Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Shanghai International Circuit, 2019

Will Ferrari’s new engine halt Mercedes’ winning streak? Five Spanish GP talking points

2019 Spanish Grand Prix

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Will this be the weekend Ferrari finally get their championship bid under way? Here are the talking points for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Can Ferrari stop the rot?

When Ferrari left the Circuit de Catalunya at the end of pre-season testing two months ago they appeared to be in great shape for the season ahead. Four one-twos for Mercedes later, things looks far less rosy for the red team.

The SF90 has shown occasional bursts of impressive pace, but the team cannot regularly tap into it. Complicating matters further, newcomer Charles Leclerc has reached to top end of the car’s capabilities more regularly than Sebastian Vettel has, and the team has needlessly squandered points by imposing the ‘correct’ running order on its drivers.

Can they settle back into their pre-season groove and deliver their first win since Kimi Raikkonen saw the chequered flag first in Austin last year? Yesterday’s revelation that they have brought forward a power unit upgrade by a full month is a serious declaration of intent.

Time to see what Red Bull can do

Red Bull took a wrong turn with their car set-up early in the year. Having corrected that, the power-sensitive circuits which followed were perhaps not the best place to judge their performance.

Around the quicker corners and shorter straights of the Circuit de Catalunya that may be different. However F1’s escalating downforce levels have turned several of the quickest corners flat-out, potentially exposing a shortage of top-end grunt, and making this not their strongest track of the year.

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Is Bottas’s resurgence real?

The championship leader holds a slender one-point margin over Lewis Hamilton heading into round four. He’s in a much stronger position than he was 12 months ago, and has surely seen off Esteban Ocon’s attempt to prise him out of a drive.

Can Valtteri Bottas now take the extra step and cement his credentials as a bona fide title contender?

The development race

Most if not all the teams are planning to bring fairly substantial upgrades this weekend. Even Williams, who struggled to get their first batch out the door, are talking up the first raft of new hardware for the FW42s.

We could see another shake-up in the midfield. Renault and Haas, who’ve underperformed somewhat so far, will be hoping it swings the balance of power in their favour. Haas at least have cause to be optimistic that their race stint tyre problems will be less acute at this track.

Will Spain keep its race?

At the time of writing the Spanish Grand Prix does not have a deal to hold a round of the world championship. The race has been part of F1 since the fifties, and held continuously at the Circuit de Catalunya since 1991, and if it disappears questions will be asked about Liberty Media’s commitment to retaining heritage rounds of the world championship .

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2019 Spanish Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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40 comments on “Will Ferrari’s new engine halt Mercedes’ winning streak? Five Spanish GP talking points”

  1. Will Ferrari be the fastest car on Friday? Wil Ferrari be 3-4 on Saturday? Will Ferrari be 3-5 again on Sunday? And most importantly, are Ferrari strategists going to try finish behind both the Red bulls this time?

    1. And most importantly, are Ferrari strategists going to try finish behind both the Red bulls this time?

      @knightameer – that is contingent on how much Gasly cooperates ;)

      1. @phylyp I think we will see more co-operation from Gasly as the season goes on.

        1. It must be very difficult for Ferrari to know which is more important: Charles finishing behind Sebastian or Charles being first.

          1. @drycrust :)
            Hence Keith’s use of quotes around “correct” in:

            the team has needlessly squandered points by imposing the ‘correct’ running order on its drivers

    2. “And most importantly, are Ferrari strategists going to try finish behind both the Red bulls this time?”

      The drivers also need to stop making big mistakes, especially in those races when Ferrari have the faster car or car to compete with Merc . Vettel spun in Bahrain, Ferrari were fastest in Bahrain. While Leclerc crashed in Baku, with Ferrari looking fastest or at least as quick as Merc over 1 lap. Vettel, with a tow, could’ve challenged for pole.

  2. Very interesting talking points for this weekend, I’m hoping for an exciting weekend!

  3. I think it is about time for vettel to prove he deserves that number one status. If leclerc looks stronger yet again then ferrari needs to understand that they are simply hurting their chances by focusing on the wrong driver. Even if vettel has some clauses in his contract about preferential treatment I’m sure ferrari can afford to ignore those if they want.

    1. steveetienne
      8th May 2019, 17:55

      They are backing the wrong horse. Last season Kimi scored more points in the 2nd half of the year than Seb did, i believe it was the case in 2017 too, but i maybe wrong. Ferrari compromised Kimi’s races so often it is difficult to say how much better he could have done (i’m not saying he would have taken the title) – something isn’t quite right with Seb when he is under pressure, the trick of performing at the top of any sport is to relax, i don’t think he is able to do that unless he can lead from the front and build a lead.

