Formula One kick-starts the European leg in Barcelona with the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend.
This track will be familiar to teams, having done winter testing here and will be the first time that a few teams bring major upgrades so expect a slightly calmer weekend in store.
There are however some things to watch out for as the actions heats up across the field.
Circuit: Circuit de Catalunya
Number of laps: 66
Race Distance: 4.655km
Red Bull under control?
After the events of Baku, Red Bull will be under the spotlight as they seek to prove that Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo can work in harmony.
Speaking in Red Bull’s post Azerbaijan race quotes, Team Principal, Christian Horner stated that the “most important thing is to learn” from that collision and “ensure that we avoid a repeat situation”
Well both drivers appear keen to avoid talking about that incident, given that they have both looked ahead to this weekend in their pre race weekend quotes.
Red Bull have also ran two demonstration events during the gap between races, visiting Hungary and Vietnam, which is bound to have kept Verstappen and Ricciardo distracted for much of the break.
Verstappen meanwhile views this race as a “defining moment for the season” given that everyone will be bringing upgrades and Barcelona is often a trendsetter for rest of this season from here on in.
Nevertheless, Red Bull will be a team to watch out for this weekend as they look to put the events of Baku behind them here.
Can Force India continue their improvements?
Baku saw Force India claim a thrilling third place with Sergio Perez, after getting both cars into Q3 for first time this season and left Team Principal, Vijay Mallya feeling that the team has ‘some momentum’ with them going into this weekend.
This weekend will however be a test of whether they can continue to improve further, as they come to a track where both cars finished in top five last season and delivered the team’s best ever result at this track.
Whereas most teams have relevant data from pre-season, this track is bound to feel like a normal race weekend for Force India who didn’t fully debut their car till Australia.
Discussing what he is expecting from this weekend, Perez is excited to see how the car has evolved since the final winter test, saying; “… the car has changed a lot since the pre-season and it will be interesting to feel the difference the upgrades have made.
Esteban Ocon meanwhile is in a relaxed mood following ‘good progress’ made so far throughout each race weekend and is targeting ‘some good points.’
Mallya reiterated the drivers’ thoughts by saying that the team is ‘moving in the right direction’ and that they ‘understand the car more’.
With the midfield so tight with Renault and McLaren in mix, another solid result for the Pink Panthers will definitely put them back into a strong position to match their fourth place constructor finish of last two seasons.
Step forward for Williams?
Baku saw Williams surprise with Lance Stroll getting them off the mark with a eighth-placed finish and both drivers nearly made Q3.
Now that they have shown what they’re capable of, Williams need another step forward here to help build more confidence.
According to Paddy Lowe, the team is bringing a ‘reasonably significant upgrade’, so hopefully this could be where their season truly takes off.
Stroll has admitted that this track isn’t a favourite of his but is excited to see where the track is at now compared to pre-season, when it had just been resurfaced, saying; “it was quite different when we were there during pre-season testing so we will see what it is going to be like when we arrive back here for the race.”
Sergey Sirotkin vacates his FP1 seat for Robert Kubica but is excited to see where the upgrade puts Williams in the pecking order, admitting that ‘it will be nice to see where we are with our bits compared to what other teams bring.’
Upgrades and a resurfaced track in warmer temperatures compared to pre-season is sure to spice up the action and maybe kick start Williams’ season as we start to discover the real pecking order for this season.
Can Spaniards shine on home soil?
Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz will be hoping to impress on home soil, having already produced decent form in the opening flyaways.
Although “you can never beat the feeling of racing in front of your home fans”, Alonso is raring to go after his winning debut in the World Endurance Championship for Toyota last weekend.
Speaking ahead of a hectic few months, the two time World Champion said; “I’m more than ready for the challenge and I’m really excited to see what the next few races bring us.”
Sainz meanwhile enters his home round in high spirits after a thrilling fifth-placed finish a fortnight ago.
Speaking ahead of this weekend, the Renault driver is keen to “look forward and put all of our efforts into backing it up with another positive result in Spain.”
Either way, both drivers go into their home race high on confidence for different reasons so expect to see those two feature high up the order if things run smoothly this weekend.
Missed any of the first four race weekends and want to get up to date? Click on any of the hyperlinks below to go and check out my round up of the weekend.