F1 Power Rankings: Spanish Grand Prix

After a three-week break which included the first in-season test session since 2008, the 2012 Formula One World Championship is set to resume with the European portion of the season. This weekend is the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya. This track is home to the majority of F1’s pre-season testing but a lot has changed since testing in February and March.
#1 Lewis Hamilton (Last Race #2)
Old Louise Hamilton thinks that overtaking will be nearly impossible this weekend: “It’ll be interesting to see how straightforward overtaking will be this year. It’s always been a tough place for passing – as I found out last year – but I really hope DRS and KERS-Hybrid combined will make it a little easier. I think it’s going to be one of the toughest tracks of the year for overtaking, but I’ll be hoping for a strong performance in qualifying in order to make it as straightforward as possible in the race.”

#2 Mark Webber (LR #3)
@AussieGrit is hoping to convert his string of polls in the Spanish GP into a win to make him the fifth consecutive different winner this season: “I like the Barcelona track, we do a lot of work there and it’s a track that’s been good to me in the past. I got pole there for the last two years and converted it to a win in 2010, so I’m looking for a strong weekend. It’s tight amongst the teams, so we’re mindful that we need to get everything right to get a good weekend.”

#3 Jenson Button (LR #1)
Jenson thinks that setup is critical this week because of how well the teams know the circuit: “Because every team is so dialled in to the track, even having a well-sorted car isn’t necessarily the answer because it’s sometimes the smallest differences that determine the order. You need to have absolutely every box ticked if you’re going to win at Barcelona. It’s a place that punishes poor balance like almost nowhere else – if your car is understeering around here, then you’re going to really struggle.”

#4 Sebastian Vettel (LR #4)
Vettel feels good about this week’s race because of all the track time he’s had there: “Of all the current GP tracks, Barcelona is the one that we know the most because we have done so much testing there in recent years. That said, the knowledge that you gain at the tests doesn’t always help due to the changing wind direction that occurs there, which can sometimes give you a nasty surprise, especially into Turn 1. But in general, a car that functions well aerodynamically in Barcelona will work everywhere – so it will be an interesting weekend.”

#5 Nico Rosberg (LR #7)
Keke’s kid doesn’t expect an easy go of it in Barcelona: “I am really looking forward to next weekend and racing in Europe again. It’s quite unique to come to a track where we have done so many laps in winter testing, however the race weekend will be a completely different challenge. The test in Mugello this week was very positive for us, and I believe we will arrive in Barcelona with a much better understanding of the tyres and how we need to set our car up. Despite the familiarity of the track, there will still be a lot of work for us to do, and it should be a good challenge.”

#6 Kimi Raikkonen (LR #8)

#7 Fernando Alonso (LR #5)
Fernando knows there’s almost a one-second gap to close before Ferrari can call itself a legitimate contender for this season: “We will try to reduce the gap with the leaders at the moment because we were on average eight or nine tenths off the top guys in the first four races between Q1 and Q3. We need to reduce this immediately if we want to be in the fight for points and the championship. In Barcelona, we need to do the first step. We know there is no magic button that in Barcelona we will be on pole position, because everyone will improve their cars as well. But we need to reduce this gap.”

#8 Michael Schumacher (LR #6)
Old Seven Time thinks the development work done on the car in last week’s test gives the team a good starting point for future development: “After completing our testing programme in Mugello, we are now heading to the start of the European season in Barcelona next week. The positive thing about the test was that we could really concentrate on the developments we were aiming to work on. This should give us a good basis for further developments, even if maybe not for the next race to come.”

#9 Romain Grosjean (LR #13)

#10 Paul di Resta (LR #12)
Dario’s cousin didn’t get a lot of running done during the Mugello test so it looks like the three practice sessions this week are his defacto test session: “We didn’t do a massive number of laps [at the test] but it was a chance to start evaluating some of our car developments. There’s still plenty of work to do in free practice to get on top of the car, but we’ve already done the basic checks.”

#11 Bruno Senna (LR #10)
This week’s most generic pre-race quote comes from Senna the Younger. He says many things but doesn’t really say anything: “Barcelona is one of my favourite tracks and I get a lot of support there so I am really looking forward to the race. It is a very tough circuit physically and mentality, with plenty of high speed corners and a technical last sector which separates the drivers. Lots of cars will come to Barcelona with new parts so it will be interesting to see who has progressed.”