  4. At the time of writing the Spanish Grand Prix does not have a deal to hold a round of the world championship. The race has been part of F1 since the fifties, and held continuously at the Circuit de Catalunya since 1991, and if it disappears questions will be asked about Liberty Media’s commitment to retaining heritage rounds of the world championship

    Haven’t been in favour of using F1’s prime test-track as a racetrack as well for several years. I heard rumours that the Spanish GP is going to be replaced with Zandvoort. If that’s the case then another heritage track is coming back.

    1. I’m afraid they will ruin zandvoort track. The fast last corner in zandvoort for example is very similar to the last corner section that hte catalonya circuit had. Which is now that chicane. Not to mention zandvoort is probably even more difficult track to overtake as it has only one straight which is after very fast corners.

    2. I have seen several reports in the media since last week, and on social media, saying that it is a fact that Zandvoort will replace Barcelona in the calendar from next year onwards. But RaceFans has been quiet on that regard, not even picking it up in the subsequent Round-ups…

      1. @bakano – I’ve read (some time ago, mind you) that Zandvoort’s facilities are not of a scale ready to support F1. I don’t think it’s the track per se, but circuit facilities and accessibility. In those reports you refer to, have changes been made to cater to those issues?

        1. @phylyp I’m not aware they made changes. The track is very nice, but I’m not sure if it makes for great racing for the F1 cars we have nowadays. The facilities need a desperate upgrade and the accessibility is deadfull on any nice beach day let alone a F1 raceweekend.

          Time is running fast if they want to upgrade things.

        2. @phylyp the reports mentioned the required works and changes would start soon and funding had been approved but everything waiting for the final announcement. The track needs minor changes as well but most is to the rest of the facilities.

          I have conflicting feelings about the race in Zandvoort. For one it’s only 15 kms from where I live and I can cycle to the track to see races, but I don’t thing it is a good location and will create serious disruptions in the area. But with good planning they might do a nice job like the folks involved with the Austrian GP…

          1. Thanks MCBosch and @bakano

            I think Liberty would move mountains to try and make it happen, what with Alonso not being in F1 and Max one of the hottest stars on the grid. That said, how much can be done on the ground, realistically in terms of time and cost is something we’d have to see.

            it’s only 15 kms from where I live

            Hey… you’re my new best friend! :)

            15 kms … I can cycle to the track

            Oh wait, scratch that thought.

          2. @phylyp I said cycle because it will be a mess to try and drive to the track. Public transportation will be bad as well. Last year we had to cancel plans to go on the direction of Zandvoort due to the disruptions caused by Jumbo Race Days and that was not a F1 weekend (with F2 and F3/GP3 races amongst others). Trafic was piling up on the main road close to where I live (so 15 kms from the track)…

          3. @bakano – ok, frankly, that sounds terrifying. 15 kms of traffic jams? I’d love to read Dieter’s Paddock Diaries if F1 ends up there :) Oh, and the jokes it’ll lead to: “300 km/h on track, 0.003 km/h off track”

            I presume there are no meaningful mass transit options available? Trains/ferries?

      2. I know that working contracts for work on the circuit are signed so I am sure for 99% that Zandvoort is next year. From Jumbo sources next year they organize a thursday day in fron t of a FIA event….

        Looking at the time 30 april 2020 (1,2 and 3 May) there can be only 1 spot they take.

        1. So the F1 race will be part of the Jumbo Race Dagen from 2020 onwards (this year the main international race seems to be the WTCR Race of Holland), @macleod?

          1. it seems very much looking that way @bakano Works starts in oktober..

            article in Dutch:

            https://www.autoblog.nl/nieuws/aftellen-naar-kaartverkoop-van-de-nederlandse-grand-prix-124143

            tells us 17 may (jumbo racing days 2019) everything get official AND from that date you can order you tickets for 1-3 may 2020

      1. I would add that the area seems like absolute MADNESS logistically for an F1 weekend.

  5. Pjotr (@pietkoster)
    8th May 2019, 10:44

    Ferrari please surprise me once this year. I am afraid they mess up again. Either with the tyres or pistops.

  6. Can Ferrari stop the rot? I feel that their superiority over mercedes in testing was more down to mercedes never really hooking it up (as opposed to ferrari being truly dominant), but this weekend will confirm one way or the other. the new engine will be a serious test of reliability because if they have any more car failures from leading positions they can kiss the championship goodbye (if they haven’t already).

    Time to see what Red Bull can do as you mentioned, the number of flat out corners makes this a bit of a power track, again, which would suggest a maximum 5th. but verstappen has tended to over perform this year, at the expense of the ferraris strategic and setup errors (china and australia). furthermore, the honda doesn’t seem too far down – it’s more their chassis that is not living up to expectations.

