The European season starts this weekend with the Spanish GP, the soon to be axed Spanish GP. With the demise of Alonso’s F1 career, Barcelona will be replaced with the Dutch GP where a full house of Verstappen fans can fill the coffers. James Punt has endured a tough start to the season, but he is hoping to bounce back this weekend. Check out his Spanish Grand Prix tips and preview below…
Spanish Grand Prix Tips And Preview
The opening four races have been a disaster for my tips. Yes the usual crashes and breakdowns are always there but I have been bamboozled by the form of the teams. Ferrari looked so good in the pre-season tests which were held on this very track. Since then it has been four consecutive 1-2 finishes for Mercedes with Ferrari finding new ways to lose.
Trying to rank the teams in terms of their form has never been harder. Yes Mercedes are easy to call. They still have a very strong package and operationally they set the standards. Their car isn’t the most dominant one they have had yet the results have been perfect. That says as much about Ferrari as it does about Mercedes.
Ferrari Have Failed To Deliver
Ferrari had the best car coming out of the pre-season test and it looked like we were heading for a great season. Since then Ferrari have managed 1 pole position and three third places. They are 74 points behind Mercedes and in a bit of a mess. Even when they have looked set for a strong weekend they have failed to deliver.
In Australia they couldn’t run their power unit at full power amongst other problems. Then in Bahrain an electrical problem robbed Leclerc of his first F1 victory while Vettel crashed into Hamilton. In China they couldn’t make use of their power advantage because they were so poor in the corners on a front limited track. In Azerbaijan they were hamstrung by falling track temperatures in a delayed qualify session, compounded by a strange decision to try and qualify on medium tyres. Leclerc then stuffed his car into the wall and another great opportunity was lost. If it can go wrong Ferrari will make sure it will.
Red Bull looked to have a very sensitive car with a small sweet spot but to their credit they have made successful changes and Verstappen is neck and neck with Vettel and looking like a win (on a slower circuit) isn’t unrealistic. Gasly has looked poor but says he is finally getting to grips with the car. Honda have closed the power gap to the big two buy its still around 30 horses shy of where it needs to be.
Small Details Making All The Difference
The midfield is very close. A driver mistake in qualifying can ruin the entire weekend. A small change in track temperature can knock teams out of their correct operating window. Fingers are being pointed at Pirelli for making tyres which are far too sensitive to temperature changes. But is it just too easy to blame someone else if you have built a car which doesn’t generate enough downforce to work the tyres correctly?
Haas are the guiltiest of this. They have a Ferrari in disguise and like their senior partners they are struggling to get the tyres to work properly unless everything is just right. It sounds more like a design problem, maybe suspension geometry or a problem with the chassis design. There is rarely a quick fix for those problems.
Spanish Grand Prix Tips: McClaren Lack Consistency
McLaren are in 4th place in the constructor’s championship. Do they have the 4th best car? No but they have been able to take advantage of others failures to snaffle 18 points. The difference between the top team and the 4th place team? 155 points……in just four races. The McLaren has shown some decent performance at times. Only in China did they fail to get a car into Q3 but like so many teams consistency is just not there.
Racing Point are only starting to develop this year’s car to something like the way they want it but the reality is that they are looking ahead to 2020 before they can see the real benefits of inward investment. What they do have is the ability to maximise their potential. For years they have delivered the good results on a shoe string budget. Operationally they are shrewd and with more money around they are likely to be starting to hit their stride and it will be interesting to see how they go this weekend when they bring new upgrades.
Alfa Romeo is doing fine on one side of the garage. Raikkonen has scored all of their 13 points. Giovinazzi did out qualify Raikkonen in Baku so maybe he has turned a corner but he remains pointless.
Renault In Trouble
Renault is in real bother. They should be fighting and winning the battle for 4th place. They are a big team, a manufacturer, a works team and they are in 7th place. Their pace has been lacking and reliability remains very poor. The car shown some good potential and Renault was the 5th best car here in testing.
However they have had problems at nearly every race and they have managed just two top 10 finishes between the two drivers. They were both 7th places so all is not lost but do they really understand the car and can they fix poor reliability which has been a big problem for years? I suspect not, not in the short term anyway.
In pre-season testing it was Haas who had the 4th quickest car and that was backed up with good qualifying performances in Australia, in Bahrain and China. The results in the race however have been very poor and their only points came with Magnussen’s 6th place in Australia. Since then, nothing. In Azerbaijan they hit rock bottom. They just couldn’t heat the tyres on a track with such long straights. They have gone backwards since that pre-season testing.
