Race starts at 3 pm in Spain/9 pm in Malaysia
Although last weekend’s race was held in Portugal, which is just next door to Spain, the journey from the circuit in Portimao to the Catalunya Circuit in Barcelona for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix still covered 1,300 kms. While the event in Spain was revised to August last year (due to cancellations and postponements in the early part of the year), the Spanish Grand Prix is back in its usual period on the calendar for the third round of the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship.
No information on track conditions
For the first time since 2014, the F1 teams did not have a pre-season test session at this circuit so the teams don’t have as much information as in previous years. According to Pirelli, the tyre-suppliers for F1, weather conditions are likely to be considerably cooler than last year, but the high-energy demands of the track remain. This is especially so for the very long Turn 3 right-hander, which puts considerable forces through the front-left tyre in particular. Turn 9 is also challenging for the tyres and as a result, the hardest compounds are still considered the most appropriate choice.
Track layout modified
The track layout has changed this year, with a modified profile to Turn 10 to improve safety. The result is a left-hander that is slightly wider than the previous version, which has allowed for a bigger run-off area and will shorten the braking zone, with a higher entry speed to the corner. The lap is also now 20 metres longer.
The stands at the circuit are strangely empty and quiet because spectators are not allowed into the circuit for health reasons.
“Car balance in Spain can often be influenced by the wind, as it sometimes changes direction during the day. There is usually a tailwind on the main straight in the morning, producing a headwind into the high-speed corners. This provides good car stability. But the wind tends to rotate to the opposite direction later in the day, which gives drivers a tailwind into the fast corners and makes the balance trickier,” said Toto Wolff, the Mercedes-AMG team boss.
The well-known demands of the track make a one-stopper very challenging – although the likelihood of cooler weather should help this year. In 2020, the race was won by Mercedes-AMG driver Lewis Hamilton with a soft-medium-medium two-stopper, although Sergio Perez finished fifth after stopping only once from soft to medium, while Valtteri Bottas was on the podium using a three-stop strategy.
The Catalunya circuit is a track where it’s quite difficult to overtake for most of the lap, although the long downhill straight can give a power and DRS advantage to help line up a passing move. All this makes qualifying position and race strategy particularly important to gain track position. With a number of support races as well, the surface should evolve reasonably quickly with more rubber laid down, compared to some other F1 rounds this year where Formula 1 has been the only track action.
“It’s always tricky in Barcelona with the grip and tyre usage, so there’s lots for us to learn and understand. I think the new Turn 10 was interesting and, on our side, we have room for improvement there,” said Alpine F1 Team’s Esteban Ocon.
Championship is wide open
After three rounds, the championship remains wide open although Lewis Hamilton managed to increase the gap from Max Verstappen after winning last weekend. The pair have alternated first and second places since the championship started, with Verstappen fiercely determined to beat reigning champion Hamilton this year.
In the Constructors Championship, the two Mercedes-AMG drivers have been picking up lot of points to pass the 100 mark. This puts the team 18 points ahead of Red Bull Racing, with McLaren 30 points further back. So far, Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN, Haas F1 and Williams Racing have yet to score a single point.
F1/Round 3: Highlights & Provisional Results For 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix
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