    Is Bottas’s resurgence real? I’m unconvinced, but he has been driving well and he hasn’t had any bad luck really. china was a fairly anonymous race (for everyone!) but he managed to pick up good points, which is something he struggled to do last year. however, aside from his luck changing and ferrari being rubbish, his start to this year is not greatly different to his start to last year.

    The development race I’m keen to see what happens to teams who have a history of taking a wrong turn in development (mclaren is the one that jumps out). with such limited testing, every big upgrade is a massive risk/opportunity, particularly in a congested midfield. it seems unlikely that williams will move up the grid, but they might get closer to 18th. in terms of resources, you would expect renault and mclaren to come to the fore of the midfield, but who knows really. it seems likely that mercedes will pull something exceptional out of the hat and they of all teams have been the least likely to go down a development dead end.

    Will Spain keep its race? I’m almost totally ambivalent about this race staying on the calendar. it has been there for longer than i’ve been following the sport (just about) and it rarely produces a great race. even the better races have been down to circumstantial factors (like the mercedes taking each other out in 2016), so it’s not like we’ll miss the track if it does go. the true “heritage” races are silverstone, monza, spa and monaco. beyond that we have traditional countries, some with much-visited tracks (canada-montreal, germany-nurburgring/hockenheim, australia-melbourne, brazil-interlagos, japan-suzuka, france-paul ricard) but I think barcelona only just scrapes into that category.

  7. Just in from Toto. Yes, Mercedes are VERY afraid about Ferrari pace this weekend. In fact, looks like a foregone conclusion for a Ferrari win

  8. Still think if Fernando was still at Ferrari they would have at least won one world drivers championship over the last two seasons

    1. F1 Domination
      9th May 2019, 11:46

      He would’ve won none. Thing is Alonso won 2 titles and that’s it.

    2. Maybe. Then again “maybe” Max Chilton may have won a title in the Ferrari. We will never know 😉 Nando created havoc and confusion at every team he drove for so I’m doubting that he wouldve done any better than Vettel. He’s certainly a better driver than Vettel but when you create animosity within your own team it makes your job nigh on impossible. Nando: underachiever and all his own fault.

  9. Seeing that we’re returning to the track where the pre-season tests ran, I am very curious to see how Ferrari stack up here. Will they be able to set the car up the way it was in the tests, or will Merc be the ones on form?

    1. Wasnt the track too cold during tests and now it being summers its going to polar opposite to those conditions?

  10. Talking point. Only one real talking point.
    Mercedes showing such dominance so early this season is just feeding the “F1 is boring” trolls.
    As such I predict they’ll back pedal a bit now, until the mid season break.
    Then after the break they’ll disappear into the sunset as per normal.

  11. Can Ferrari stop the rot?

    For the sake of the championship battle, I hope so. The car is quick, I just wish they could sort out their operational issues. As a race team, Ferrari seem to be giving a lot away compared to Mercedes and Red Bull, the number of times they don’t maximise their possible results is quick shocking for a team with their resources. Their strategy calls are often diabolical. If they want to win a world championship, they need to fix up, fast.

    Time to see what Red Bull can do

    Indeed, Red Bull need to be in the mix to keep the battle at the front interesting, particularly if Ferrari continue to misfire. Gasly also has to start getting results, he is far better than his results to date have shown.

    Is Bottas’s resurgence real?

    It is. He is qualifying well, getting the job done in the races and the car is quick. If he is on the front row, I wouldn’t bet against him taking the win, particularly given how difficult it is to overtake here.

    The development race

    This will be the key theme for me this weekend. It would be great to see Williams start making steps in the right direction.

    Will Spain keep its race?

    Without the Alonso factor I can’t see it staying on the calendar which is a shame because it would be sad to see a longstanding race fall off the calendar. I wouldn’t class the Spanish GP “historic” in the same way as the Monaco, French, British or Italian GPs are. Longstanding yes, but historic no.

    1. “the car is quick, I just wish they could sort out their operational issues. ”

      And the Ferrrai drivers need to stop making big mistakes

  12. Can Ferrari stop the rot? – I hope so but doubt it.
    Is Bottas’s resurgence real? – Yes.
    Will Spain keep its race? – No.

  13. People must have short memories. Bottas looked like a championship contender after 4 races last season and we all know how that ended. Mercedes shouldn’t be handing out new contracts after 4 races they should at least wait and see if bottas can carry on in this form???

  14. I hope they don’t show their hands in practice sessions.

  15. Most important to me : will the race be any good ? Will f1tv pro work ?

  16. Not with the terrible tyres that Pirelli makes. I would never buy Pirelli tyres, they are rubbish.

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