#12 Sergio Perez (LR #9)
Checo Perez has good memories of the Circuit de Catalunya. I do too. The track usually allows me to have a mid-race nap: “To me the race at the Circuit de Catalunya is one of the most special ones on the calendar. I obviously know the circuit very well from GP2, from last year’s Formula One race and, of course, from testing. It was there where I scored my first ever F1 points last year when I finished ninth. I hope to get some points again this year. Our recent race in Bahrain was very disappointing, so I really hope our new aero package will work well in Barcelona.”

#13 Felipe Massa (LR #15)
Phil thinks there’s still lots of work for the Scuderia still to do: “To close the gap you need to improve much more than the others and they are working and improving. In three weeks, you see cars improving by two or three tenths, so we need to make a huge step forward. Definitely [winning races] is a bit too optimistic but when we have new parts and everything on the car then we can talk better. Without trying the new parts it is difficult to say, but to close the gap to the guys in front and win races is a little bit too optimistic – but we hope.”

#14 Kamui Kobayashi (LR #11)
Kobayashi Maru thinks this weekend will help predict the rest of the season: “At the Mugello test I definitely had the feeling our new update to the car is a step forward for us. This is good, of course, but only at the Barcelona circuit will we be able to tell how much of an improvement it really is… If you really manage to get it right there this normally means the car can be fast on other circuits as well. It will be a challenging weekend for us drivers as well as for the car and the engineers, and I am very much looking forward to going racing again.”

#15 Pastor Madonado (LR #16)
The cars haven’t even taken to the track for the weekend but Pastor’s already making excuses for a poor performance: “We have done a lot of running here pre-season so hopefully that experience will help this weekend. It is a very enjoyable circuit to drive, technical but still quick with turns three and nine a real test. It is also difficult to set the car up here because there are high, medium and slow speed corners. We have been working hard since the last race and hopefully the updates we bring will lead to some good points.”

#16 Nico Hulkenberg (LR #14)
Nico talks us through the tricky parts of a lap of the track. It’s a Tilke-drome so the Coles Notes version is to not fall asleep: “The first sector through turns one, two and three is tricky and you need to treat them as one corner. A mistake in one or two will hurt you through three and cost your laptime. It feels great when you get them just right. Also, the final sector is quite technical: it’s slow and twisty, especially the last chicane and it’s easy to drop time at the end of the lap.”

#17 Jean-Eric Vergne (LR #17)
Pirelli’s Paul Hembry discusses the company’s tyre selection for this weekend’s race: “There is a whole step in between our two nominations for the first time this year and this should allow the teams to come up with a number of different tyre strategies that could make a big difference to the final outcome. With many teams having expanded their knowledge of our tyre range and tested new components at Mugello, we’re expecting a closely-fought Spanish Grand Prix – and maybe even the fifth different winner in five races.”

#18 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #18)

#19 Heikki Kovalainen (LR #19)
Didn’t Kovalainen slag the Bahrain Circuit last time out and now likes the even more boring Circuit de Catalunya? “Barcelona’s a good circuit where the main challenge is to nail everything absolutely perfectly. If you make a half a tenth of a mistake it can cost you a grid position and it’s a race weekend where you have to focus on the details to give yourself the best chance of success. It’s a track with a lot of high-speed corners, some where you have to be really on it to save time, and you have to be pretty committed going into the braking zone in T1 as that’s where there is an overtaking chance.”

#20 Vitaly Petrov (LR #20)
Comrade Vitaly wants to put in more performances like the team already has this season. The two Caterham drivers are behind the two Marussia drivers in the standings: “Barcelona is a track I know well and one I like racing on. I was on the podium there in GP2 in 2009 and while I know that’s out of reach for us at the moment, we will all be focusing on continuing to take the fight to the cars ahead and repeating the sort of performances we’ve put in so far this season, particularly on Sundays.”

#21 Timo Glock (LR #21)
Interestingly, our boy Tim O’Glock talks about the change in logistics for teams from the flyaway races to running in Europe: “I am looking forward to the Spanish Grand Prix and the start of the European season. After racing overseas for the opening rounds it is great to be back in Europe. The logistics are much easier for the team and the journey is shorter for everyone, so we can get straight down to business.”

#22 Charles Pic (LR #22)
Chuckie’s priority is now achieving the goals that have been set by himself and the team: “As a team we have goals and also on a personal level I want to keep progressing. I feel settled and comfortable with the team and the car, so I now want to keep improving. The Circuit de Catalunya is a track I know well; I have raced here a few times now. I am feeling good about the direction we are heading in and I’m looking forward to the weekend.”

#23 Pedro De La Rosa (LR #23)

#24 Narain Karthikeyan (LR #24)

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