Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Barcelona, Spain, 2013

Will Alonso deliver dream win for home fans? Seven Spanish GP talking points

2023 Spanish Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

The Spanish Grand Prix in the city of Barcelona has been a mainstay of the Formula 1 calendar ever since it first held a race back in 1991.

While the circuit has changed only slightly since then, this year the final sector will have a very different feel to it which will see drivers going faster than ever around a circuit they know better than most.

The race marks a return home for both Carlos Sainz Jnr and Fernando Alonso. But the latter is surely the crowd’s best hope for a home win.

Can Alonso send Spain into rapture?

It’s difficult to believe, but the last time Fernando Alonso stood on the top step of a podium was over a decade ago at the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix. Unsurprisingly, it was a victory that proved popular with the local fans – many, many thousands of whom had travelled to the Circuit de Catalunya purely in support of the then-Ferrari driver.

But while he has taken 15 podium finishes since that day, he has not yet been able to break through and secure that long-awaited 33rd grand prix victory.

Just days ago he came closer than he has ever been to winning since his return from retirement last weekend in Monaco with a well-deserved second place. However, he was still nearly half a minute adrift of Max Verstappen at the chequered flag – a sign of just how big that final step remains for Aston Martin to beat Red Bull.

That advantage Red Bull continues to hold out front makes the possibility of Alonso pulling off a stunning upset no higher this weekend than it has been at any other point in the season. But that won’t matter at all to the many fans who will be cheering him on in Barcelona.

Even just another podium finish will likely be enough to kick off the biggest party seen at the Spanish Grand Prix since that day back in 2013. The only question is, can Aston Martin successfully deliver once again?

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Perez under pressure

After being hunted down and passed by his team mate Verstappen for the win in Miami, Sergio Perez needed a strong weekend in Monaco to keep himself hot on Verstappen’s heels heading into the second phase of the championship. Instead, Perez produced one of his worst performances in a Red Bull race suit, crashing out of Q1 and lining up at the back of the grid.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Monaco, 2023
Perez had a poor Monaco weekend
The race itself was hardly any better. Perez bumped and barged his way around the 78 laps, clashing with Kevin Magnussen, Lance Stroll and later George Russell to finish down in 17th place, which only became 16th courtesy of a penalty to Nico Hulkenberg ahead. Meanwhile, Verstappen controlled the race to win from pole position and add 25 points to his championship advantage over his team mate, growing his lead from 14 to 39 points.

“I only want to move on from this race because it was a terrible weekend,” admitted Perez after Monaco. “I still have hope in the championship but I know I cannot afford another zero in a race, so I really hope I can be back to my normal level in Barcelona. I need to be perfect in the next few races, I need to get victories and get them soon.”

Perez is right about the urgency of which he needs another victory. With Red Bull taking all six victories so far in 2023, Verstappen now owns four of those wins. Red Bull will be favourites heading into this weekend again, meaning that Perez will likely only need to beat one driver to win. But with Verstappen in fine form, that’s far easier said than done.

Chicane no more

After 16 grands prix at the Circuit de Catalunya featuring one of the most awkward, flow-disrupting chicanes on the Formula 1 calendar, drivers will finally be able to experience the original final two corners of turns 13 and 14 in the final sector of the circuit, last used by F1 in 2006.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, 2022
The awkward final chicane will be bypassed
The previous chicane was introduced on safety grounds because of limited run-off available at turn 13. While there were no major accidents at the corner in Formula 1, Moto GP continued to use the original final sector layout until 2016, when a high-speed crash claimed the life of Moto 2 rider Luis Salom.

After extensive work by the circuit, TecPro barriers have been installed along the outside of the two corners and the FIA approved the homologation of the original final corners for Formula 1 once again. That means that this year, drivers will be challenged to take the two high speed right handers at around 210kph for turn 13 and even faster for the final corner. The revision may alter how easily drivers can pass, with drivers now entering the long pit straight at far higher speeds than they ever have previously.

McLaren’s Lando Norris expects the quicker right handers to be “even more physical on the neck, so I’m looking forward to it at all!”

As for whether it will improve racing: “I hope so. It’s a tricky last corner, to be honest. It’s not going to be flat-out. “But I think it should help with the racing.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Have Mercedes’ upgrades truly worked?

