F1 Preview: 2017 Spanish Grand Prix


With the four early-season flyaways now out of the way, Formula 1 returns to mainland Europe for one of the most important races of the season: the Spanish Grand Prix.

We may only be four rounds in to the year, and the battle between Mercedes and Ferrari may be as tight as ever at the front of the pack, but the upcoming weekend in Barcelona could be a decisive one.

The start of the European season ordinarily brings with it the introduction of significant update packages for cars, which will sport plenty of revised bodywork parts and new elements over the weekend that weren’t present last time out in Russia.

With 2017 marking the start of a new technical cycle for F1, the gains – and, therefore, the losses also – to be made are huge in the development race. Should Mercedes or Ferrari have found a magic bullet, it could lay the foundations for a purple patch of form that will prove crucial come the end of the season in Abu Dhabi.

Here are the key talking points for the Spanish Grand Prix weekend.

2017 Spanish Grand Prix – Talking Points

Bottas settles in to life as a GP winner

Valtteri Bottas’ maiden grand prix victory last time out in Russia may have not been one of the most spectacular successes in recent memory, yet it was an important one for both the Finn and the wider title battle playing out.

For Bottas, on a weekend where he was bombarded with questions about status as a number two driver at Mercedes behind Lewis Hamilton, to have outperformed his illustrious teammate so convincingly was a big statement of intent.

He may only have been given a one-year deal, but to already be in the winner’s column after just four races in a Mercedes is likely to have done Bottas’ chances of a renewal for 2018 a world of good.

It not only proved that Bottas has what it takes to win grands prix and control races, but it also showed how crucial he will be in denying the rival Ferrari team – and, perhaps more importantly, Sebastian Vettel – points in the title battle.

Kimi Raikkonen has looked off the boil for a while now, even if he did reach the podium in Russia. With Hamilton and Vettel so evenly-matched, it has seems more and more likely that it will be their Finnish teammates who decide the title race. Going on his performance in Russia, you’d want Bottas in your corner, hands down.

For Bottas though, there will be loftier ambitions on the table. He proved in Russia he has what it takes to beat Hamilton and Vettel. If he can keep doing that, then a title bid of his own wouldn’t be so unthinkable.

This ain’t a scene, it’s an arms race

It has been difficult to judge who out of Ferrari and Mercedes has been quicker through the opening four rounds of 2017. Much of their raceday performance has come down to tire management, with the closest sniff of a wheel-to-wheel battle on-track coming in Russia when Bottas soaked up pressure from Vettel late on.

This title race was never going to be decided by tire management, though. It was going to be decided by who could outdevelop their rival across the course of the season. A good ol’ fashioned arms race.

Mercedes’ big problem through the opening four races was that its car, the W08, was running at a heavier weight than that of the rival Ferrari SF70H. With this apparently resolved, the team should be in a more feisty mood this weekend, particularly with a raft of other updates also set to arrive for the W08 car.

For Ferrari, its big challenge will be keeping hold of Mercedes’ coattails. It has already surprised the paddock by producing a base car that is good enough to take the fight to the Silver Arrows at the front of the field. The question now is can it keep up in the development race.

Acronym questions aside, Red Bull looks to make a step

Red Bull’s 2017 campaign has been a mighty disappointment thus far. Considering the team pushed for the current regulations to place a heavy emphasis on aerodynamics, an area it has traditionally been strong in, to be almost two seconds off the pace at points isn’t great going.

But the team has always said it would be bringing a major, major update to the Spanish Grand Prix. Chatter in the past few days has suggested that the overhaul of the car is so big that there were even considerations to rename it the RB13B, or even skip a step and make it the RB14.

While such rumours have been unfounded, be sure to keep an eye on the new bits that crop up on the Red Bull car this weekend. There is an enormous gulf at the front of the pack to make up in relation to Mercedes and Ferrari, who themselves will have been making progress. As such, a repeat of Max Verstappen’s surprise maiden win from 2016 seems unlikely – but then again, didn’t it seem so 12 months ago..?

Will Pirelli’s tire picks cause trouble?

Pirelli’s tires have met mixed responses so far this season. After revising the compounds as part of its push to increase the tire sizes by 25 per cent, the more conservative nature of the rubber appeared to be offset by softer choices. Case in point: Australia and Bahrain, where managing the tires was a challenge.

