With the four flyaway races out of the way, the Formula One season sees something of a reset at the Circuit de Catalunya. With Mercedes leading the way, many teams will hope the Spanish Grand Prix marks a turning point as the development race moves up a gear. The TCF Form Guide looks at the chances of the Silver Arrows being blunted in Barcelona.
|6. NICO ROSBERG – MERCEDES (79 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 5th, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd||Best In Spain: 6th (2007, 2013)|
Although he has finished in the top two at every race and leads the championship on arrival back in Europe, Nico Rosberg is a man under pressure in Barcelona. The 25 point head start earned with victory in Melbourne has now all-but disappeared and if Lewis Hamilton beats him again in Spain, Nico will suddenly be playing catch-up in the title chase. The German outqualified and outraced Hamilton here a year ago and if Mercedes can avoid the tyre problems that crippled them in that race, Nico has the perfect opportunity to wrestle back the initiative.
|44. LEWIS HAMILTON – MERCEDES (75 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 9th, DNF, 1st, 1st, 1st||Best In Spain: 2nd (2007, 2011)|
In 2014, Lewis Hamilton is already making a habit of winning races at circuits that haven’t favoured him in the past and Catalunya is another that falls into that category. The Briton has never won here but he starts this weekend as the odds-on favourite after three straight success in the flyaways. The three week break may have halted his momentum but Hamilton clearly has a psychological edge over Nico Rosberg and another victory here cold do more damage to his teammate’s morale.
|14. FERNANDO ALONSO – FERRARI (41 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 3rd, 4th, 4th, 9th, 3rd||Best In Spain: Winner (2006, 2013)|
The 2014 Spanish Grand Prix marks a one-year anniversary that Ferrari won’t enjoy being reminded of. Fernando Alonso’s triumph on home soil was the last time the Scuderia tasted victory but Shanghai did at least suggest the first steps on the road to recovery have been taken. Fernando was the only driver remotely capable of challenging the Mercedes duo and a podium finish was the least his performance deserved. Making the next step to actually match Mercedes may be beyond him for the moment but Alonso can surely aspire to lead the chasing pack.
|27. NICO HULKENBERG – FORCE INDIA MERCEDES (36 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 8th, 6th, 5th, 5th, 6th||Best In Spain: 10th (2012)|
Force India remain the leading Mercedes customer team after Nico Hulkenberg’s excellent start to 2014 continued in China. Despite a late challenge from Valtteri Bottas, Hulkenberg brought his VJM-07 home in the top six for the fourth time in four races. Force India’s 2013 campaign fell apart when they were out-developed as the season went on and Barcelona will bring the first test as they look to avoid a similar fate this time around. Wherever they fall in the pecking order, Hulkenberg will certainly do the car justice.
| 1. SEBASTIAN VETTEL – RED BULL RACING RENAULT (33 PTS)
|Last 5 Races: 1st, DNF, 3rd, 6th, 5th||Best In Spain: Winner (2011)|
For years, Catalunya has been seen as the archetypal Red Bull circuit given the technical challenge it places on the cars but Sebastian Vettel only has one victory here. He would dearly love to make it two on Sunday. One of the reasons for his modest record in Barcelona is that he was often outpaced there by his Australian teammate and that is a fate Vettel will be desperate to avoid this weekend. Ignoring team orders brought more unwanted headlines but the bottom line in China was that Sebastian the slower of the two Red Bull drivers and he will want to fight back in Spain.
|3. DANIEL RICCIARDO – RED BULL RACING RENAULT (24 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 10th, DSQ, DNF, 4th, 4th||Best In Spain: 10th (2013)|
Few drivers have enhanced their reputations as much as Daniel Ricciardo so far this season with the Australian proving that he is not just a thorn in Sebastian Vettel’s side, but a genuine threat to his supremacy. Whatever the issues his teammate may be suffering with, Ricciardo’s performances cannot be understated and after consecutive fourth place finishes in Bahrain and China, Daniel will be hoping that Barcelona brings a step up onto the podium and a piece of silverware he will be allowed to keep.
|77. VALTTERI BOTTAS – WILLIAMS MERCEDES (24 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: DNF, 5th, 8th, 8th, 7th||Best In Spain: 16th (2013)|
Valtteri Bottas hardly had a straightforward race in Shanghai but he still secured seventh, coming up just short of stealing sixth from Nico Hulkenberg. Contact at the start cost him valuable positions and a loss of telemetry complicated matters still further but Valtteri kept his head to score six important points. Like most teams, Williams will be bringing upgrades to Barcelona and the effect of those will determine whether the team have truly missed an opportunity by failing to convert their early promise into as many points as they would’ve liked.
