Spanish GP Paddock Notebook – Thursday

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MONTMELO – The Spanish Grand Prix is widely regarded as being one of the most important races of the Formula 1 season as a number of teams bring major updates to their cars for the first time.

The pecking order in the opening four races of the year has been pretty clear: Mercedes, then Ferrari, then Williams, and then the rest, with McLaren and Manor propping up the order.

However, that could be set to change this weekend as most of the teams bring major upgrade packages to their cars. Ferrari, Lotus and Red Bull are known to be bringing a raft of updates for their cars, whilst McLaren is also poised to make a big stride forwards.

Rounding up all of the news and insight from the paddock in Barcelona today, here is the Paddock Notebook.

PADDOCK NEWS

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Updates, updates everywhere

As per my grand prix preview earlier today, the word of the weekend is “updates” – who has them, and perhaps more importantly, who does not. Ferrari, Red Bull, Lotus and McLaren are all bringing sizeable upgrade packages to the race in Spain, whilst the rest of the field appears to be focus on quality rather than quantity. Interestingly, both Toro Rosso and Force India won’t have much of note that is new on the car until Austria and Great Britain respectively, so keep an eye out for their competitive pace this weekend.

Is Bottas on the move?

Some interesting words from Valtteri Bottas today regarding his future, categorically denying that he has signed a pre-contract with Ferrari for the 2017 season. However, he did also reveal that he is a free agent for 2016 as things stand, and is yet to open negotiations with Williams over a new contract. The Finn is hot property, and with Kimi Raikkonen approaching the end of his career, Ferrari could opt to pass up on the option it has on his contract and sign Bottas instead. Time will tell though. This could be the story that defines silly season in 2015, though…

Lewis the lawyer

…once Lewis Hamilton’s contract is resolved, that is. He has been oh so close to signing a new deal with Mercedes for about eight months now, but still no deal has been reached. He confirmed today that there are no updates to give, but has learned plenty by negotiating the deal himself without the support of a management company. “It’s been good in that sense because I think when I retire I could write some contracts,” he told the media on Thursday. “So if any of you guys need a manager, I think I could do a good job for you!” Depends on what sort of cut you’re after, Lewis…

Hulkenberg returns from the wild WEC

Nico Hulkenberg returns to F1 action this weekend following his debut in the FIA World Endurance Championship last weekend in the 6 Hours of Spa with Porsche, where he finished sixth. It was a respectable display, and he enjoyed the experience a great deal. Next up? The fearsome 24 Hours of Le Mans. To see an F1 driver be allowed to race in two series is very refreshing indeed. Force India may be hurt by the lack of updates on the car this weekend, so don’t expect Hulkenberg or Sergio Perez to be fighting in the top ten. Then again, if lady luck is smiling on Force India, points could yet be on the cards.

Alonso prepares for a big welcome home

“Alonsomania” is a thing in Spain, making this weekend rather important to the fans that will flock in their thousands to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Although there are two other Spanish drivers – Carlos Sainz Jr. and Roberto Merhi – Alonso is the man who will be under the biggest pressure to perform. McLaren’s updates for the MP4-30 could not be arriving at a better time, but the team may still only be fighting only on the fringes of the top ten, it would seem. It all adds up for a fascinating fight in the midfield, though, and with different strategies at play, the Spanish Grand Prix will throw up a number of storylines.