At the other end of the spectrum, though, there was Russia, where even the softest possible selection resulted in a one-stop race that lacked any real strategic creativity, because it simply was not possible.

For Spain, Pirelli has moved in the opposite direction with its tire picks, electing to take its soft, medium and hard compounds to Barcelona. While this would be standard in previous years given the abrasive nature of the track and its hard-on-tire, the more conservative nature of the 2017 compounds and the difficulty to bring them alive means that drivers could struggle to work with them.

“We’re going for the harder tires for the first time this year in Barcelona. I’m not sure if it’ll help us or not but I just don’t think it’s going to be good for anyone,” Ricciardo said.

“The tires are already hard enough so the harder compounds are just way too hard. Hopefully for Barcelona’s sake it’s hot and therefore these harder tires work, but if it’s cold then it’s going to be a struggle for everyone.”

A true test for F1 in 2017

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya may not be the most inspiring circuit in F1, yet it does offer the most well-rounded test for all teams due to its mix of high- and low-speed corners, plus some decent-sized straights.

As a result, outside of the battle at the top between Mercedes and Ferrari, we should get some firm answers regarding how the midfield is really shaping up. There has been little to separate Force India, Williams, Toro Rosso, Haas and Renault so far this season, with each of the five appearing to stake a claim for being the top midfielder at one point or another.

So we may finally get some answers this weekend. Williams has appeared to have the best-rounded car, and was quick through testing in Barcelona. Force India looks more consistent and has promised a significant update package for the race, so may be able to leapfrog ahead in terms of true pace as well.

The race for fourth in worth millions of pounds in F1, not just pride. This race could set the tone for the fight to come through the remainder of the year.

2017 Spanish Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Corners: 16
Lap Record: Kimi Raikkonen 1:21.670 (2008)
Tire Compounds: Soft/Medium/Hard
2016 Winner: Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2016 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:22.000
2016 Fastest Lap: Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) 1:26.948
DRS Zones: T16 to T1; T9 to T10

2017 Spanish Grand Prix – TV/Stream Times

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit: Chase Sexton narrowly leads Cooper Webb


For the fifth time in 10 rounds of the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross season, the three riders at the top of the championship standings shared a podium and while those points tell one story, the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit tell a slightly different tale.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Detroit
Cooper Webb is peaking at the right time. – Feld Motor Sports

Chase Sexton has been all but perfect during the past 45 days with podium finishes in each of his heats and Triple Crown features. His only stumble during this period was a 10th-place finish in the Indianapolis Main. Last week, Sexton was perfect with wins in both his heat and the feature, although he needed a little help from an Aaron Plessinger mistake to take the top spot on the podium at the end of the night.

Cooper Webb finished fifth at Houston and was beginning to worry ever so slightly about his position in the points. Prior to the race in Tampa, he told NBC Sports that it was time to win and like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield fence, Webb went out and captured it. Following that race, Webb has swept the podium and earned the red plate two weeks ago in Indianapolis. At Detroit, he added two more points on Eli Tomac as the season begins to wind down.

Tomac struggled with a stiff neck at Indianapolis and after a modest third-place showing in Detroit, he revealed he was still suffering a little. Webb and Sexton have been able to close the gap on Tomac in the past 45 days, but one of the main reasons he is so close in the points was a pair of wins that started the year. Seattle is going to be important for the defending champion because Tomac cannot afford to lose any more momentum with seven rounds remaining.

MORE: Chase Sexton inherits the win in Detroit

It appeared Jason Anderson was turning things around. He earned his fifth heat win at Detroit, which was also his sixth consecutive race (including features) in which he scored a top-five. A fall in the Detroit Main dropped him a lap off the pace and sent him home with a season-worst finish of ninth, causing a ripple effect in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

Justin Barcia was a huge part of the show last week in Detroit. He swapped positions with both Webb and Tomac in the middle stage of the race, which allowed Sexton to close the gap. Barcia finished fourth in that race to earn his third consecutive top-five. He’s been outside the top 10 only once in the first 10 rounds.

Adam Cianciarulo had a great start to the Main. He led a couple of laps before losing a lap and slipping back to eighth in the final rundown. That run was strong enough to elevate him three positions in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit.

