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Preview GP Spain 2020: Red Bull wants to improve

Stefan Baldauf
Preview GP Spain
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N ormally Formula 1 drives its test drives in Barcelona in winter, and the Grand Prix in May. But nothing is normal this season. Corona shuffled the racing calendar and caused Formula 1 to postpone the race to August. And that should turn the Grand Prix into a heat battle.

The weather experts promise temperatures of almost 30 degrees for the sixth race of the season. Tire supplier Pirelli assumes that it will be 'the most demanding race for tires that we have seen so far at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya'. Red Bull should like to hear that.

Max Verstappen was the king of tire management at Silverstone, while the favored Mercedes overused the tires. As a result, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas had to slow down massively - and Red Bull's boy prodigy celebrated his first win of the season. A repetition is not excluded. 'We saw that Mercedes is vulnerable when we put them under pressure,' said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner. But the past taught us: If a team can solve problems within a short period of time, it is Mercedes.

It would be a miracle if the world championship leader didn't have the fastest car again. At least for one round. In qualifying, the first row on the grid should be booked for Mercedes. In the race, the tires will dictate whether the black cars can actually use their downforce advantage. Overtaking is traditionally difficult in Barcelona.

The track - Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya

There are no big surprises for the engineers and the drivers. You know all the curves inside out. The 4.655 km long asphalt strip offers a good mix of different elements. This is why the course is also seen as the ideal yardstick for a car's performance. If you are fast here, you should also look good on other tracks.

Fast corners with high centrifugal forces alternate with slow corners in Barcelona. All-rounders are particularly in demand here. Despite two DRS zones and the straight stretch of more than a kilometer, overtaking is traditionally very difficult. Grand Prix races in Barcelona are usually not part of the action festivities on the calendar.

But things are always particularly interesting at the start. The sprint into the first corner is one of the longest in the wholeSeason. Despite the long drive to turn 1, the majority of the race winners came from the front row. Which underlines the importance of qualifying in Barcelona. Driving behind in the long curves is an art because of the heavy air turbulence.

Fast facts about the GP Spain:

  • Lap length: 4.655 km
  • Number of laps: 66
  • Race distance: 307.1 km
  • Lap record (race): 1: 18,441 min. (Daniel Ricciardo 2018)
  • Pole time qualifying 2019: 1: 15.406 min. (Valtteri Bottas)
  • Distance from pole position to corner 1: 612.5 m
  • Pit lane passage time: 16.6 seconds (368.2 m )
  • Top speed: 338 km /h
  • Fuel consumption: medium
  • Tire wear: medium to high
  • Tire types: C1, C2 , C3
  • Brake load: low
  • DRS zones: 2 - home straight /straight between T9 & T10
  • Safety car probability (last 5 years): 60 percent
Pirelli
Pirelli supplies the toughest tire compounds for the Spanish GP.

The setup

Barcelona has been an integral part of the calendar since 1991. The technicians know the pitfalls of the route inside out. Only the changing winds can cause surprises from time to time. The wings have to be set very steeply on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in order to provide enough downforce and stability for the fast combinations of corners. In the final sector with the slow chicane, it is all about traction. The springs should therefore be chosen a little softer on the rear axle.

Brake wear is not an issue. The engines are also not excessively stressed. Unless it actually gets as hot as advertised. Tire wear was always a tension factor in the race.

Technology upgrades

Ferrari is using a new chassis for Sebastian Vettel. 'We discovered a small crack that was caused by a violent blow on a curb,' explains Ferrari's Chassis Director Simone Resta. And adds: 'It wouldn't have had a major impact on performance, but it was a logical decision.' Resta means safety.

It is the finale of the second triple header of theSeason. Therefore, major upgrades are hardly to be expected, but small changes to the cars can. During the training sessions, the teams will primarily focus on clarifying the important tire issues. On which type of tire do we have to qualify for the race in order to have the best possible performance in the first stint? How long does which tire compound last? What about wear, overheating, blistering or graining?

Pirelli has postponed the planned test with tire prototypes for 2021, which was actually planned for the first half hour of the second training session. This gives the teams more time to adjust to the C1 to C3 tire compounds and fine-tune the cars.

