Six things we’ve already learned from F1’s Spanish Grand Prix

Six things we’ve already learned from F1’s Spanish Grand Prix

The Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix is ​​often a great indicator on the right track, but before the on-track action even gets underway, it has produced a lot of interesting developments.

Thursday's media day in Barcelona provided plenty of driver market developments to confirm that two of the 2024 non-points drivers have received significant changes.

Here's what we learned:

It has increased the urgency of Sainz's decision

Carlos Sainz saying he is close to making a decision on his post-Ferrari future has become a popular topic on Formula 1 Thursdays in 2024. But he appears to be stepping up Barcelona's game while acknowledging the dilemma has become draining.

“The decision will be made very soon,” Sainz promised when asked about his future.

“I don't want to wait any longer. I think it's getting to the point where it's been taking up space in my head for a few weeks now and months. It's time to make a decision.”

Sainz insisted he had not made up his mind despite reports to the contrary, and said he needed “a few days at home” to decide where he will go next year. His choice, as has been the case for some time, appears to be limited to choosing between future Audi works team Sauber and Williams.

He spent some time at home ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, but with the additional off-track commitments that a home race brings, Sainz has not had enough time to make a final decision.

Much has been made of Sainz's choice to prioritize who will be able to compete in 2026 with such a comprehensive rule overhaul, but he highlighted 2025 as an important factor.

“The guess now in 2024 is who will do better [in 2026] “It's almost impossible,” Saenz said. “It's like a lottery or a coin toss to see who will be the fastest in 2026.

“2025 also becomes important if I can't predict 26 and I don't know who's going to do better; it's important for me to know 25. It's also in the long term, trying to understand the power unit aspect, the team dynamics, all those factors come into play when Make decision.

“That's why it takes so long and I take time to find some time within myself to make a decision.”

You could say that certain aspects of that – the 2025 item, the 2026 power unit aspect amid optimistic claims of gains from Mercedes, Williams' supplier – play to Williams' advantage but when asked about the gap between customer teams and manufacturers, Sainz said: “Yes it seems closer.” [between customers and manufacturers] But there are many other things related to my decision. Not only that.”

All this “other stuff” will come into play during Sainz's crucial decision-making period that should end soon. -Josh Sattel

Perez believes this will be a reset

The Spanish Grand Prix has not been kind to Sergio Perez since he started driving for Red Bull. In 2021 he qualified second behind Max Verstappen and finished on the podium, in 2022 he was asked (which he felt was unfair) to step aside in favor of Verstappen to help Max take victory after he was out of the way, and in 2023 Perez qualified outside the positions Top ten and finished almost 36 seconds behind in a race dominated by Red Bull led by Verstappen.

Perez arrives at the 2024 edition in desperate need of improvement after a serious decline that has coincided with Red Bull generally having a more difficult time getting its car to perform.

Regardless of whether rivals McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes have already closed the performance gap in recent races – Verstappen suggested that current regulations impose a lower cap on development potential than in the pre-ground effect era, meaning others He should We're almost there now – Verstappen feels Red Bull have “made it a little harder on ourselves” by starting the final race weekends.

Perez says those difficulties, particularly with the car's ride quality, were exacerbated on his side of the garage by the “compromises” required in setup and then some additional, unspecified “issues” with his car in particular in Montreal.

Perez went so far as to say that a deeper analysis of that issue that led to consistent grip from the rear axle of his car in Canadian qualifying had revealed additional “mechanical and aerodynamic issues” on his side of the garage that meant it was “a weekend we could have eliminated.” [write off]“Barcelona must offer a hard reset even regardless of the fact that Canada was worse than it should have been for them.

“We are in a much better position in terms of the car, and our understanding of things,” he says when comparing the circumstances of his similarly timed decline in 2023 with this year.

“Last year we tried to make up for a lot of things with preparation. We just made up [it] A little worse.

“I think we are in a much better position [better] Our understanding of the situation, and therefore the way the problems have occurred in the past few events has put us in an awkward position.

“Considering the network penalty [he serves at this race for driving back to the pits with a mangled rear wing in Canada] If we can be the team that comes out of here with the most points this weekend that will be good.

“Being able to get back on the podium will be the goal.” -Ben Anderson

Sargent has parity at the end

Williams' highly publicized struggles mean it has been a long time since Logan Sargeant has had the same equipment as teammate Alex Albon. He had originally expected to regain parity the last time out in Canada, but finally got the lighter ground Albon ran for the first time at Imola on his car.

Albon did his best to remind everyone that “we are not driving the same car” in reference to previous races. He also talked about Sargent's “initial velocity.”

Sargent has shown that recently, as his basic pace has been good when spec and condition differences are taken into account.

“She was supposed to come to Canada, but some delays pushed her back,” Sargent said. “truly, [it’s] My first year luckily is weight, so you know this is going to work out and that's always nice.

“If you look at the playoffs this year, it's been very difficult and every tenth or hundredth or whatever can make a big difference. It makes me happy to know that I'll have that extra money in my pocket.”

Sargent has made progress recently, as although his race was very poor, he was fast in Canada.