Toro Rossu Just Falling Short
Toro Rosso has just four points despite the car looking quite competitive for much of the time. Sadly being quick in free practice is one thing but their pace in qualifying and the races can just disappear.
Kvyat did qualify 6th in Baku which was encouraging on a track where power was so important. However he just went backwards rapidly come the race, had to pit early and was in 19th by lap six. Albon is getting to grips with Formula 1 and his performances are improving but Toro Rosso remains one of the bigger puzzles.
Williams Making Up The Numbers
That just leaves Williams who were in a total mess at the start of the season. Very few spare parts for a slow car meant they have just been making up the numbers. This weekend will actually see them bring some developments for the car to improve performance rather than just keep them legal. They need a miracle to get them off the back row however, not a few new parts.
So we know that Mercedes have the strongest package and the ability to use it. Ferrari has the best potential but they have failed to exploit it. Red Bull is slowly getting there but still lacks the power to be truly competitive on most circuits. The midfield is anybody’s guess and depends on the weather, the tyres selected, reliability and driver performance.
What can we expect this weekend? More of the same in all likelihood.
Mercedes are dominating and this is a track on which they have dominated in the turbo hybrid era. Hamilton has been on pole in four of the last five years and won three of them. The missing pole position went to his then team mate Nico Rosberg who went on to win the race. The only non-Mercedes win here in the last five years went to Max Verstappen making his Red Bull debut. He was massively helped by the fact that Rosberg and Hamilton crashed into each other on the opening lap putting them both out of the race.
Spanish Grand Prix Tips: Mercedes Look Too Strong
So only a monumental cock up by their two drivers has denied Mercedes a perfect record of five poles and five race wins in five years. It’s not looking good for anything other than another Mercedes 1-2 come Sunday.
However there is a possible reason to think that we might just see something other than a Mercedes victory.
Pre-season testing here had Ferrari showing the best performance, clearly ahead of everyone else. So they are heading to a track where they know how to be fast. There are no excuses this time. Their chances have been further enhanced by the fact that they will be introducing an upgraded power unit this weekend. It was supposed to come on stream in Canada but they have decided to bring it forward. Shell have also developed a new lubricant for the power unit and this upgrade is all about improving the performance of what already is the best power unit on the grid.
It is the most powerful but it is not the most fuel efficient. Mercedes has a decent edge in that respect. Ferrari had to wind the power down late in the race in Baku to save fuel while Mercedes reportedly had 7.5kgs of fuel left at the end of the race. If Mercedes can start the race with 7-8kgs less fuel that will give them around 0.25 seconds per lap advantage.
Track Will Aid Ferrari
The nature of the track will also help Ferrari. They have struggled getting the tyres in the right operating windows and they suffer the cooler it gets. Conditions this weekend are set to be warm and sunny, warmer than in testing. That will help Ferrari. The track also features plenty of high energy corners which work the tyres hard and help get them properly warmed up. Again…..Ferrari has no excuses.
Like everyone else they will also bring upgrades to the aerodynamics of the car. This is more of a grey area. Upgrades can go wrong, they can cause confusion and they may not perform on track in the way that is expected. It happens less in this day and age with advances in CAD and so on and the top teams should have the best simulators available. They should really work but it is not 100% guaranteed.
All the upgrades do tend to cancel each other out. Everyone should take a step forward. Some upgrades are to fix problems and teams who are fighting fires tend to fall back even if their fixes work. Teams who understand their cars bring upgrades to improve performance.
Spanish Grand Prix Tips: Ferrari Can’t Be Trusted
Arguably the only team who seems to really understand their car at the moment is Mercedes and that may mean that their upgrades will add performance while most teams are fixing weaknesses which will add performance but they are behind schedule while Mercedes march on.
So it looks like we can, we should, expect a much better performance by Ferrari. They should have everything they need to make the car work in the manner intended. Ferrari should have the fastest car this weekend. They should stick it on pole position and win.
Ferrari are 2.88 to be the winning team so is it just a matter of putting the money down and waiting till Sunday afternoon to collect? That would be nice but we have to consider one very important factor. We are talking about Ferrari. If they were a football team, would you trust them to score a penalty even when faced with an empty net? No.