450 Rankings

Driver Percentage
1. Chase Sexton
[2 Main, 6 Heat wins]
87.00 1 0
2. Cooper Webb
[2 Main, 1 Heat win]
86.71 2 0
3. Eli Tomac
[5 Main, 6 Heat wins]
84.57 3 0
4. Jason Anderson
[5 Heat wins]
80.71 4 0
5. Ken Roczen
[1 Main, 1 Heat win]
80.50 5 0
6. Justin Barcia
[1 Heat win]
79.07 7 1
7. Aaron Plessinger 77.14 6 -1
8. Adam Cianciarulo 69.75 11 3
9. Christian Craig 68.86 10 1
10. Justin Cooper 63.90 9 -1
11. Justin Hill 58.57 15 4
12. Dean Wilson 51.50 12 0
13. Colt Nichols 51.25 13 0
14. Shane McElrath 46.86 17 3
15. Josh Hill 46.79 16 1
16. Benny Bloss 45.31 18 2
17. Jared Lesher 39.00 NA
18. Joey Savatgy 38.63 14 -4
19. Cade Clason 37.50 21 2
20. Grant Harlan 35.54 23 3

Supercross 450 Points

The NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings look at the past 90 days in the 250 class in order to have a balanced comparison between the East and West divisions and Hunter Lawrence has been all but perfect this year. At Detroit, he earned his fifth win of the season and kept alive a streak of podium finishes in six rounds. He tied his brother Jett Lawrence with 10 250 wins one week before the West riders take to the track for back-to-back races at Seattle, Washington and Glendale, Arizona.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Detroit
Nate Thrasher is settling into a comfortable role as ‘best in class’. – Feld Motor Sports

The Lawrence brothers are dominating the points in each of their respective divisions, which means the remainder of the field is battling to be best in class.

In the East, that rider is Nate Thrasher, who beat Hunter in a head-to-head matchup in their heat only to finish second in the main when the majority of points were awarded. Thrasher seems to have accepted his position in the championship standings, but that doesn’t mean he won’t keep trying for wins.

Haiden Deegan showed a lot of aggression in his heat last week. He threw a couple of block passes at his teammate Jordon Smith and set up a series of events that kept Smith from making the big show while Deegan settled into second in the preliminary. Deegan was unconcerned about how he raced his teammate and would not let a little controversy keep him from celebrating his second career podium in Detroit.

Supercross 250 Points

Jeremy Martin just keeps clicking off solid results. He won his heat last week by making a pass on Deegan and Smith while they were in the heat of their battle. Martin finished fourth in the Main, which means he continues to have only one finish worse than sixth in any of the features or mains.

Smith fell one position in the points standings, but the damage was even worse in SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Detroit. Crash damage in his heat contributed to a last-place finish in that race, for which he earned minimal points. He was not able to advance from the Last Chance Qualifier after stalling his bike in heavy traffic.

250 Rankings

Rider Power
1. Hunter Lawrence – E
[5 Main, 5 Heat wins]
90.43 1 0
2. Jett Lawrence – W
[3 Main, 3 Heat wins]
90.30 2 0
3. Nate Thrasher – E
[1 Main, 3 Heat wins]
84.00 5 2
4. Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat win]
79.80 9 5
5. Haiden Deegan – E
[1 Heat win]
78.21 7 2
6. Jeremy Martin – E
[2 Heat wins]
78.00 8 2
7. Jordon Smith – E
[3 Heat Wins]
76.77 4 -3
8. Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main]
75.30 3 -5
9. Mitchell Oldenburg – W 75.20 11 2
10. RJ Hampshire – W
[4 Heat wins]
74.50 17 7
11. Max Anstie – E 74.43 6 -5
12. Tom Vialle – E 72.07 12 0
13. Max Vohland – W 71.56 10 -3
14. Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat win]
69.22 14 0
15. Chris Blose – E 67.43 18 3
16. Chance Hymas – E 67.10 15 -1
17. Enzo Lopes – W 66.00 20 3
18. Michael Mosiman – E 65.80 16 -2
19. Pierce Brown – W 65.78 13 -6
20. Phil Nicoletti – W 59.25 21 1

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days for the 450 class and last 90 days for 250s (because of the split nature of their season).

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 8 AT DAYTONA: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 7 AT ARLINGTON: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 6 AT OAKLAND: Perfect night keeps Tomac first
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 5 AT TAMPA: Sexton, Cooper Webb close in
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 4 AT HOUSTON: Tomac rebounds from A2 crash, retakes lead
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage