F1 2018: Spanish Grand Prix preview
After a thrilling race in Azerbaijan last time out, what can we expect from this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix?
(Photo credit: Mutari)
Will team orders come into play for Red Bull?
Regardless of your opinion on the Red Bull fiasco at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix where both drivers collided at the end of the main straight, there is an argument to be had that team orders should have been utilised earlier in the race to prevent such a situation from occurring.
From the moment Daniel Ricciardo lost his place to Max Verstappen after the first safety car, the Australian proved he was the quicker driver. But try as he might, he couldn’t get past his teammate, a situation that was ruining both driver’s chances of winning points for their team.
Yet the Red Bull pit wall stuck to their guns and allowed them to race, ultimately leading to the collision as Ricciardo attempted an audacious move which Verstappen defended aggressively.
Team principals Helmut Marko and Christian Horner have stated their utter disappointment at the incident, yet have said they will still allow the drivers to race each other and will not be implementing team orders. But, can we honestly believe this?
Should a similar situation arise in Spain, where one driver is the quicker than the other, you would hope that Red Bull would instigate protocol just to maximise their points potential – something they desperately need to do if they are to keep in touch with Ferrari and Mercedes. They’ve done it before, so don’t be surprised if we see a more sensible approach on Sunday, especially considering the latest incident.
Mercedes – how will Bottas and Hamilton perform?
Valtteri Bottas was robbed of a win in Baku thanks to a late puncture that prevented his Mercedes from finishing the race.
The Finn has now come close to winning on three occasions this season. His first chance came in Bahrain, where he could have pulled an overtaking manoeuvre on Sebastian Vettel, who was struggling with degrading tyres, yet he opted against it and finished less than a second behind the German. The second came in China where he had driven the perfect race before a safety car incident enabled Daniel Ricciardo to pit for fresh tyres and steamroll his way through the pack.
However, he has recorded two podium finishes this season, both in second place. But this run of unlucky results has to take a mental toll on a man whose contract situation is still up in the air. It’ll be intriguing to see how he responds in Spain where a breakthrough win would lift some of that pressure.
Teammate Lewis Hamilton rode his luck in Baku to claim his first win of the season, but his attitude afterwards suggested that his fortune might not be turning just yet.
Hamilton immediately consoled Bottas before reluctantly accepting the winner’s trophy on the podium. Afterwards he appeared down and lethargic, causing many to think he may have already conceded this season to the Prancing Horses.
The Brit has not looked at his best this season and has lacked the killer instinct which has seen him win three out of the last four championships.
So which Hamilton will we see in Spain? Only time will tell, but if he is to turn his season around, there’s no better way than by carrying the momentum from a previous win.
Which midfield team will surprise?
The midfield battle has been exciting this season, with many surprises occurring in each race. It’s only normal to assume that we’ll see another similar performance from one of the midfield teams in Spain, but which will it be?
Force India were the big surprise in Azerbaijan with Sergio Perez putting in an exceptional drive, albeit with a little luck, to finish in third place – his first podium of 2018.
Sauber were again in the mix as Charles Leclerc registered the first points of his career in sixth place.
Meanwhile, both the Renault drivers gave their Red Bull counterparts a tough time early on in Baku. Hulkenberg eventually spun his car on Lap 10 and did not finish but Carlos Sainz Jr came home in an impressive fifth place.
At this stage of the season, every team has scored a point, meaning the race in the midfield is as wide open as we have seen in recent years
Such is the unpredictability, you may as well pick a team out of a hat to be the surprise package in Spain. It will be worth tuning in to watch that battle alone.
Who wins the race?
Ferrari have to be favourites as Sebastian Vettel looks to continue his fantastic start to the season.
However, Mercedes have fought back before and now have more confidence in their cars. We should Bottas or Hamilton competing well here, but how much of an effect will the events of the last race have on the two?
Over at Red Bull, both drivers will be on their best behaviour, but can either pull a rabbit out of the hat and win the race?
Do not be surprised if we see a situation similar to China where one driver from each of the three frontrunners is represented on the podium.
Can Bottas bounce back in Spain? Will Vettel extend his lead? How will the two Red Bull drivers respond? Or will someone else claim the glory in Barcelona? Let us know in the comments below!