Red Bull will try to keep their winning streak as F1 reaches Barcelona

This weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona for Formula 1 could be a turning moment in the 2023 season

(Motorsports news) A “normal” race track will host the Formula 1 race this weekend for the first time since the season-opening Bahrain GP. Grands Prix on street circuits have been frontloaded into the 2023 season in Jeddah, Melbourne, Baku, Miami, and Monaco.

But now that the customary F1 weekend has arrived, drivers and teams may prepare their cars for qualifying and race day through three practice sessions on a course that will inevitably change. The saying is that if your car runs smoothly in Barcelona, it will run smoothly anywhere. This weekend might provide a preview of how the remainder of the season will play out if that pattern persists.

After a perfect start to the year, Red Bull is still the team to beat in Barcelona, but the order in which they are behind is interesting because Mercedes, Aston Martin, Ferrari, and Alpine are all making upgrades on a competitive track. Due to its frequent use as a testing location throughout the years, the Circuit de Catalunya is undoubtedly the one that the drivers and teams are most familiar with. This weekend, a number of teams will be running modifications on their cars, possibly for the first time and definitely in realistic circumstances.

Red Bull hasn’t always had the best hunting grounds in Barcelona. There have only been four victories for the team, in 2010, 2011, 2016, and 2022, although last year’s triumph was aided by Charles Leclerc losing a Ferrari engine while in the lead. Red Bull, on the other hand, is unbeaten so far in 2023 and has yet to finish a grand prix in race circumstances with another car within 20 seconds of them.

The RB19’s advantages are further played to by modifications to the Circuit de Catalunya. The circuit’s slow chicane won’t be present this weekend as F1 switches back to the circuit’s original last two turns, and the fast right-handers will aid the Red Bull sling shot onto the lengthy pit straight where its advantage in straight-line speed can be maximised.

“It’s a Red Bull weekend,” former Williams and McLaren driver Juan Pablo Montoya said on the latest Sky Sports F1 Podcast.

“It is 100 per cent a Red Bull track. It’s a high-speed track and the highlight of the Aston Martin is slow speed corners and they got rid of the slowest corners in the final sector.”

Sky Sports F1’s David Croft added: “I don’t see how anybody at the moment [gets ahead of Red Bull]. It’s very fast in a straight line and very fast through high-speed corners.”

This weekend is expected to bring upgrades for Red Bull as well, according to advisor Helmut Marko, who told the Austrian site oe24 that the team is “going to try something new in Barcelona.”

How well Mercedes’ modifications to their W14 will actually perform is the main mystery going into Barcelona. Mercedes presented their new bodywork, floor, and front suspension in Monaco, which was originally intended for the postponed Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Although it was challenging to determine their exact performance in Monte Carlo due to the special characteristics of the street circuit, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell came in fourth and fifth, respectively. According to Brundle, “It’s like racing in a washing machine.”

The main question going into Barcelona is how well Mercedes’ modifications to their W14 will actually work. Mercedes introduced its new bodywork, floor, and front suspension in Monaco, a race that had been originally scheduled for the aborted Emilia Romagna GP. Despite the difficulty in determining their exact performance due to the particulars of the street circuit at Monte Carlo, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell came in fourth and fifth, respectively. In Brundle’s words, “It’s like racing in a washing machine.”

“We were in the mix with Aston Martin and with Ferrari. On a positive note, that may be encouraging because we have never been really good here,” Mercedes boss Wolff said after the Monaco GP.

“But we really need to be careful, we have to go to Barcelona and collect more data, it’s a new baseline. I don’t expect us to be clearing Aston Martin and Ferrari there either. It is more about understanding, okay, what does this car do now, and how do we need to set it up.”

Despite having the fourth-fastest vehicle on pure pace thus far in 2023, Mercedes is only one point behind Aston Martin in the race for second in the constructors’ title. Only Max Verstappen’s talent and some unfortunate timing with the intensity of the rain prevented Aston Martin from earning pole position and perhaps even the race victory in Monaco despite having the second-fastest vehicle so far this season. 

With five podium finishes in six grand prix for the surprise team of 2023, Fernando Alonso travels to his home race and the track where he most recently won in 2013. The second half of an update that Aston Martin was originally supposed to roll out in Imola will be unveiled at the Spanish GP. It remains to be seen if these improvements will cancel out the gains achieved by Red Bull, Mercedes, and Ferrari, allowing them to catch up to the championship leaders, or if they will leave them struggling just to finish on the podium.

“We have to see in a normal circuit, what is the package of Mercedes and the upgrades that Ferrari will bring apparently to Barcelona as well,” Alonso said.

“So we have to have our feet on the ground and as I said in Miami, it’s going to be a few weekends in the year that we will just be seventh and eighth and we have to accept that and some others that we will fight for podiums.

“So I will not get into Barcelona thinking that I will win, and disappoint anyone. We have to have our feet on the ground.”

Also read: Verstappen wins in wild finish to F1 Australian Grand Prix



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