By Tom Dodd
- Round Five of 2018 Formula 1 World Championship taking place at Circuit de Catalunya in Spain on Sunday
- Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton heads to Barcelona with lead in the drivers’ standings following win in Baku two weeks ago
- Race will be first for Red Bulls after collision between Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo in Azerbaijan.
BARCELONA, SPAIN – In the last ten years Lewis Hamilton has been the only driver to win the Spanish Grand Prix twice, will the 2018 edition be unpredictable once again?
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Has everything at Red Bull been sorted?
There was no question everyone watching on enjoyed the battle that took place between the Red Bulls two weeks ago in Azerbaijan. Seeing two immensely talented drivers in Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen slug it out in identical cars is what people have almost certainly come to miss from Formula 1 in the last couple of decades.
What ruined everything of course was how it ended, but Red Bull can perhaps count themselves lucky they have two pretty laid back drivers in their team, who both know the best way to have moved on from Baku was an in-depth chat and a stern handshake.
How good are McLaren?
Few drivers get the best of the car and themselves at their home grand prix better than how Fernando Alonso puts in a shift in Spain. The Spaniard is adored by all those in the grandstands in Catalunya and while he realistically isn’t in a car that could challenge for the win, he will know how to put himself in the mix for the top five or six should the top three teams slip up.
Sixth in the championship after four rounds, Alonso is demonstrating just what could still be possible were he in a front-running car, and with overtaking in Barcelona notoriously difficult, do not be surprised to see the local hero in the mix in some capacity on Sunday afternoon.
Hamilton v Ferrari
He may have quietly assumed the championship lead after his win in Baku, but Lewis Hamilton may still have cause for concern going to Spain. Denied victory in Australia, China and Bahrain for a variety of reasons, the defending champion was fortunate to see the chequered flag first last time out and knows that in reality the Ferrari is the best car on the grid at the moment.
The Brit may take inspiration from his duel with Sebastian Vettel in Spain last year, when the Mercedes driver took on and beat the Scuderia in a firm, but fair, straight fight on track to kick start his march towards a fourth consecutive world title.
Can everyone get on the board?
Astonishingly, with just four races gone, all but two of the drivers on the grid have already scored, and had Romain Grosjean been able to keep the car pointing in the right direction under the safety car, all bar Sergey Sirotkin would be heading to Barcelona with a point to their name.
The Haas has been quick this season, building on its lightening pre-season pace in Spain of all places, meaning this weekend could be the springboard for the Frenchman to get off the mark for 2018. Sirotkin meanwhile has struggled to adapt to life in Formula 1, and with only two 15th places to his name it would take a big leap in performance to see Russian break his duck in Sunday.
Traditionally, the Circuit de Catalunya is not one known for overtaking, but in recent seasons that hasn’t stopped fireworks come race day. Whether it’s the Vettel/Hamilton battle of 2017, the Rosberg/Hamilton first-lap collision in 2016 that led to Max Verstappen’s first Formula 1 victory on his Red Bull debut or Pastor Maldonado’s completely out of the blue triumph in 2012 – the Spanish Grand Prix has certainly given us its fair share of storylines and drama over the years.
Given the unpredictable nature of the first four races, we can only hope – or should that be expect? – for more come Sunday afternoon.
The Spanish Grand Prix takes place this weekend with qualifying beginning at 14.00 BST on Saturday 12th and the race starting at 14.10 BST on Sunday 13th.
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