Spanish Grand Prix preview

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Spanish Grand Prix preview

Post by Ross on Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:47 pm

As the Formula One teams' trucks head out to Barcelona for the first of the European races this season, the whole of the F1 world is waiting to see who benefited and who suffered from last week's multi-team test. We've seen some radical new aero designs around the paddock, from Ferrari's new 'nostrils' to Renault's adopted 'fin' engine cover, originally debuted on the Red Bull RB4.

And if last year is anything to go by, it will be a close battle at the top. Friday and Saturday practices were dominated by McLaren here in 2007, with Ferrari dropping back behind the BMWs more than once. Yet when came to qualifying and the race, the red cars had the edge. Now there's a three-way battle for race wins, with BMW Sauber in the hunt, so the race is shaping up to be a good one.


Massa's won 2007's Spanish GP

The longest gap between two races of the whole season is now over, as is the gruelling four day test that saw no fewer than four drivers lead in the four days. Ferrari got off to a strong start, after revealing their newest attempt at added downforce - the two 'nostrils' or slots in the nose of the F2008 above the suspension. Massa dominated day 1 on slicks by a huge 2.7s from Honda's Alex Wurz.

The RA108 took over as fastest on day two, an abnormal timesheet seeing Barrichello and Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella lead on slicks. Ferrari's success and unrivalled speed in Bahrain had appeared to have been carried over to the test, as they remained the fastest of the runners on grooved tyres, with Massa in third. McLaren, meanwhile, had only managed third and fifth respectively on days one and two, the Woking based squad remaining on grooves for those days.

Michael Schumacher made a return to the F1 testing scene on Wednesday, a day which proved to be a battle of the titans and the top, with Alonso leading the German in the final timesheets. The two-time world champion focused on assessing the 2009-spec Bridgestone slicks but continued to run with the 2008 regulation aero. The seven-time champ meanwhile drove the whole '09 package, suggesting that next year's cars will overall be slower than the current specification vehicles.


Heikki Kovalainen

The final day of the test was a complete washout, seeing very little on-track action, due to such appalling weather conditions. From the few laps that were completed, Webber's was fastest, followed by the two Fins of Heikki Kovalainen and Kimi Raikkonen, for both of which this was the first day they had in the car.

As always, testing does not provide an accurate yardstick to go by in terms of teams' performance, so the true measure will have to be in Friday practice. Failing that, and as teams will be running different fuel loads, qualifying will be the final decider as to who really has made the absolute most out of the testing.

The first race of the 'European season' is traditionally the true comparison between different teams' competitiveness, and every car, with possibly the exception of Toro Rosso and Super Aguri this year, has undergone intense preparations and had new packages and parts glued on over the three weeks. Spain is notorious for not providing particularly enthralling racing, but the title fight will really begin to hot up here so the weekend will no doubt be very interesting.

Teams will have their motorhomes for the first time, and more parts and key team personel will be in attendance. So expect to see a dramatic increase in not only competitiveness but in performance too. Honda, McLaren, Renault, Ferrari, BMW and Force India have all made big improvements and every team will be wanting to claw back at those who outpaced them in the three flyaway races.

Formula Torque will bring the headlines over the weekend, and keep you updated on what's happening in Spain.

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