|22. JENSON BUTTON – McLAREN MERCEDES (23 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 4th, 3rd, 6th, 17th, 11th||Best In Spain: Winner (2009)|
Shanghai was nothing short of disastrous for McLaren with the deficiencies of the MP4-29 being exposed for the world to see. Cold and wet conditions for qualifying meant Jenson Button couldn’t generate tyre temperature and the situation hardly improved in the race as the Briton failed to score a point. The return to Europe at least allows McLaren to make something of a fresh start and Jenson will hope that some of the car’s faults have been addressed, as well as for some warmer weather.
|20. KEVIN MAGNUSSEN – McLAREN MERCEDES (20 PTS)|
|Won both Formula Renault 3.5 races at Circuit de Catalunya in 2013||Best In Spain: Debut|
The Circuit de Catalunya played host to one of the biggest moments of Kevin Magnussen’s young career when the Dane clinched the Formula Renault 3.5 title here in October. He trumped that with second on his F1 debut in Melbourne but the rookie has found it tougher going since then. In fairness to Kevin, his problems haven’t been exclusive to his own side of the garage and if McLaren can get to the route of their issues, Magnussen will surely return to form again.
|11. SERGIO PEREZ – FORCE INDIA MERCEDES (18 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 6th, 10th, DNS, 3rd, 9th||Best In Spain: 9th (2011, 2013)|
After his podium in Bahrain, the question was asked about Sergio Perez’s ability to deliver that level of performance consistently. Shanghai didn’t exactly provide the most convincing of answers. The Mexican driver was nowhere in the wet conditions and subsequently qualified sixteenth and although he recovered to score points, Perez trailed home half a minute behind teammate Nico Hulkenberg. Force India will be anxiously waiting to see which Sergio turns up this weekend.
|19. FELIPE MASSA – WILLIAMS MERCEDES (12 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 7th, DNF, 7th, 7th, 15th||Best In Spain: Winner (2007)|
For the second time in four races, Felipe Massa’s pace went without reward as the Brazilian failed to score points through no fault of his own. His first lap aggression could have landed him in trouble but in the end it was a botched pit stop that destroyed his race, leaving him a frustrated fifteenth. Felipe enjoyed success in Spain throughout his Ferrari career with a victory in 2007 and the last of his 36 podiums twelve months ago. A return to the rostrum will be the aim and Williams will expect to be contenders at the sharp end this weekend.
|7. KIMI RAIKKONEN – FERRARI (11 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: n/a, 7th, 12th, 10th, 8th||Best In Spain: Winner (2005, 2008)|
Kimi Raikkonen’s miserable 2014 season hit another low in China as the Finn watched his teammate drive a masterful race to finish on the podium while he toiled around in eighth. A technical problem on Friday morning hardly helped but the one-minute gap between the two scarlet cars was still far too big from Kimi’s point of view. Three weeks on, Raikkonen hopes to have a better understanding of the F14 T and he will need to if he has hopes of reversing the worrying trend between the two Ferrari teammates.
|25. JEAN-ERIC VERGNE – STR RENAULT (4 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 15th, 8th, DNF, DNF, 12th||Best In Spain: 12th (2012)|
Jean-Eric Vergne looked well placed to score points after his wet weather skills lifted him to ninth but a poor start undid all that hard work. The Frenchman fell to fourteenth in the early laps and once he was caught behind Jenson Button’s Mercedes-powered McLaren, any chance of progress was minimal. For reasons not all his own making, Vergne has now failed to score since the opening race in Australia and with overtaking tricky in Barcelona, Jean-Eric will fancy his chances of changing that on Sunday.
|26. DANIIL KVYAT – STR RENAULT (4 PTS)|
|Scored points in three of the first four races||Best In Spain: Debut|
With his third points finish in four races, Daniil Kvyat continues to win admirers with every Grand Prix he takes part in. The youngest driver in the field got the better of Formula One’s most experienced driver in Jenson Button to claim the final point and with Kvyat now arriving at circuits where he has GP3 experience, the Russian will expect to add to his tally in the coming months. Toro Rosso’s biggest obstacle may come in the form of other teams that develop their way out of trouble.