As the circuit that has traditionally played host to at least one pre-season test each winter, Barcelona is one of the most popular venues for teams to introduce upgrades to their cars due to the abundance of data they have available to cross reference to. Many teams planned to bring new parts to Imola before the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix was cancelled, leaving some to postpone their introduction to this weekend while others opted to run them at the first opportunity in Monaco.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monaco, 2023
The revised W14 faces its first true test
Mercedes did run their heavily revised package at Monaco. But while Lewis Hamilton and George Russell managed to secure fourth and fifth in the race, ahead of both Ferraris, team principal Toto Wolff says the team is holding its evaluation on the effectiveness of its upgrades until after this weekend in Spain.

“We have seen some positives in Monaco, which we know is not a representative circuit, and it will be next week in Barcelona when we get a more precise idea of competitiveness,” Wolff said.”

“We don’t want to get ahead ourselves and I think we’re all looking forward to learning more about the car, and to seeing if we’ve made a step in performance against our immediate competitors.”

With the Spanish Grand Prix taking place at a circuit that has not been Red Bull’s strongest over the years, there could be some hope that the RB19 may not be quite as dominant this weekend than it has been throughout this season. But Red Bull will likely have new parts of their own this weekend and their performance in high-speed corners will serve them well – particularly now the final sector is so much quicker.

Ferrari were one team who originally chose to wait until Spain to introduce upgrades rather than throw them immediately on the car in Monaco. But while Ferrari were originally expected to debut their revised front suspension this weekend, team principal Frederic Vasseur now says that is unlikely. “We won’t introduce any update on the front suspension,” he said.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Cool down

As to be expected from a race taking place by the east Spanish coast, just a little closer to the equator than Monaco, it’s possible that this weekend could be a hot one for drivers to contend with.

Last year’s Spanish Grand Prix was easily one of the hottest of the season, with ambient temperatures edging uncomfortably close to 40 degrees. Thankfully, early forecasts project that teams will likely avoid such conditions this time around, with temperatures projected to be around the mid 20C range.

No more street circuits

Finally, after five consecutive races at street or temporary circuits, teams will face a proper, permanent race track in Barcelona this weekend. With acres of run off, gravel traps, long straights and not a single marina in sight, there’s likely to be a welcome sense of returning to normality for this weekend.

With a wider track, the benefit of greater natural grip building up predictably over the weekend and excellent sight lines into corners, drivers will be spoiled by all the conveniences of a modern world class racing facility once again. What effect that could have on their racing this weekend remains to be seen.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

New tyres, new drivers?

Some teams ran junior drivers in Spain last year
Last year three drivers used the opportunity to run non-race drivers in first practice at this event, two of which began fulfilling their obligation to put inexperienced racers in their car on two occasions. They were Red Bull, who ran Juri Vips, and Williams, who put Nyck de Vries in their car. Alfa Romeo also gave a run to former test driver Robert Kubica.

We may see the first junior drivers of the season appear in practice this year. But as teams also have new tyre to test this weekend, they may prefer to wait until later in the season. The revised rubber is due to appear in its first race at Silverstone in July.

Are you going to the Spanish Grand Prix?

If you’re heading to Spain for this weekend’s race, we want to hear from you:

Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Spanish Grand Prix? Have your say below.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 Spanish Grand Prix

    Browse all 2023 Spanish Grand Prix articles

    Author information

    Will Wood
    Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

    Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

    16 comments on “Will Alonso deliver dream win for home fans? Seven Spanish GP talking points”

    1. I’m interested to see what effect the new turn 13 has on tyre wear. The front left already takes some punishment elsewhere in the lap, most notably turn 3, and the higher speeds through the last two corners will presumably compound that. Barcelona has always been a tough circuit on tyres, and these changes won’t make things any easier.

      I’m not expecting a return to the four-stoppers of the early 2010s, but it will be interesting to see if tyre strategy plays a bigger part here than it has so far this year.

      1. Good point about possible stress on the tyres @red-andy. I do hope this helps making the races more varied with strategy, but I guess we’ll have to see.

