F1 Power Rankings: Spanish Grand Prix

After a three-week break, the Formula One circus resumes for the month of May. For the first time this season, the teams will be able to enjoy home cooking just a little bit longer as the European portion of the season begins in Spain.

What will the move to Europe bring? Some new aero upgrades, races starting at a more reasonable time for North American fans and probably more of the same at the head of the field. Until there are some serious changes to the rules formula, we’re going to be waiting a long time to see if Mercedes slips.

f1-lewis-hamilton-helmet-2015#1 Lewis Hamilton (Last Race #1)
Old Lewis talks about just about everything but driving a car in his pre-race quotage: “The weather is always good and the circuit is a real test of every aspect of the car, which is why we go testing there. It’s a great city, too. The architecture is stunning and it’s a young, vibrant place so I always enjoy the weekend. Racing there is tough – it’s usually hot and the circuit is incredibly physical.”

f1-nico-rosberg-helmet-2015#2 Nico Rosberg (LR #2)
Keke’s kid thought he had fun in Bahrain. Did he forget the part where Raikkonen pressured him into a mistake for 2nd? “The race in Bahrain was definitely the most enjoyable of the season for me so far. It was a really good fight out there and it gave me the chance to show what I can do in a close battle. Although we had a problem at the end, the car felt fantastic and I could really push hard to get my positions back.”

f1-sebastian-vettel-helmet-2015#3 Sebastian Vettel (LR #3)
Pirelli Motorsport boss Paul Hembrey says some things about tyres I don’t understand: “One of the things we have noticed so far is that this year Barcelona will once again be a front-limited circuit, from a tyre perspective. Last year, the increase in traction and torque from the cars meant that for the first time the race became a rear-limited event, with the useful life of the rear tyres dictating the pit stop strategy. Thanks to the improvements we made to the rear tyre construction for this year, we’re back to Barcelona being a front-limited circuit again.”

#4 Kimi Raikkonen (LR #4)

f1-valtteri-bottas-helmet-2015#5 Valtteri Bottas (LR #6)
#BO77AS realizes that the real race is on Saturday: “Barcelona is a track everyone knows really well as we’ve done plenty of laps there this season in testing. It’s one of those tracks where if you are good in qualifying you can have a good race as overtaking isn’t that easy. I’m confident that we will have a good chance to fight for a strong position.”

f1-felipe-massa-helmet-2015#6 Felipe Massa (LR #5)
Old Phil looks forward to starting the climb back to 2nd in the WCC with a good result this weekend: “We have shown in the first few races that we have a good car and a few upgrades will be appearing in Spain that we need to make the most of if we are going to close the gap to the cars in front. It’s good to be back in Europe and I hope we can start this part of the season with a strong result.”

#7 Daniel Ricciardo (LR #10)

f1-romain-grosjean-helmet-2015#8 Romain Grosjean (LR #8)
Like the rest of us, Romain hates the Tilke-designed final sector: “I quite like the first section of the circuit in particular; it’s fast and you get a lot of grip from the car as you can really feel the downforce pushing you hard to the road. I’m a bit less of a fan of the final sector which is twisty but that’s where you can make the most lap time improvement so it’s important to get it right.”

#9 Max Verstappen (LR #9)

f1-felipe-nasr-helmet-2015#10 Felipe Nasr (LR #7)
While his teammate has a different opinion, New Phil thinks downforce is the key: ” It is a technical track, which requires a good downforce due to its high-speed corners, as well as strong traction because of its slow-speed corners in the last sector. These are the two main factors for a good lap time. We have to maximise everything we have and take every opportunity to fight again for points.”

#11 Sergio Perez (LR #17)
Checo likens the Barcelona Circuit to Sepang. That’s the worst case scenario for Force India: “As a track, Barcelona is a demanding place to drive a Formula One car, with both fast and slow sections. It’s a big test of the aero package – similar to somewhere like Sepang. Overtaking is never easy because it’s difficult to get really close to another car, so good track position really pays off.”

#12 Carlos Sainz (LR #12)

f1-marcus-ericsson-helmet-2015#13 Marcus Ericsson (LR #11)
Marcus talks about how tyre management will be critical this weekend: “The track is quite demanding for the tyres, especially for the left front tyre and mainly because of turn three, which is a long, right-hand bend. Normally with the warmer temperatures in Barcelona, I assume the tyre degradation will be quite high. Thus, it will be crucial to find a set-up on which we are able to set good lap times, as well as having good tyre management.”

#14 Nico Hulkenberg (LR #15)
The Hulk does his usual job of walking us through this week’s track: “As a whole, there is a nice mix of different corners which makes this a very interesting circuit. Overtaking has always been difficult there, even with the introduction of the slow chicane at the end of the lap. The final corner is still fairly quick and it’s difficult to follow another car closely. You have to lift to avoid running wide, and that usually takes away the opportunity for overtaking into turn one.”

#15 Daniil Kvyat (LR #14)

f1-pastor-maldonado-helmet-2015#16 Pastor Maldonado (LR #13)
Pastor has yet to score a point in a top ten car but he thinks things are going well: “It was a complicated start to the season, the first four races were tough. It wasn’t easy to be hit by other drivers for both Australia and Malaysia! I think we learnt a lot from the first two races however as we made a good jump in performance by the Chinese Grand Prix because we had learnt so much about our car. We are closer to our rivals, the teams we’re targeting for the championship, and our race pace improved significantly.”

f1-fernando-alonso-helmet-2015#17 Fernando Alonso (LR #16)
Alonso is hoping the car lives up to his expectation for his home race: “We are seeing improvements race by race, and I want to ensure that we maintain this consistency throughout this weekend. It will be very difficult, as other teams will also have been working hard to develop their cars too, but I’m hopeful that the start of the European season will be positive for us and allow us to carry momentum into the next few races.”

f1-jenson-button-helmet-2015#18 Jenson Button (LR #18)
JB is also looking for progress over the last three weeks: “It’s difficult to overtake there, so we’ll be working on our qualifying performance from the outset to try and push us up the pecking order. We’ve made good strides over the past few races, and that effort has continued right through the break between Bahrain and Spain, so I’m excited to see where we are and work with my engineers to keep pushing the boundaries of our previous performances at every opportunity.”

f1-will-stevens-helmet-2015#19 Will Stevens (LR #19)
Rather than hear from Will, here’s team principal John Booth about the team’s aero upgrades: “The first few races enabled us to gather plenty of information and we have now started to roll this back into the development cycle. We will be running the first of those steps on the cars this weekend in the form of a small aerodynamic upgrade. There is still a great deal of work to do beyond that to try to raise our performance level, however given our starting point, we are pleased to be making steps forward in line with our clear plan.”

f1-roberto-merhi-helmet-2014#20 Roberto Merhi (LR #20)
Roberto gets to run his first home race in a Formula One car. Manor or not, that’s a pretty big moment for any driver: “A home race is always exciting, so to be racing in front of the Spanish fans in a Formula 1 car for the first time is something very special for me. It’s a circuit I know really well, of course, and I love the high-speed nature of the track. The crowd at the Circuit de Barcelona are also very passionate so the atmosphere is pretty electric.”

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