The first European race of the Formula 1 season is upon us. The 20 drivers return to action this weekend for the Spanish Grand Prix (9 a.m. ET/ESPN 2). The 66 Lap race around the 2.892-mile Circuit de Barcelona should once again feature a fight amongst Ferrari and Mercedes. But, can Red Bull challenge?
Here are some key storylines for Sunday’s race.
Can Mercedes Go 5-For-5?
It has been a historic start to the season for Mercedes. Not only have they won all four races run, they’ve finished 1-2 in each. Now, they head to a track where they’ve won in four of the last five years including two straight.
Can they go 5-for-5 on Sunday?
Lewis Hamilton has won in each of the last two years in Catalunya and his next victory (4) would move him out of a tie for second on the all-time wins list in Spanish Grand Prix history. He’s got a good chance of doing so too.
Hamilton, has three wins and a runner-up in his last five overall starts in Spain. He’s finished in the top two in all four races run in 2019 too.
But, Valtteri Bottas could be strong as well. The Finnish driver also has four top two’s in 2019 with a win in the last race at Azerbaijan. He finished runner-up to Hamilton last year too as Mercedes has been 1-2 in not just every race in 2019 but the last race in Spain too.
Ferrari Looking To Get Back On Track
The Prancing Horses bring an upgrade this weekend, but will it work? It’s not like the Ferrari’s have been that far off this year, it’s just that they keep shooting themselves in the foot.
In Bahrain, Charles LeClerc had a faulty engine in the end. Also in that race, Sebastian Vettel spun while battling for second. They should have finished 1-2 in that race, instead Mercedes did and the Ferrari’s went 3-5.
Also in Azerbaijan, LeClerc was fastest in every practice and even in the first round of qualifying but he crashed in Q2. He’d start eighth and only get up to fifth in the end. Vettel, didn’t have it in qualifying as he started and finished third.
The speed is there, the luck hasn’t been.
LeClerc finished 10th in this race as a rookie last year while Vettel has six straight top four finishes in Spain. The only problem is, out of those last six starts, none have been better than third.
Ferrari hasn’t won this race since 2013 and has one win overall since 2009. Prior to that though, they’ve won six races in an eight year span between 2001 and 2008 and have also won 12 races overall, most all-time.
Barcelona yearly marks the race where teams use their first major upgrade of the season. The biggest reason is because Barcelona is much closer to the F1 shops than those in the far east.
That has led to a majority of the teams bringing upgrades to the track this weekend. But, will they work? Last year, Ferrari’s upgrade forced them to actually go backwards. They had to abort the upgrade in the summer and their pace went back up again.
Will we see that happen to any teams this go around?
They’re the only team to have won in Spain other than Mercedes since 2014. Max Verstappen won the race in 2016 and was third last year. He’s also finished in the top four in all four races in 2019 too. Can his Honda challenge Mercedes and Ferrari for the win on Sunday?
What about Pierre Gasly? He’s struggled in 2019 with just two top 10 finishes all year. He also didn’t even finish the race in Spain with Toro Rosso a year ago. The car he’s driving has scored just two podiums prior with Daniel Ricciardo including six straight top 10 finishes. But, none of those results were better than third.
Watch Out For Sainz Jr.
Fernando Alonso is gone as he will be in the United States preparing for his Indy 500 drive this year. That leaves Carlos Sainz Jr. as the countryman everyone is watching this weekend. Sainz, has a good chance to make his homefans happy too. He’s finished in the top 10 in all four of his starts in Spain – 9th, 6th, 7th, 7th respectively, to go along with a seventh place finish the last time out in Azerbaijan two weeks ago.
This could be his chance to shine with McLaren.