended a 22-year wait for a female driver in a grand prix weekend at last year’s British Grand Prix, and will get a third chance to impress at a race during practice on Friday. The Williams driver enjoyed a successful pre-season test back in February, even with a run-in with Felipe Nasr, and will want to prove that all talk of a woman-only F1 championship is irrelevant by putting in another competent display in Spain.

2015 Spanish Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Laps: 66
Corners: 16
Lap Record: Kimi Raikkonen 1:21.670 (2008)
Tire Compounds: Medium (Option); Hard (Prime)
2014 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2014 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:25.232
2014 Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:28.918
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T16 to T1); T9 to T10

2015 Spanish Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports Live Extra 4am ET 5/8
Free Practice 2: NBCSN 8am ET 5/8
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports Live Extra 5am ET 5/9
Qualifying: CNBC 8am ET 5/9
Race: NBCSN 7:30am ET 5/10

For more information on all of NBC Sports’ broadcasting options for the Spanish Grand Prix, click here.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.