That's what Sargent is counting on. When asked by The Race if he was backing himself to be at Albon's level, he replied: “I've been in Canada, so I plan to continue that.” – Ed Straw

Why does Russell make more mistakes?

George Russell has understandably come under a lot of scrutiny after a chaotic weekend at the Canadian Grand Prix that saw some of the highs and lows of his stint at Mercedes to date.

But in Barcelona, ​​he provided an interesting insight into why the frequency of mistakes was so high in 2023 and 2024 (think Russell's exits in Singapore and Canada last year and his messy race in Montreal this year) versus his cleaner rookie year with Mercedes in 2022. .

“I was very upset with myself Sunday night and Monday morning [but] “When I watched the race again, I reminded myself how tough it was out there,” Russell said.

“I could have easily not made any of these mistakes if I had turned down the risk indicator and driven a tenth of a lap slower for 70 laps but…if I had driven a tenth of a lap slower for 70 laps, I probably wouldn't have been in that situation.” in the first place.

“In 2022, I don't think I was putting as much pressure on myself as I do now and I didn't really make a lot of mistakes all season. Now I'm really putting pressure on myself because I really want to get this victory to my credit.” the team.

“If I was fighting for the championship, maybe I wouldn't push so much or risk so much during the races but at the moment we're not fighting for the championship, we have half a chance to win and I would go so far as to say achieve it and maybe too far.”

So there will be no change in Russell's approach until he finds himself in a title fight. He knows that Mercedes are not there with Red Bull/Ferrari/McLaren on a normal weekend, so he believes he has to push his limits when there is a chance of beating them.

If Mercedes Canada's lead in Barcelona is confirmed, the question becomes will Russell's approach change if Mercedes are a regular contender to win the race versus Red Bull this year? – JS

Alps attempt To turn the page

Esteban Ocon has the look and feel of a challenge at the moment. There has been a lot of chaos and hype swirling around him and the Alps since the Monaco collision, the agreement to break away at the end of 2024 in the wake of that incident and then the controversial call for a late reversal of positions from Canada that led to a new public outburst from Ocon.

There was an apparent attempt to immediately shut down all the noise as the circuit was back in session in Barcelona, ​​with Ocon telling the assembled media (including the race) “I'm not going to comment on any of that” while reporters tried to discuss the fallout from Canada with him.

Pierre Gasly had twisted the knife a bit beforehand by suggesting that Ocon could and should have switched to the original position sooner than he did – and that taking two laps to comply with the instructions had allowed Daniel Ricciardo to escape down the road, had Ocon been less obstructive. Alpine could have scored those extra points that the position swap was supposed to achieve.

“We are done, we are moving forward and we are fine,” Gasly concluded.

But even the suggestion that Okon was not quite as cooperative as he should have been – he insisted he was in the wake of the Montreal incident – suggests that internal relations have not necessarily completely improved.

Further attempts to discuss with Ocon any purification of Canadian air within the Alpine team were met with little interest: “I don't want guys to go back to Canada. I'm focused here [Barcelona] And that's all I'll tell you.

Before Alpine's PR shut down this kind of questioning completely, Ocon was at least willing to state team boss Bruno Famine's public assurances of “equal treatment” for Alpine drivers for the remainder of 2024.

“Obviously this is very important, that we finish the season well, together, and that will be it,” Ocon said. “We have been reassured that this will be the case – so we move forward, turn the page on Canada, and focus again.”

Alpine currently has one lighter car, 1kg according to Gasly. Ocon confirmed the car would be his for the Spanish Grand Prix, which he said was “possible”. [where] The statement of equal treatment comes from “. – Bachelor's

Sauber fulfilled Zhou's wish

Qu Guanyu's season has gone from bad to worse recently, as he hit the wall twice in Canada and fell behind teammate Valtteri Bottas. The result is, at Zhou's request, the chassis and other parts are replaced.

He originally changed the chassis to a new chassis during the Imola weekend, but has now moved to a different previously used monocoque that he and Bottas used earlier in the season. This comes as part of a comprehensive overhaul of the car in the hope of eliminating any problems that hinder its performance.

The 25-year-old has been, on average, 0.550 seconds slower than Bottas in the three qualifying rounds since he swapped for the new chassis. He has also complained of a lack of confidence, as well as suffering a series of wing problems dating back to before the change, the first of which came during qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix.

“More important than speed is confidence when pushing the car,” Zhu said when asked about what went wrong recently. “We did something different from Imola onwards, and for my part I was really struggling.

“I find this car very harsh over bumps. For example, the mistake I made in FP3 [in Canada] It was really unexpected. Suddenly I hit a bump and the car spun around me. This is a strange thing.

“We made a change before the end of this week to make sure I felt the same as I did at the beginning of the year. I feel completely different now than I did before.”

Cho describes the goal as “trying to make sure we have everything different from what I had the last two or three races.”

While Bottas was the strongest Sauber driver this season but failed to score any points after suffering problems, Zhou faced more problems.

Hence the hope that this will be a “brand new beginning” – the beginning that it truly must be. -S


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