After four thrilling flyaway races to kick-start the 2018 season, Formula One touched down in Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix.
Dubbed as a “defining moment for the season” by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, this weekend would throw up various challenges from temperature to winds and etc.
We also saw teams bring big upgrades, so what were the biggest lessons to take away from this weekend aside from Lewis Hamilton winning to extend his championship lead to 17 points?
Questions for Force India
After making strides forward last time out with a podium, Force India will be puzzled by this weekend’s performance.
Whilst Haas and McLaren made strides forward, the Pink Panthers were off the pace with various issues from tyre temperatures to a power unit issue for Esteban Ocon, causing the Frenchman to retire from race
Sergio Perez is again talking about “a step forward…” whilst Ocon thinks that “there is still a lot more to come…” but this isn’t first time this season when both drivers have said things along these lines, despite results being weaker than last season but perhaps reflects the progress by other teams.
One positive from this weekend though is that Perez was one of two drivers to convert a two stopper into a points finish, albeit benefitting from several retirements of drivers expected to beat them.
Ultimately, there are bound to be several questions though because Force India are still struggling to move their way through the midfield battle.
Williams Struggle Again
This weekend has been one big nightmare for Williams, who were slowest in every session.
For what looked to be progress in Baku, Williams have taken a huge step back somehow, finishing last in every session with Lance Stroll having two session ending trips into gravel and Sergey Sirotkin the slowest driver in each of his sessions, having vacated his FP1 seat to Robert Kubica.
With behind the scenes progress struggling to translate into improved performances, Chief Technical Officer, Paddy Lowe revealed that the latest upgrades are never a solution for current issues.
Speaking post Qualifying about their poor performance, Lowe said; “We’re working very hard back at the factory on the problems that we understand, but this is yet to be translated to the track.
There’s a lot more to come as the upgrades we’ve brought here were never meant as a solution for our underlying problems.”
The fact that the team didn’t believe that these upgrades would be a solution highlights how serious their struggles are, although perhaps they’re perhaps more of a race solution than across the whole weekend.
Although both cars feel that their car doesn’t suit the circuit, Stroll believes that the team just need to keep “chipping away”.
That is just what they’re going to have to do, especially next time out in Monaco where they have struggled in the hybrid era.
Haas Best of Rest?
Haas definitely look set to be best of the rest if can replicate their performance from this weekend at other circuits.
Only in FP1 did one of their cars fail to finish outside of the top ten, which is solid consistency for a team in only its’ third season in the sport and benefitting from a closer relationship with Ferrari.
Kevin Magnussen however isn’t getting too carried away and instead believes that the team need to continue to improve the car at each race.
Speaking after Qualifying to Haas’ official website, Magnussen said; “… I think our car is strong, and we can be happy with where we are at the moment.
We need to keep up the levels, continue to develop, and keep putting stuff on the car.”
Softs outclass Super-Softs
Tyres definitely played a big factor throughout the weekend with several drivers struggling to make Supersofts work.
Max Verstappen summed up the softest compound perfectly after Friday practice, saying; “The supersoft tyre doesn’t seem to be particularly quick and is hard to get working…”
That was certainly true with Force India’s Sergio Perez being one driver caught out in Q2 by the tyre performance issue with his car “sliding around”.
Up front, Ferrari had more supersofts than Mercedes but the Silver Arrows dominated practice without using the supersofts much compared to the Prancing Horses.
Qualifying however saw the Scuderia switch on the faster tyres quicker but Mercedes managed to finally find that sweet spot when it mattered in Q3, locking out the front row.
That pleased Valtteri Bottas who told the team’s official website post qualifying; “It was good to work the SuperSoft tyre a bit better today, it felt like a better tyre for us so we have made some good progress in that area.”
The Finn does have a point because there wasn’t much between the two softest compounds in terms of time, which is very unusual, so could this be a sign that the softest compound might not be the quickest at each race?
Future is bright
This weekend saw GP3 kick off its new season on the support calendar and between it and Formula Two, the future is bright for F1, judging by this weekend’s race winners..
Ferrari meanwhile saw Giuliano Alesi rediscover his Sunday form from last season when he took a trio of GP3 race two victories to win a chaotic wet race for Trident.
Nevertheless, all four drivers produced solid performances of skill, speed and most importantly race craft to take victory and prove that F1’s future is bright.
Aitken meanwhile appear to be the most happiest of the four winners, judging by his Twitter post.
Not much to say, other than… BOOOOOM 😆 First win in F2 in wet/dry (fun times) conditions 🏆🙈 pic.twitter.com/N4MMu0cDqq
— Jack Aitken – 한세용 (@JaitkenRacer) 13 May 2018