Backing Ferrari comes with a wealth warning. If they can screw up they will. This weekend it looks really hard for them to screw up. Not impossible but if they fail here they might fail everywhere. Mercedes will be no push over but Ferrari was comfortably faster in testing. Yes Mercedes have improved since then but in some respects so have Ferrari and they look to have conditions to suit the car, they have more power and one very talented driver.
Vettel Lacks Confidence
Sebastian Vettel has only won one race here. In the turbo hybrid era he has been out gunned by the Mercedes and he has done his best finishing 4/3/3/2/4 in that time. His powers seem to have diminished this season, and maybe last year too. His wheel to wheel racing has been far from good, he makes too many mistakes and he now says he doesn’t have total confidence in his car.
No, Ferrari’s very talented driver is young Leclerc. He is the future and even now after just a season and a bit in F1 he looks faster than Vettel. His lack of experience is a weakness of course and his crash in qualifying in Baku was a case in point. However he wasn’t helped by the team sending him out on the lower grip medium compound. He will have more experience of this track than any other due to the amount of test done here. He raced for Sauber last year and finished a creditable 10th. Leclerc has also race here in GP3 and Formula 2 winning the feature race in both categories. He may be best on street circuits but experience wise this is his best track.
Even with Ferrari’s wealth warning I will persist in knocking on the door and hoping it will open, perhaps with a much more realistic chance this weekend.
Spanish Grand Prix Tips: 2 points Charles Leclerc to win at 5.50 generally available
What of the midfield battle ground? Who might have a strong weekend and maybe get a top 6 finish? With Gasly underperforming so far there have been opportunities for other drivers to finish 6th. We have seen Magnussen, Norris and Perez finishing 6th in a race. Perez did it in Baku, traditionally a very strong circuit for him and his team.
Magunssen did it in Australia when Haas had a handle on their car after testing and Norris in Bahrain where he was 9th on the grid. His team mate was 7th on the grid but failed to finish and Magunssen dropped off from 6th on the grid in the race in the Haas. Norris was in the right place to pick up 6th.
Haas Have Tested Well
Haas were very good here in testing but of course that wasn’t in race conditions so we don’t know if they will be good again or that their problems with tyres will still be there to haunt them. I expect a stronger performance from them this weekend, in qualifying at least, but over a race distance it is hard to get too enthusiastic about their chances.
Renault is really under performing and unless their upgrades are spot on then they are more likely to disappoint than succeed. The car has a lot of weak point’s performance wise and on top of that reliability is very poor. A quick fix looks unlikely.
Racing Point are steadily improving but they always over perform in Baku and this track is unlikely to be as good for them. Points yes, top 6 probably not. Perez was 4th a couple of years ago however and if their upgrades are good then it is possible.
Spanish Grand Prix Tips: Sainz Looks Value For Top 6 Finish
McLaren are at last moving in the right direction. Yes they are flattered by their 4th place in the constructor’s championship but things are starting to fall into place and the car has shown some decent pace at times. 7th and 8th in Baku was a good performance on a power circuit and while this isn’t the same sort of circuit they have shown enough to suggest that they can get at least one and possibly both cars into Q3 and perhaps sneak up on 6th place if any of the top 6 drivers has a problem.
Carlos Sainz is now the home favourite and he has performed very well in his home GP, something that can’t be said for all drivers. He has had four races here in not brilliant cars and his form figures shown 9/6/7/7. So he has scored a 6th here before and just missed out by one place in the last two years.
Spanish Grand Prix Tips: 2 points Carlos Sainz to finish in the top6 @ 4.00with Skybet, Betstars, Sportingbet
Toro Rosso Underrated
The Toro Rosso car is far better than its results suggest. Kvyat is arguably the unluckiest driver on the grid. That correlates with my regular backing of him of course. He was unlucky in China when he was the meat in a McLaren sandwich and that was compounded by his bizarre penalty for the incident and he was taken out of the Baku race when Ricciardo reversed into him. Another new way for me to lose money.
Kvyat will get a clean race one day and get a good result. He has gone well here in the past with form figures of 14/10/10/9. The upgraded Honda power unit is giving them more reliability but also the ability to run the car in higher modes for a longer time so there is a performance gain there as well. It may be a bet struck out of stubbornness but the performance is there, we just need a decent break for a change.
Spanish Grand Prix Tips: 2 point Daniil Kvyat to finish in the points @ 3.50 with William Hill