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
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.