F1 Power Rankings: Spanish Grand Prix

After four flyaway races to start the season, the Formula One World Championship returns to Europe to start the heart of the season. The European season runs from May through to mid-September will separate the pretenders from the contenders. Given that we’ve had a pretty varied set of results for the first four races, a little settling into a groove is probably due.

#1 Sebastian Vettel (Last Race #2)
Seb stops just short of saying that Hermann Tilke screwed up the circuit by adding a parallel park of a chicane to Sector 3: “The whole Barcelona circuit is interesting as it includes all types of corners and offers a really good mix, but my favourite part is still the first sector, because it has really quick corners.”

f1-kimi-raikkonen-helmet-2013#2 Kimi Raikkonen (LR #4)
The Iceman knows that the key to winning the championship isn’t his speed on Sunday but his pace on Saturday: “To catch the leaders, we have to work twice as hard as they are. It’s no secret that we want more speed from the car in qualifying; it’s so tight up there at the front and we really need to be on the first two rows to fight for victories every time.”

#3 Fernando Alonso (LR #1)
It’s feast or famine for Fernando and that’s going to have to stop quickly to keep him in the championship hunt. I’m not saying that he left 50 points on the table in Malaysia and Bahrain but I reckon that he lost around 26 points in those races. That’s not enough for the championship lead after four races but it keeps him right there with Seb and those point will definitely be a big deal come October and November.

#4 Lewis Hamilton (LR #3)
With Mercedes thinking about putting half of team personnel onto the 2014 car, this weekend will be the litmus test for the rest of the season: “I’m feeling very comfortable in the car now and we know the areas that we need to improve so a lot of effort is being put in to close that gap to the front-runners. Barcelona should be a good test as we know the circuit so well having completed most of the pre-season test programme there. The weekend should be a good benchmark of the progress we have made since then.”

#5 Felipe Massa (LR #6)
Pirelli Motorsport boss Paul Hembery talks about the revised hard tyre compound that will play a factor this weekend: “We’re introducing a revised version of our hard tyre in Spain, which is closer in characteristics to the 2012 tyre. This new tyre gives us a wider working temperature window – although it delivers a little bit less in terms of pure performance – but it should allow the teams to envisage an even wider variety of race strategies than before in combination with the other compounds, which remain unchanged this year.”

#6 Mark Webber (LR #5)
@AussieGrit talks about why he prefers racing in Europe to the fly-aways at the start of the weekend: “It’s a little bit easier; obviously the travel is very convenient and everything is within a striking distance of two hours. We all know the hotels well and the drill of how to get around. It’s much more straightforward than some of the new venues; it’s a nice time to be racing in Europe with the weather generally and it’s a good atmosphere.”

f1-romain-grosjean-helmet-2013#7 Romain Grosjean (LR #7)
Grosjean says that they’ve sorted out his issues with the car. Could he finally start cashing in on that potential? “It’s no secret that before Bahrain my feeling hasn’t been right with the car. It wasn’t the chassis, the aero or anything like that, but we took a while to get everything to my liking and that’s been frustrating. We managed to put our finger on the issue and I feel much more comfortable now.”

#8 Paul di Resta (LR #11)
Dario might not be doing too well this season but his cousin is making a case for a top seat: “The car is performing well, especially in the heat, and we were also strong in the cooler conditions of China – so that’s a good sign. The key is making sure you find the right operating window whatever the conditions because that’s what makes the difference.”

#9 Nico Rosberg (LR #8)
For Britney, the season starts this weekend: “I’ve been in the factory for a couple of days this week, on the simulator and meeting with the team, and everyone has been working hard to make progress on our race day performance. It will be an interesting weekend and once we see how everyone performs in Barcelona, it should give a good idea of how the rest of the season will look.”

f1-sergio-perez-helmet-2013#10 Sergio Perez (LR #12)
Checo stops just short of saying Hermann Tilke screwed up the circuit by removing the track’s best passing zone: “I hope that the introduction of two DRS zones at Barcelona will help improve the racing. We saw in both China and Bahrain that Formula 1 cars can race really closely if they are under the right conditions; Barcelona has always been a difficult circuit for overtaking, so I hope the new regulations will improve matters.”

f1-jenson-button-helmet-2013#11 Jenson Button (LR #10)
Jenson is philosophical about car upgrades… and hedges his bets about McLaren doing well this season: “There’s been a lot of talk about the importance of next weekend’s upgrades; but, as with every upgrade, they’re simply part of the series of continuous improvement that are made across the season. As always, there’ll be elements of it that work, elements that perhaps work in a different way to what we’d anticipated, and elements that don’t work, or perhaps require further work.”

f1-nico-hulkenberg-helmet-2013#12 Nico Hulkenberg (LR #9)
The Hulk stops just short of saying that Hermann Tilke screwed up the circuit by turning Sector 3 into a Mickey Mouse section: “The circuit is diverse. The first two sectors are fast with fast, long corners, which require good down force and a well-balanced car, whereas the third sector is quite technical. The aero updates we bring to this race will show how well our car is suited to this track.”

#13 Adrian Sutil (LR #13)
Sutil’s pre-race quotes are just utterly devoid of any personality. I’d rather he stab me with a broken champagne flute than make me read those quotes again: “I know Barcelona really well from all the testing we’ve done there over the years. It is important, after three difficult races without points, to finish the race without any incidents. If I do that, I should have the pace to be among the front-runners. I have to do my job, avoid mistakes and hopefully my luck will change.”

#14 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #14)

#15 Jean-Eric Vergne (LR #15)

#16 Valtteri Bottas (LR #16)
Val thinks that the team has momentum heading into this weekend after last year’s Spanish GP win: “The win last year in Barcelona was a big motivational boost for everyone and was a good example of what we can achieve when everything comes together. We are working hard to get back to that level and following a good aero test last week at Idiada and a number upgrades coming for this race, hopefully Barcelona can be the start of improved performance for us this year.”

#17 Pastor Maldonado (LR #17)
However, Pastor is working hard to hedge expectations for this weekend after his fluke win last year: “It will be very special to return to Barcelona after my win there last season. Whilst all the drivers know the track very well and we have some good data from testing here earlier in the year, the track changes quite a lot so you still need to familiarise yourself with the conditions during practice and set up the car accordingly.”

f1-esteban-gutierrez-helmet-2013#18 Esteban Gutierrez (LR #18)
Steve might not be terribly fast but at least he knows what he has to do: “Tyre management will be crucial here, and, especially during a qualifying lap, you need to nurse your tyres in the first two sectors in order to get a clean third sector. You must make sure the tyres still have good grip when you approach the final corners of the lap, including the chicane.”

#19 Jules Bianchi (LR #19)
Jules says that he expects to be even more competitive now that he’s getting back to familiar tracks: “As a driver in my debut season it is good to be heading into the start of the European season. The tracks are very familiar to me from previous formulae and that just provides a further confidence with interpreting the information we collect and how we roll that back into performance.”

#20 Charles Pic (LR #20)

f1-max-chilton-helmet-2013#21 Max Chilton (LR #21)
Max the Axe expects some big development progress this weekend: “We’ve learned a lot in the first four races and quite a lot since, with the technical team having been hard at it in the break. What we bring to the Circuit de Catalunya is the product of four races of evaluation coupled with the next step in our ongoing development path, so it will be interesting to see how we can progress from Bahrain.”

#22 Geido van der Garde (LR #22)

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