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Back in Barcelona
After the glitz and glamour of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix a fortnight ago, Formula 1 touches back down in Europe this weekend for the Spanish Grand Prix.
When last F1 was at Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya, winter testing had only hinted at a change in the pecking order but three months on, Ferrari’s early-season seeds of ambition have been sewn.
Leading the Constructors’ Championship by six points, Charles Leclerc also sits at the top of the Drivers’ standings for Scuderia by a bigger cushion of 19 points but with Max Verstappen hunting his deficit down, after successive wins last time out and at Imola.
With Red Bull looking to complete a triple of victories on the bounce this weekend in Iberia, can Ferrari bite back or will it be the chasing pack making an impression in Spain?
Verstappen on hunt
Three races into the new season, Max Verstappen and indeed Red Bull were left with a sizeable headache. Struggling with power issues and with just one win on the board for the Dutchman – after a P19 and retirement in Melbourne – two rounds on however, and the picture is far rosier.
Having now trebled his number of race wins, Verstappen now seeks a third GP win on the bounce in Barcelona.
Knowing a fourth win in six this season will unlikely be enough to take the lead in the standings for the first time this campaign, Verstappen will be keen to keep the hammer down ahead of Monaco next weekend, where Leclerc will be highly motivated on home tarmac.
It was at the Catalonia circuit that Verstappen famously won on his debut drive for Red Bull in 2016 but only once before has Verstappen won three races in-a-row. The Red Bull man will be keen to change that statistic.
Sainz ‘dreaming’ of ‘best ever’ home GP win
As F1 continues on its globe-trotting travels this term, the next two races at least will stay on one continent with back-to-back weekends in Europe.
For Carlos Sainz in particular, this weekend sees a return home and with Ferrari enjoying their best season for some time, the Madrid native is visualising a home GP win.
With three podium finishes so far this season, the 27-year-old finished runner-up behind Scuderia teammate Leclerc in Bahrain on opening day and after enforced retirements in Melbourne and at Imola, Sainz is now eyeing his first win in Catalonia – ahead of the Monegasque driver.
Having signed a new two-year deal last month, the Leclerc-Sainz dynamic is set to lead Ferrari into a dominant new era but Sainz is looking to home glory this weekend, and as he told F1.com, a win in Barcelona would be special.
“To do it [win] at my home Grand Prix would be the best ever. I keep thinking about it, I keep dreaming about it.
“Same way that when I was here when I was 10 years old, I dreamed about being a Formula 1 driver, and it happened. Then I dreamed about being a Ferrari driver and it happened. And I dreamed about winning, you know?
With little to separate the two Prancing Horse men in early practice, Sainz’ dream may yet become a reality.
Barcelona has often been the perfect time for experimenting in the off-season and indeed during the campaign, however, this year the Spanish GP could see more team upgrades than ever.
As a number of garages still find themselves getting to grips with this term’s new regs, some teams have managed the changes better than others.
One of the big strugglers in relative terms has of course been Mercedes, and ahead of a stop seen as a big banker for the Silver Arrows in the turbo-hybrid era, there is little sign of a dramatic improvement in team performance that might maintain that here.
With Barcelona one of the first tracks this term to retain its downforce of previous seasons, Mercedes will however, be one of a number of teams bringing in a new package for their car on a track where modifications can again be tested.
Team bosses know that five races will not define their season and for the manufacturers that have laboured thus far, Barcelona can be a fresh chapter in the 2022 book.
The Formula 1 Pirelli Gran Premio de Espana 2022 takes place at Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend.
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