You will need them. The teams do not know any racetrack better than the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, which has been firmly anchored in the calendar since 1991 and serves as a test track. But the conditions will be completely different from the test drives in winter.

Motorsport Images
Red Bull wants to contest Mercedes for victory again.

The favorites

Red Bull won the second Silverstone race, Mercedes the four grands prix before that. So it should be clear that the world championship team will travel to Spain as the big favorite. Mercedes had the fastest car in qualifying last weekend. One second faster than Red Bull. In racing trim the Silver Arrows are usually half a second faster. Unless the conditions force them to slow down drastically - as in the Formula 1 anniversary race.

The tires should accommodate Mercedes in Barcelona. Pirelli supplies the hardest compounds (C1, C2, C3) from the range. They are more resistant to wear and overheating. Also, the tires won't be quite as inflated as they were last week. Pirelli stipulates a minimum air pressure of 23 PSI on the front axle. At the rear it is 20.5 PSI. For comparison: In Silverstone the air pressure was 27 PSI at the front and 20.5 PSI at the rear.

The Mercedes drivers hope that the tire pattern and thus the balance of power will be more similar to that of the first Silverstone race. And then Valtteri Bottas dominatedand Lewis Hamilton, until they punctured them. Max Verstappen is still hopeful: 'Nobody knows how the tires in Barcelona will react to the heat.'

Mercedes went into retreat after the defeat. Solutions to the tire problem had to be found in the Brackley factory within a few days. Team boss Toto Wolff already announced on race Sunday at Silverstone after finishing second and third: 'We are accepting the new challenge. In the past, the bad days have made us a better team. We will work out solutions and put our drivers in the simulator and then do the adjustment on Friday practice. We have the car with the most downforce, which puts a strain on the tires. We have to work around these problems. '

The Circuit de Barcelona mainly uses the left front tire, what on the high-speed passages of turns three and nine, but it also tortures the rear tires. This is ensured by the rather slow corners in the last section, where traction is required. And that goes to the rear tires. In 2019, with one exception - Nico Hülkenberg in a Renault - all drivers changed tires twice. But that was a two-stop race to the liking of Mercedes.

Behind the two top teams, Ferrari, Racing Point, Renault and McLaren will scramble for positions. Engine power is not quite as crucial a factor in Barcelona as it was last time at Silverstone, despite the long home straight. That will help Ferrari. On the other hand, Racing Point was the third fastest team in Hungary. And on the Hungaroring, as in Barcelona, ​​maximum downforce counted. Red Bull will have to be careful in qualifying that none of the midfield teams slip through. So far, that is the weak point of the RB16. McLaren will have to deal with the increased tire wear compared to the competition. Renault finally have to deliver equally on Saturday and Sunday. Fluctuations are poison in the tightly packed midfield.

This is how the race went last year - GP Spain 2019

It was a walk for Mercedes, which left the competition by eight tenths behind in qualifying. Bottas dominated Saturday, Hamilton on Sunday. The world champion surprised his teammate at the start and was then unstoppable. It was his fourth victory in Spain and the fifth in the last six Grand Prix for Mercedes at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

The series winner was stopped only once in Barcelona. Or rather bowled oneself out of the running. Hamilton collided with Nico Rosberg in 2016 - and Verstappen won his first ever Grand Prix. Last year, Red Bulls Sperrspitze took third place.

Verstappen benefited from a failed attack by Sebastian Vettel on Bottas, which the Heppenheimer paid for with a brake plate. Ferrari stood in its own way. First Vettel was asked too late with hisChipped tire set to make room for the teammate. Then, later in the race, Ferrari overslept to swap positions in time. Vettel hung behind Leclerc with fresher tires. So the Scuderia missed the podium. Vettel finished fourth, Leclerc fifth.

Haas experienced one of the few bright spots in 2019: Kevin Magnussen raced behind Pierre Gasly in seventh place in the second Red Bull. Romain Grosjean collected at least one point in tenth. In between, Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat landed.

In the gallery we show you the highlights of the GP Spain 2019 again.

Schedule GP Spain 2020

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