This season has seen Red Bull dominate the front of the field and there is little to suggest things will be different when F1 heads to Barcelona, a place that usually rewards the best cars more than most.
Its mix of long straights and varied corners suits a well-balanced package but this season a couple of changes could have an effect.
Barcelona is usually used as a pre-season testing venue, but not this season. In the past, that testing session has allowed teams to tune up their machines to their limit, making it easier to get on the pace for the race weekend. This time, the teams will have a few more question marks than before.
Another potential challenge is the removal of the final chicane, replaced by a sweeping right-hand bend to make up the final corner. This configuration was last used in 2006 – so the only driver on the grid who has experienced this layout in the past is Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.
Barcelona is traditionally where we see the first big car upgrades of the season, but it is usually held much earlier in the season. This year, most teams have introduced developments already, but you can still expect more upgrades here, and out of every track so far it is here where the changes could take the most effect.
So, with all that in mind, as F1 heads to the Circuit de Catalunya, we take a look into the current form.
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23
Photo by: Erik Junius
Charles Leclerc beat Max Verstappen’s Red Bull to pole here last year by an impressive three tenths of a second, with Carlos Sainz backing up in third. That, however, was at a time when Ferrari was the class of the field.
Ferrari has been showing some decent pace in qualifying again this season, with Leclerc claiming pole in Azerbaijan and only narrowly missing out on the top spot at Monaco, but on a track like Barcelona, his odds of 7/2 may not be good enough.
A decent slightly longer shot could be Alonso at 37/5, but the Red Bull pair will be hard to beat and the battle for pole will likely be between Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez, making the latter’s odds of 4/1 reasonable value.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
Lewis Hamilton has the best record in Barcelona as a six-time winner. His Mercedes team introduced upgrades in Monaco that improved his car’s pace, but a seventh victory will be a tough ask unless other teams suffer issues – a fact reflected in his odds of 27/1 for the win.
Verstappen and Perez took a one-two last year, with Perez finishing 13 seconds off his team-mate but almost 20 seconds in front of the rest of the field. If the pair run 1-2 again, expect it to be tighter, so odds of 2/1 for a winning margin of under 5 seconds could be an interesting offer.
Perez seems to suffer all the bad luck in the Red Bull garage, and if it is a head-to-head again it should be Verstappen’s for the taking. The odds say so too, with Verstappen at 37/100 and Perez 16/5.
George Russell claimed the final podium spot in Spain last year and with fourth places at the higher speed circuits of Saudi Arabia and Miami this season, coupled with the upgrades the team has pinned so much hope on, it could be time for the British driver to nose his way onto the podium – Lewis Hamilton having already done so in Australia, where he finished second. In fact, those two facts could make Mercedes’ 34/1 odds for the win look worth a shot.
However, the more likely Red Bull challenger will be home star Fernando Alonso, who is at 9/1 for the win and will be desperate to take top spot at the F1 track closest to his birthplace of Oviedo. He won the Spanish race in 2013 and ten years later, in the on-form Aston Martin could give him another shot, especially if the Red Bull pair come to blows when fighting at the front.
Esteban Ocon, Alpine F1 Team A523
Photo by: Alpine
The big four of Red Bull, Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari are well established up front now, leaving precious little space in the points positions for the rest if the top four teams’ drivers all make it to the finish.
Valtteri Bottas was the highest-placed driver outside the Red Bull, Mercedes or Ferrari camps last year, finishing in sixth position, but the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake has not had such a scintillating start this season. He did finish eighth in the season opener, and he is 18/5 for a Top 10 finish.
Haas hit the heights of eighth and tenth in Spain last year, so there may be some hope for Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg, with both at 51/20 for a points finish. The most likely points contenders are Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly at Alpine, so it is not surprising their odds are 29/100.
The team claimed a double points finish in Miami and the odds of that happening in Spain are 33/50. Ocon was on the podium in Monaco, albeit helped significantly by a good qualifying and a narrow track, but a return to the top three in Spain is decent odds at 17/1.
Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19
Photo by: Erik Junius
Red Bull has enjoyed the lion’s share of fastest laps this year and Sergio Perez claimed it in Spain last year as he tried to chase down his team-mate Verstappen. It is 4/5 for one of the drivers in the team to do it again in Spain.
If Verstappen sets pole and is galloping away up front, there is a fair chance the Dutch driver will want to grab a rare chance to secure a clean sweep – the odds for which (for any driver to achieve) is 3/1.
The race is not typically one of attrition, with just one or two retirements in each of the last four races. The odds of that happening – with more than 17.5 drivers classified – are 11/10.
Meanwhile, if the front of the grid is filled with the big names, the potential for an early retirement could offer a decent pay-off – as if the first driver out is either of the Red Bull drivers, Hamilton, Alonso or Carlos Sainz, the odds are 25/1.
NOTE: The odds in this article were correct at the time of writing.
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