Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturday: 2015 Gran Premio de España

Formula 1 returns this weekend after taking an early season mini-break. The two weekends without racing allowed most teams to make changes to their current car, be it a slight tweak, or in the case of McLaren, a more major overhaul. The one team that probably needed nothing but slight adjustments is Mercedes, who might not necessarily have a stranglehold on the sport but do have Lewis Hamilton in rather dominant form. The question with the team is whether or not Nico Rosberg can actually give Hamilton a fight like he did last year, or if that’s beyond Rosberg’s abilities.

The team with the most optimism heading into the race is McLaren, who worked on both the engine and the car, in the hopes of bringing substantial improvement to a team that is, well, a disappointment. Jenson Button gave them reason to feel somewhat good about themselves when he posted the seventh fastest time in the second practice session. Considering that McLaren has tended to be at the bottom of the table, making the top 10, even just for practice, is a big deal.

Other teams, like Toro Rosso, are bringing, in essence, the same car they’ve been running all year. Considering that Max Verstappen earned the sixth fastest time in both practices, that strategy may work out just fine. Force India will also continue on their way with what they’ve got though one aspect with their cars is that they were not able to test them as they would have liked earlier in the year and that the races are becoming de facto shakedowns.

In the News

  • This race will be Fernando Alonso’s return to the track where he endured his testing accident that sent him to the hospital for three days. That incident has continued to face scrutiny, but much of the attention has faded. It’s doubtful that the accident will play much into his driving as the track is considered his home event and the fan adulation will be enough to buoy the Spaniard. One ridiculous article on the BBC site actually pushed the notion that Alonso might retire at the end of the season, something that seems counterintuitive to the strategy that he and the team partnered for.
  • Uh oh. Red Bull has already swapped out the engine in Daniel Ricciardo’s ride after just 13 laps in practice. That is his fourth engine already this year and if they require another change he will endure a 10-spot grid penalty. The Renault engine has given the team fits all year and having another problem will do little to ease the tension in what is becoming an acrimonious relationship between team and engine supplier. To add to the situation, Ricciardo posted unspectacular times in the first two practice sessions.
  • Williams reserve driver Susie Wolff enjoyed her third practice session stint at Barcelona. While there is hope that she may one day make the grid, for right now that is dubious. The best hope for her to do so is by having one of the team’s current drivers, Valtteri Bottas, move to Ferrari, which has been speculated this past week. Although Ferrari and Bottas have both downplayed any such talk, it should be noted that such a move wouldn’t happen until 2017.
  • The only driver to cost Hamilton a clean sweep of race wins to start the year is Sebastien Vettel, who again mentioned that the gap between his Ferrari and the Mercedes remains. That may be the case, but Vettel again showed that Ferrari is somewhat close by showing the second fastest time in the second practice. While it is likely that Ferrari does not have the outright pace to match the Silver Arrow, they are proving the be the second quickest team on the grid and a little bit of strategy may be all it takes for them to steal another win.

The Spanish Grand Prix

First held in 1913, this race is a storied one and acts as a kickoff to the European part of the schedule. There have been a total of eight different tracks associated with the Grand Prix, with the current one being the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.  The track first opened in 1991 and is 2.89 miles in length, with the course being comprised of 16 turns. Kimi Raikkonen holds the track record, at 1:21.67, set in 2006 when with Ferrari.  He and Alonso are the active drivers with the most wins, having two apiece, though Michael Schumacher holds the most all-time with six.


In the U.S., the race will be shown on NBCSN on Sunday, May 10th at 7:30 ET.

About the author

Ava Lader headshot photo

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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It really has been surprising that McLaren is as far off the pace as it is. Certainly Honda has the knowledge and finances along with the advantage of watching the others for a year, to have produced a competitive power unit. McLaren however seems to have been slowly losing ground to the other major teams. I have been suggesting that they would win before the end of the year, but its beginning to seem unlikely now.
The situation reminds me of RCR and RFR in Nascar, once dominant teams that for whatever reason are slipping further and further away from the front.

J Smith

When Hamilton moved away from McLaren to Mercedes I thought it was a big mistake but I was wrong as usual. Alonso could still win if they could talk Button into wrecking and causing a safety car at just the right time.

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