|8. ROMAIN GROSJEAN – LOTUS RENAULT (0 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: DNF, DNF, 11th, 12th, DNF||Best In Spain: 4th (2012)|
Although he hasn’t been rewarded with any points yet, Romain Grosjean continues to work wonders in the recalcitrant Lotus E22. Rain in qualifying may have levelled the playing field but reaching Q3 was still a sensational achievement for the Frenchman. A gearbox problem ensured Romain’s wait for a top ten finish would go on but with Lotus, and more importantly Renault, gradually getting on top of their problems, that wait is unlikely to go on for much longer.
|99. ADRIAN SUTIL – SAUBER FERRARI (0 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 13th, 11th, DNF, DNF, DNF||Best In Spain: 7th (2010)|
With the four flyaway races over and done with, Adrian Sutil’s Sauber career is still waiting to take off. The German has failed to finish three straight races for the first time since 2008 and an engine problem was the cause for his Chinese retirement, the problem striking before the race had even started. With Sauber still waiting for their first point of 2014, they will be more nervous than most as they await the result of their Barcelona upgrade and Sutil will hope his updated C33 has gained pace and reliability.
|21. ESTEBAN GUTIERREZ – SAUBER FERRARI (0 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 12th, 12th, DNF, DNF, 16th||Best In Spain: 11th (2013)|
While every driver craves a fast car, racing in uncompetitive machinery can present an opportunity to demonstrate your talents by outperforming the package underneath you. Esteban Gutierrez didn’t exactly do that in Shanghai with his teammate Adrian Sutil outqualifying him by almost a second in wet and the Mexican was sixteenth in the race, behind the likes of Pastor Maldonado in the Lotus. In one of the little known facts of 2013, Gutierrez set the fastest lap in Barcelona but a solitary point would be much more welcome than that this weekend.
|4. MAX CHILTON – MARUSSIA FERRARI (0 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 19th, 13th, 15th, 13th, 19th||Best In Spain: 19th (2013)|
The finishing streak continues with Max Chilton coming home in nineteenth at the Chinese Grand Prix but behind that statistic lies an all-too familiar problem. The Briton was a long way behind Marussia teammate Jules Bianchi in both qualifying and the race and for Max to have a long term Formula One future, that must surely change. A first DNF in Formula One this weekend wouldn’t be seen as a bad result if that retirement comes whilst leading Bianchi on circuit. Pace is what Max must be judged on now.
|10. KAMUI KOBAYASHI – CATERHAM RENAULT (0 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: n/a, DNF, 13th, 15th, 18th||Best In Spain: 5th (2012)|
The aggressive overtaking that we all came to know Kamui Kobayashi for returned in Shanghai but it was all for nought after the chequered flag mix-up which brought the result forward two laps, before his pass on Jules Bianchi. Although it didn’t effect his result, the pass on Sebastian Vettel mid-race did bring a smile to a few faces at Caterham but the big picture remains the battle with Marussia and Kobayashi will hope the team’s Barcelona upgrade package tips the balance in their favour.
|13. PASTOR MALDONADO – LOTUS RENAULT (0 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 16th, DNF, DNF, 14th, 14th||Best In Spain: Winner (2012)|
Two years on, Pastor Maldonado returns to the scene of his finest hour in Formula One and it wouldn’t be unfair to say his stock has fallen since then. The move to Lotus was hoped to bring a repeat of 2012’s remarkable victory but so far it has only yielded three points, and those were on his licence. There does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel for Lotus though and if the car holds together, Pastor will be in with a shot of opening his championship points account.
|9. MARCUS ERICSSON – CATERHAM RENAULT (0 PTS)|
|Finished on the podium in the 2011 GP2 Catalunya Sprint Race
||Best In Spain: Debut|
At the back of the grid, Shanghai saw two specific mini-races with Kamui Kobayashi and Jules Bianchi doing battle, leaving their teammates to squabble over the proverbial wooden spoon. Marcus Ericsson eventually got it after being pipped by Max Chilton and the Swede blamed oversteer for his struggles throughout the race. From the rookie’s point of view, a return to the familiarity of Barcelona should put him at less of a disadvantage and Marcus will want to make inroads into the gap between him and Kobayashi.
|17. JULES BIANCHI – MARUSSIA FERRARI (0 PTS)|
|Last 5 Races: 17th, DNF, DNF, 16th, 17th||Best In Spain: 18th (2013)|
At the fourth time of asking, Jules Bianchi was finally able to complete a Grand Prix without reliability problems or contact on the opening lap to set him back. The Frenchman reasserted his authority over teammate Max Chilton and won his battle with Kamui Kobayashi, even if he needed the early appearance of the chequered flag to do it. With Marussia clinging on to tenth in the constructors championship and Caterham promising a significant upgrade, Jules’ performances in particular will be all-important for Marussia.