F1 returned to Europe in Spain with the Spanish Grand Prix. The weekend saw some notable surprises throughout the weekend, ending with Lewis Hamilton claiming his second win at Circuit de Catalunya.
After an interesting weekend for every team, what did we learn from the Spanish Grand Prix?
After struggling in the flyaways, you would be forgiven for expecting Lance Stroll to start delivering from now on.
The young Canadian struggled in practice, despite having new upgrades. That translated into a tight Q1 exit.
Williams can’t afford to have Stroll starting low down the grid, if they want decent results.
As for the race, Stroll did a great job of escaping the chaos on run down to turn one. He however failed to capitalise and push on into the points, finishing behind both Sauber and Haas cars.
Surely alarm bells need to be ringing now at Williams with three critical races coming up; Monaco, Canada and Baku.
In my preview for this season, I commented on Stroll’s pre season struggles and whether a driver swap is necessary come mid season. On the evidence so far, I might be right in thinking that a switch could end up happening soon.
2. Red Bull moves closer
Red Bull brought major upgrades to Catalunya this weekend. Those improvements seem to have helped them close the gap to Ferrari and Mercedes on single lap pace.
With Adrian Newey at the helm, if they can keep improving the car, expect a three team tussle by Singapore.
Max Verstappen seemed comfortable in the upgraded car from first practice, so expect to see him lead the Bulls’ charge towards the front.
3. Mercedes masterclass
Mercedes delivered a masterclass in how to outfox their rivals through a hold up then taking advantage of a virtual safety car.
Given that Ferrari are equal on pace now, the Silver Arrows will need to force their hand early from now on in, if want wins.
Virtual safety car periods will also be a key factor in turning a slower race strategy into 25 points.
All in all, expect plenty of close on track battles with the pit walls playing mind games till Abu Dhabi.
4. Unpredictable midfield
The midfield this weekend has been tighter than anticipated with several teams split by a few hundredths of a second.
If the increased competition down the grid is representative, we could be in for some thrilling qualifying sessions.
The head and cross winds were huge factors in yesterday’s qualifying session. Track temperature also tended to vary throughout the hour.
Monaco will provide an indicator as to whether it was just those factors that saw such fierce drama at the end of Q1 & 2.
If not, qualifying might just be as important as the races for lower points positions, throughout the rest of this season.
5. Consistent Kingfishers
Force India are having a splendid start to this season.
The consistency in their racing standard so far has been just wonderful to see as they slowly creep towards the front.
Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon have done an excellent job this weekend. At the end of Friday practice, the car looked firmly in midfield but Saturday brought surprise improvements in pace.
The race start was frantic but both drivers kept their cool to carve their way through the mayhem to fifth and sixth positions.
Valtteri Bottas’ retirement elevated them up further, which is a great credit to the ability of both drivers.
Vijay Mallya might not be at the race but he should be proud of how far his team has come in nearly a decade.
To have his cars delivering points in the early races with excellent reliability is something to marvel at, given that most fans would expect those above them to have that form.
Monaco comes up next. Check back early next week for a preview ahead of F1’s jewel in the crown.