2016 Spanish Grand Prix Practice Review

Circuit-de-Barcelona-Catalunya_3137685

Nico Rosberg wins the Chinese Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton in second place and Kimi Raikkonen in third place. McLaren and Toro Rosso also managed to achieve points from this race.

The Circuit de Catalunya is also known as Circuit de Barcelona and is situated only 32 kilometers from Barcelona and 18 kilometers from the Barcelona-Maresme Coast. With long straights and a good blend of corners it is seen as an all-rounder circuit. The circuit layout tests every aspect of a cars performance, aero, mechanical and engine. It is very often used for testing during the winter, so the teams know the circuit quite well. This has led to criticism that drivers and mechanics are too familiar with Catalunya, reducing the amount of on-track action.

Circuit de Catalunya is a very different kind of circuit. The erratic weather conditions, particularly the prevailing winds, can destabilise the car’s aerodynamic balance, so the teams are continually trying to find the perfect set-up. Even the slightest change in the weather or track conditions, due to the amount of rubber laid down, has a big impact. The tyres are under high loadings, particularly the front left tyre which has to work hard in right-hand corners such as turns 3 and 9. It is very important to find the perfect balance to look after the tyres.

The track is 4.65 kilometers long with a total of 16 corners, 9 right turns and 7 left turns. Minimum track width is 11 meters. The direction is clockwise. The engines will spend each lap of the race at about 57 percent full throttle, so top end speeds are important. This is most crucially on the start and finish straight which will see the drivers flat out for almost 1,000 meters. Overtaking is not easy, therefore a good qualifying performance is vital. Statistically, it is more important to start from pole position in Barcelona than it is at other circuits because many Spanish Grand Prix have been won from the pole.

Practices 1, 2 and 3

The main headline from the Practice sessions is that Mercedes and Ferrari look to have the driver-car package to beat this weekend as weather conditions and tyre management which will test the drivers, teams and the cars throughout Friday and Saturday practice sessions.

Sebastian Vettel tops the timesheets in FP1.

Sebastian Vettel tops the timesheets in FP1.

Practice 1 saw Sebastian Vettel tops the timesheet with a time of 1.23.951 followed closely by Kimi Raikkonen with a gap of 0.138 seconds behind, Nico Rosberg was in third with a gap of 0.503 seconds behind, Lewis Hamilton in fourth with a gap of 0.660 seconds behind and Daniel Ricciardo in fifth with a gap of 1.465 seconds behind Vettel.

Max Verstappen is sixth with a gap of 1.634 seconds behind, Valtteri Bottas is seventh with a gap of 1.721 seconds behind, Carlos Sainz Jr is eighth with a gap of 2.127 seconds behind, Felipe Massa is ninth with a gap of 2.235 seconds behind and Fernando Alonso is tenth with a gap of 2.292 seconds behind Vettel.

With Daniil Kvyat being recalled back to Toro Rosso and Max Verstappen being promoted to Red Bull during the off period between the Russian Grand Prix and the Spanish Grand Prix, there was increased attention on the Red Bull and Toro Rosso drivers in FP1.

Also we had Esteban Ocon making his FP1 debut with Renault who has impressed me greatly since winning the GP3 championship last season with his speed, maturity and his attitude on the track.

But in the latter stages of FP1, Vettel did stop at the end of the pit lane, but it appeared the Ferrari driver had simply missed the red light rather than suffered any issue.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP2.

Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets in FP2 and FP3.

Practice 2 saw Rosberg tops the timesheet with a time of 1.23.922 followed closely by Raikkonen with a gap of 0.254 seconds behind, Hamilton was in third with a gap of 0.719 seconds behind, Vettel in fourth with a gap of 1.095 seconds behind and Sainz Jr in fifth with a gap of 1.209 seconds behind Rosberg

Ricciardo is sixth with a gap of 1.272 seconds behind, Alonso is seventh with a gap of 1.420 seconds behind, Verstappen is eighth with a gap of 1.453 seconds behind, Perez  is ninth with a gap of 1.515 seconds behind and Hulkenberg is tenth with a gap of 1.531 seconds behind Rosberg.

In the first ten minutes of FP2, Renault driver Jolyon Palmer hasn’t had the best start to his weekend after missing out on FP1 due to Esteban Ocon taking his place but then he also suffered a left rear puncture after the tyre burst going down the home straight at 190mph and into Turn 1.

With this failure, Palmer realised what was happening, brought the car to a stand-still which then brought out the Virtual Safety Car and then red flagged the session in order to recover the Renault RS16 safely.

Practice 3 saw Rosberg tops the timesheet with a time of 1.23.078 followed closely by Hamiltonwith a gap of 0.126 seconds behind, Vettel was in third with a gap of 0.147 seconds behind, Verstappen in fourth with a gap of 0.641 seconds behind and Ricciardo in fifth with a gap of 0.738 seconds behind Rosberg.

Raikkonen is sixth with a gap of 1.032 seconds behind, Bottas is seventh with a gap of 1.278 seconds behind, Perez is eighth with a gap of 1.394 seconds behind, Kvyat is ninth with a gap of 1.475 seconds behind and Alonso is tenth with a gap of 1.477 seconds behind Rosberg.

You would be stupid not to bet against the Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg to gain pole position again this weekend. As the Mercedes drivers seem to be performing brilliantly at the moment and the momentum is with them from all the track mileage and their strong form from the last race. Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Verstappen and even Bottas or Perez also cannot be discounted for the pole also as they are consistently within the top ten places at the moment.

However, I think that Toro Rosso, McLaren and Force India have shown that they could throw themselves into the mix and could qualify well here to be in the hunt for some decent points this weekend. We all look forward to the qualifying session of the Grand Prix with excitement…

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