    2. Can Alonso send Spain into rapture? – Hopefully, but unfortunately, unlikely under normal circumstances.
      Perez under pressure – He certainly can’t afford another zero-score race, but his scarce championship hopes are effectively over anyway, not that I believed he could outscore over a season in the first place.
      Chicane no more – Which is good & will definitely improve lap flow, but I doubt overtaking into T1 would become easier because following is generally harder through high-speed corners than slower ones.
      Have Mercedes’ upgrades truly worked? – Hopefully, for their sake.
      Cool down – Same climate zone, so no different to Monaco in principle, & last season’s Spanish GP weekends highest ambient temps were in the higher 20s, so far from 40, lol.
      No more street circuits – For now, yes, which is good for a change, although two more full temporary circuits to come towards the season’s end.
      New tyres, new drivers? – Yes & maybe.

      1. @jerejj

        Perez under pressure – He certainly can’t afford another zero-score race, but his scarce championship hopes are effectively over anyway, not that I believed he could outscore over a season in the first place.

        I placed a wager with a couple of my friends who are over zealous Perez (underdog) fans. I knew for a fact that Perez wouldn’t even be 50 points within Max’s total by the mid point of the season. Now I reckon that he’ll be more than 50 points down after the next race weekend.

        Agree with you on the overdose of street circuits. I’m just looking forward to some grass, gravel and run off areas again.

    3. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      31st May 2023, 8:49

      I think we are about to see the true level of Red Bull’s relative performance level here. I expect them to really stretch their legs.

      1. Yes they’ll be lapping the field soon, alonso or anyone don’t have a chance unless redbull dnf

    4. Will Alonso deliver dream win for home fans?
      He will deliver a dream podium for home fans ;) I understand that his this year’s series of podiums triggers the desire for a win, but I don’t think he’s much more likely to win a race than the guy who’s always been coming 4th or 5th this season. RedBull’s domination is just too great and reliability is a non-issue in modern F1 to offer a chance and justify an expectation for Alonso to win a race.

      1. Well, if this turns out like spain 2016, then ofc alonso can win.

    5. Weather-wise it’s not been like last year at all, last week it rained a lot, so the temperatures are not as high as we get around this time. So it’ll be warm, but not ridiculosuly so.

    6. Good to see a proper track, even if it’s this one. Front-loading all these street tracks is a bit of an odd choice by F1. Without that chicane in the final sector teams will probably be able to focus their setup more on the medium and high speed corners given that there will be only two or so actually ‘slow’ corners left.

      It’ll also be interesting to see how the changed Mercedes works around an actual circuit, and hopefully it’ll also allow Ferrari to get a better grip on their tyre handling.

      That said, there’s no reason to think anyone but the two Red Bulls will be claiming the top two spots, but a proper three way battle between Hamilton, Alonso and Leclerc would make up for that to an extent.

      1. notagrumpyfan
        31st May 2023, 11:09

        allow Ferrari to get a better grip on their tyre handling

        I still think Ferrari’s biggest challenge is their race strategy/management.
        It seems that Vasseur so far has only introduced pantomime pitstop calls.

    7. Pedro Andrade
      31st May 2023, 12:43

      The previous chicane was introduced on safety grounds because of limited run-off available at turn 13.

      Since the chicane was put there I always under the impression that the reasoning was to improve overtaking into Turn 1. The sequence of fast right handers is spectacular to watch, but it does not lead to close following, so makes it difficult for overtaking into the approach to Turn 1 (and hence,the chicane was a failed attemp at improving this). Does anyone else have any recollection of this?

      1. No, I agree with the article. The chicane was introduced on grounds of safety. The lack of exit runoff was due to the proximity of the grandstand. The grandstand remains in place, but apparently it’s all perfectly safe now because they’ve simply added a Tecpro barrier…

        The change will improve overtaking. It’s true that following in very fast corners like the new/old one is difficult, but at that super slow chicane, the physical gap for a given time gap was so tiny, and there was very little opportunity to choose a different line to get out of the dirty air, it really killed overtaking.

      2. Like Alesici said it was definitely for safety first, though some sites at time, including this one, thought that it could allow for easier overtaking when it actually made it a lot worse, once you got to the chicane it was all over for your overtaking chances.

        With DRS I think the no chicane layout will be better for overtaking.

    8. Yellow Baron
      31st May 2023, 13:06

      I hope for Alonso he gets a shock win this weekend. Just needs the redbulls to battle into turn 4 on lap 1

    9. No. The Red Bull is dominant on the straights & Barcelona provides exactly that.

    Comments are closed.