Spanish GP Preview | Red Bull’s return?

A preview to the 2017 Formula One Spanish Grand Prix.

13, a number unlucky for some and for Red Bull, the number of their 2017 challenger. But after a torrid start to the campaign where Red Bull have been left off the front and in a world of their own, the Spanish Grand Prix could prove a turning point with the arrival of their first sizable upgrade package. 

Red Bull’s expected upgrade package coming to Barcelona is expected to help bring the team closer to Ferrari and Mercedes, rather than lingering off their pace and not really racing anyone.

Some rumours even suggest the package could go as far as to be a new car design rather than creating a B-spec version of the RB13. An RB14 to say, where design genius Adrien Newey has been able to work out the flaws of their simplistic RB13 and build a true challenger.

Added to that is the believed time Newey spent working with Aston Martin on their road going monster, the AM-RB001 or ‘Valkyrie’ to give it its official name. Suggesting Adrien was less on-hand to Red Bull and the design team when work began on the aero-reg focused RB13.

AM-RB001 - Aston Martin

The Aston Martin Valkyrie sits in the Red Bull workshop. Photo credit: Aston Martin.

Of course, every other team will also arrive in Spain with upgrades they hope will pull them away from their rivals and towards the guys ahead. Or in Ferrari and Mercedes cases, simply pull away from their rivals as the two continue to joust for the championships.

That is just the way the Spanish Grand Prix works. The first race of the season to hit Europe, the home to all Formula One teams bar part of Haas’ operation. Being the home to so many workshops, simulators, factories and design centres

Being the home to so many workshops, simulators, factories and design centres, added with the knowledge all Formula One teams have of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the Spanish Grand Prix is the perfect place to introduce large upgrades.

It’s the reason Formula One carries out pre-season testing there, too.

The circuit is not half way around the world to the team’s basses, it has the blend of long straights and a mix of high and slow corners. Corners that require strong downforce to carry momentum through, before slow corners that need great traction out of in order to carry speed onto the straights.

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya turns two:three - McLaren

The fast flick from right to left as the Formula One cars roll through turns two and three at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Photo credit: McLaren.

At last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, Max Verstappen utilised the Red Bull’s traction out of the slow final corners to fend off the threat of Kimi Raikkonen. Holding off the 2007 Formula One World Champion to claim his first, and only to date, victory in Formula One.

His shot in that Red Bull also marked a difficult time within the team. For Daniil Kvyat had claimed a podium finish two races prior in China. But after a crash-filled home Grand Prix in Russia, he was booted out and left back in Toro Rosso. A kick in the teeth that hurt his performances for the remainder of the season, but has come back strongly in 2017 to perform far better than the dark days of last year.

All of Verstappen’s work in last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, though, did come after the Mercedes duo of Rosberg and Hamilton collided on the opening lap to take both out of the race. A scenario Mercedes can not see a repeat of this year between Hamilton and Bottas, with neither currently atop the drivers’ championship.

Verstappen’s win also acted as a part kick start to Red Bull’s 2016 campaign. With Daniel Ricciardo following up on his team-mate’s race win by clinching pole in Monaco and looking set for victory but for an error by the team in the pits.

Monaco Grand Prix Podium (Ricciardo left, Hamilton centre, Perez right). Copyright of Force India.

The 2016 Monaco Grand Prix podium, featuring a disappointed Ricciardo and the delighted duo of race-winner Hamilton and podium-finisher Perez. Photo credit: Force India.

The Spanish Grand Prix found its home at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya back in 1991. Racing around the slightly modified circuit ever since, with the current variant featuring 16 corners spread over 4.655 kilometres.

The most recent redesign was to include a chicane at the end of the lap, reducing the speed carried through the final bend and onto the pit straight. Taking away the challenge in place of a slow but tricky chicane, where running wide can seriously hamper the lap.

The remainder of the track, meanwhile, remains challenging with fast and slow corners aplenty. Particularly the long and fast turn three as sector one winds to a close. Then through the second sector, the elevation level drops and rises before ending with the first of the two DRS zones.

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya track guide

A track guide to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Photo credit: Formula1.com

For Formula One’s annual migration back to Europe, the first race in the heartland of F1 will be exclusively live on Sky Sports in the UK while Channel 4 will feature highlights only.

Sky Sports F1
10/05 – 20:30 – F1 Report: Preview
11/05 – 14:00 – Driver Press Conference
12/05 – 01:30 – Paddock Uncut
12/05 – 08:45 – Practice 1
12/05 – 11:00 – Formula 2 Practice
12/05 – 12:45 – Practice 2
12/05 – 14:55 – Formula 2 Qualifying
12/05 – 17:30 – Team Press Conference
12/05 – 18:10 – The F1 Show
13/05 – 08:45 – GP3 Qualifying
13/05 – 09:45 – Practice 3
13/05 – 12:00 – Qualifying
13/05 – 14:35 – Formula 2 Feature Race
13/05 – 16:10 – GP3 Race 1
14/05 – 08:20 – GP3 Race 2
14/05 – 09:30 – Formula 2 Sprint Race
14/05 – 11:30 – Race
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live
17/05 – 20:30 – F1 Report: Review

Channel 4 F1
Sessions
13/05 – 17:30 – Qualifying Highlights
14/05 – 18:45 – Race Highlights

BBC Radio F1
11/05 – 21:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
12/05 – 08:55 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
13/05 – 09:55 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
13/05 – 12:55 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
14/05 – 12:30 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)

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