Will Catalunya deliver a predictable race – or can 2022’s new cars shake up the order at the circuit? And can Mercedes’ updates keep their Spanish win streak intact? Nicky Haldenby looks at what to expect at the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend!
In recent years, an exciting Grand Prix at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has, sadly, been a rarity. The track has historically not lent itself to overtaking – but those issues may be diminished by 2022’s new cars and should be helped further next year if plans to remove the clunky final chicane go ahead.
This weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix will be the 32nd to be held at the Catalunya venue. From those 32, only three have not been won from the front row of the grid. It seems therefore that Saturday’s qualifying session will be crucial in achieving Sunday success, with the win likely to come from one of the front row starters. Meanwhile, since 2003, there has been just one podium finish from outside of the top six starters on the grid. That was back in 2013, when Felipe Massa finished third having started from ninth.
Proving the race’s predictability in recent seasons, no driver other than Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, or Valtteri Bottas has finished on the podium at the Spanish Grand Prix since 2016. That streak is highly likely to end this weekend, given that Bottas’ new team (Alfa Romeo) have scored only twice here in the last nine years.
Max Verstappen to win the Spanish GP – 2/1
The First Major Upgrades Of 2022
Aside from a trip across the Atlantic for the Canadian Grand Prix in June, F1 is stationed in Europe from now until October as the European season gets underway. The start of the European season is traditionally when teams begin to bring major upgrades to their cars – so a shake-up of the competitive order is possible at the Spanish Grand Prix.
With winter testing having taken place at Catalunya, plenty of data about the 2022 cars at this track is already available to the teams. You can expect a raft of upgrades to be on display on the cars this weekend – but will any team be able to move up the order as a result?
Keep an eye on Lance Stroll at Aston Martin. The Canadian driver is tipped to be running upgrades on his AMR22 car, while team-mate Sebastian Vettel will reportedly not.
A Mercedes Stronghold
One of the teams in need of help from upgrades is Mercedes. Mercedes have been dominant at the Spanish Grand Prix in recent years. Since 2014, the only race they’ve failed to win here was in 2016 – when Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton collided on the opening lap. That allowed Max Verstappen to take his maiden victory, which remains the last time a race at the circuit was won away from the front row.
Mercedes’ form at the track in the past decade has been so strong that no other team has taken pole here since 2012. A pole for a Mercedes this weekend would see them become the first team to take pole at a single circuit for ten consecutive seasons. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton is in search of his first win of the season. He’s won all of the last five races at Catalunya. Victory this weekend would see him set a new record of seven Spanish Grand Prix wins.
Sainz Has Always Scored At Home
After a run of bad luck in the previous two races, Carlos Sainz returned to the podium at the Miami Grand Prix. There’s reason for the Spaniard to be optimistic of another good result as he heads to his home race.
Sainz has never failed to pick up points at the Spanish Grand Prix and has the longest active points streak at Catalunya of any current driver. Will Ferrari’s pace – and potential updates – be enough to offer him a shot at victory on home soil? If he’s successful, he’d be the first driver to take his maiden win on home soil since Johnny Herbert 27 years ago.
The other Spaniard on the grid will just be hoping for any points at all. Fernando Alonso has not scored since the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. He finished in the top ten in Miami, but was knocked out of the points following a post-race penalty. Perhaps the unluckiest man on the grid so far this year, Alonso has scored only once from his last five home appearances. Fingers crossed for a turnaround this weekend.