2015 Spanish Grand Prix Preview


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.

Strong rebounds for Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi amid some disappointments in the Indy 500


INDIANAPOLIS – Alex Palou had not turned a wheel wrong the entire Month of May at the Indy 500 until Rinus VeeKay turned a wheel into the Chip Ganassi Racing pole-sitter leaving pit road on Lap 94.

“There is nothing I could have done there,” Palou told NBC Sports. “It’s OK, when it is my fault or the team’s fault because everybody makes mistakes. But when there is nothing, you could have done differently there, it feels bad and feels bad for the team.”

Marcus Ericsson was a master at utilizing the “Tail of the Dragon” move that breaks the draft of the car behind him in the closing laps to win last year’s Indianapolis 500. On Sunday, however, the last of three red flags in the final 16 laps of the race had the popular driver from Sweden breathing fire after Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden beat him at his own game on the final lap to win the Indianapolis 500.

Despite the two disappointments, team owner Chip Ganassi was seen on pit road fist-bumping a member on his four-car team in this year’s Indianapolis 500 after his drivers finished second, fourth, sixth and seventh in the tightly contested race.

Those are pretty good results, but at the Indianapolis 500, there is just one winner and 32 losers.

“There is only one winner, but it was a hell of a show,” three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and Chip Ganassi Racing consultant Dario Franchitti told NBC Sports. “Alex was very fast, and he got absolutely caught out in somebody else’s wreck. There was nothing he could have done, but he and the 10 car, great recovery.

“Great recovery by all four cars because at half distance, we were not looking very good.”

After 92 laps, the first caution flew for Sting Ray Robb of Dale Coyne Racing hitting the Turn 1 wall.

During pit stops on Lap 94, Palou had left his stall when the second-place car driven by VeeKay ran into him, putting Palou’s Honda into the wall. The car sustained a damaged front wing, but the Chip Ganassi crew was able to get him back in the race on the lead lap but in 28th position.

Palou ultimately would fight his way to a fourth-place finish in a race the popular Spaniard could have won. His displeasure with VeeKay, whom he sarcastically called “a legend” on his team radio after the incident, was evident.

“The benefit of being on pole is you can drive straight and avoid crashes, and he was able to crash us on the side on pit lane, which is pretty tough to do, but he managed it,” Palou told NBC Sports. “Hopefully next year we are not beside him. Hopefully, next year we have a little better luck.”

Palou started on the pole and led 36 laps, just three fewer than race leader Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren Racing.

“We started really well, was managing the fuel as we wanted, our car was pretty good,” Palou said. “Our car wasn’t great, we dropped to P4 or P5, but we still had some good stuff.

“On the pit stop, the 21 (VeeKay) managed to clip us. Nothing we could have done there. It was not my team’s fault or my fault.

“We had to drop to the end. I’m happy we made it back to P4. We needed 50 more laps to make it happen, but it could have been a lot worse after that contact.

“I learned a lot, running up front at the beginning and in mid-pack and then the back. I learned a lot.

“It feels amazing when you win it and not so good when things go wrong. We were a bit lucky with so many restarts at the end to make it back to P4 so I’m happy with that.”

Palou said the front wing had to be changed and the toe-in was a bit off, but he still had a fast car.

In fact, his Honda was the best car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway all month. His pole-winning four lap average speed of 234.217 miles per hour around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a record for this fabled race.

Palou looked good throughout the race, before he had to scratch and claw and race his way back to the top-five after he restarted 28th.

In the Indianapolis 500, however, the best car doesn’t always win.

“It’s two years in a row that we were leading the race at the beginning and had to drop to last,” Palou said. “Maybe next year, we will start in the middle of the field and go on to win the race.

“I know he didn’t do it on purpose. It’s better to let that pass someday.”

Palou said the wild racing at the end was because the downforce package used in Sunday’s race means the drivers have to be aggressive. The front two cars can battle for the victory, but cars back in fourth or fifth place can’t help determine the outcome of the race.

That is when the “Tail of the Dragon” comes into the play.

Franchitti helped celebrate Ericsson’s win in 2022 with his “Tail of the Dragon” zigzag move – something he never had to do in any of his three Indianapolis 500 victories because they all finished under caution.

In 2023, however, IndyCar Race Control wants to make every attempt to finish the race under green, without going past the scheduled distance like NASCAR’s overtime rule.

Instead of extra laps, they stop the race with a red flag, to create a potential green-flag finish condition.

“You do what you have to do to win within the rules, and it’s within the rules, so you do it,” Franchitti said. “The race is 200 laps and there is a balance.

“Marcus did a great job on that restart and so did Josef. It was just the timing of who was where and that was it.

“If you knew it was going to go red, you would have hung back on the lap before.

“Brilliant job by the whole Ganassi organization because it wasn’t looking very good at half-distance.

“Full marks to Josef Newgarden and Team Penske.”

Franchitti is highly impressed by how well Ericsson works with CGR engineer Brad Goldberg and how close this combination came to winning the Indianapolis 500 two-years-in-a-row.

It would have been the first back-to-back Indy 500 winner since Helio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002.

“Oh, he’s a badass,” Franchitti said Ericsson. “He proved it last year. He is so calm all day. What more do you need? As a driver, he’s fast and so calm.”

Ericsson is typically in good spirits and jovial.

He was stern and direct on pit road after the race.

“I did everything right, I did an awesome restart, caught Josef off-guard and pulled away,” Ericsson said on pit lane. “It’s hard to pull away a full lap and he got me back.

“I’m mostly disappointed with the way he ended. I don’t think it was fair and safe to do that restart straight out of the pits on cold tires for everyone.

“To me, it was not a good way to end that race.

“Congrats to Josef. He didn’t do anything wrong. He is a worthy champion, but it shouldn’t have ended like that.”

Palou also didn’t understand the last restart, which was a one-start showdown.

“I know that we want to finish under green,” Palou said. “Maybe the last restart I did, I didn’t understand. It didn’t benefit the CGR team.

“I’m not very supportive of the last one, but anyway.”

Dixon called the red flags “a bit sketchy.”

“The Red Flags have become a theme to the end of the race, but sometimes they can catch you out,” Dixon said. “I know Marcus is frustrated with it.

“All we ask for is consistency. I think they will do better next time.

“It’s a tough race. People will do anything they can to win it and with how these reds fall, you have to be in the right place at the right time. The problem is when they throw a Red or don’t throw a Red dictates how the race will end.

“It’s a bloody hard race to win. Congrats to Josef Newgarden and to Team Penske.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500