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Red Bull have dominated Formula 1 so far in 2023. Will their dominance continue this weekend? Or could home favourites Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz spring a surprise? Here’s what to watch out for and who to back at the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix!

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The Red Bull show continues

Six wins in the first six races of the year puts Red Bull in a very exclusive club when it comes to early season successes. Another victory this weekend would make them only the third team – after McLaren in 1988 and Mercedes in 2019 – to win all of the first seven races of the season.

Max Verstappen has brought home four of those six wins, becoming the driver with the most Red Bull wins last time out in Monaco. While it was a great weekend for Verstappen, Sergio Perez – usually the street circuit master – struggled. After crashing out in Q1 and starting well down the order, a number of incidents during the Grand Prix left him unable to score points.

Perez now sits 39 points behind his championship leading team-mate. It’s beginning to seem that Perez requires bad luck for Verstappen and a flawless run of form if he is to recover any hopes of a championship win in 2023.

Red Bull took a 1-2 finish at last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, albeit slightly aided by an engine failure for Ferrari polesitter Charles Leclerc. There’s little reason to expect anything other than another Red Bull win this weekend.

A front row start is vital

Formula 1 has just visited Monaco – a twisting street circuit where overtaking is notoriously difficult. The statistics show that overtaking can be just as difficult at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. In 33 previous races at the track, there have only ever been three which were not won from the front row of the grid.

The three occasions that a front row starter did not win at this track were in 1996, 2013 and 2016. Verstappen was the last driver to win away from the front row here, in 2016, when Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg collided on the opening lap, paving the way for the Dutchman’s maiden win.
Another notable performance from a non front row starter in Spain was in 1996, when Michael.

Schumacher dominated the wet weather race, taking his first Ferrari victory. There could be more wet weather heroics on the horizon, if the early weekend weather forecasts are to be believed.

Home success for Alonso?

The other driver who has taken a win not from the front row at this circuit? Fernando Alonso.

Perhaps the fact that Alonso has been assigned garage number 33 on F1’s 33rd visit to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya as he hunts down his 33rd win is somewhat of an omen. Alonso has enjoyed three previous wins on home soil – two at this circuit, the last of which in 2013 remains his most recent victory in Formula 1.

He’d doubtlessly love to add another to his collection this weekend. Alonso is currently enjoying his most successful run in over a decade. With five podiums in the first six races of the year, this is the first time he’s had such frequent trips to the podium since the end of the 2012 season. His second place finish at last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix was his best result since finishing as runner-up at the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix. Any falters for Red Bull and Alonso
seems the most likely to benefit and take a memorable victory. Will it come this weekend?

Sainz’s impressive home race record

Fernando Alonso isn’t the only driver with the backing of the home crowd. Carlos Sainz is racing on home soil too – and the Catalunya circuit is one on which he runs well. Sainz has never failed to score points at home and enjoyed his best-ever Spanish Grand Prix weekend last year. After qualifying in the top three, he brought home a fourth place result for Ferrari.

Sainz may have gone under the radar somewhat this year, but he has been the only driver to qualify in the top five at every round so far. He sits ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc in the championship. Could this be the weekend that Sainz brings home his first big result of 2023?

De Vries under pressure

Nyck de Vries had his best result of the year to date with 12th place in Monaco. The result came as De Vries came under pressure due to underperforming in the first five races of the year. Rumours of Daniel Ricciardo stepping in to replace the Dutchman were wide of the mark, but De Vries’
performances so far have been far from inspiring.

AlphaTauri have picked up only a handful of points so far in 2023, with Yuki Tsunoda recording 10th place finishes in Melbourne and Baku. The fact that the team has failed to score only once in their previous eight visits to the Spanish Grand Prix will be encouraging for their chances this weekend. Perhaps it’s a chance for De Vries to get his first points of the year on the board.

A new track layout

Finally, Formula 1 is racing on a revised layout of the Catalunya circuit this weekend. The clumsy chicane which formed the final corner has been removed. The chicane was introduced in 2007 under new safety measures at the track, replacing a faster, sweeping right hand bend.

The track reverts to its former layout for 2023 and drivers and fans alike are looking forward to seeing what difference it makes to the quality of racing. In recent years, the Spanish Grand Prix has not been renowned for captivating races.

The Barcelona circuit has a contract until 2026, though rumours of a future street race in Madrid have gathered momentum in recent months. Race organisers will be hopeful of an action-packed Grand Prix this year, for the sake of the future of their event.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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