After having tasted American excess, Formula 1 returns to its European base this weekend in Barcelona. Will F1 2022 make the Spanish Grand Prix less monotonous than usual?
WILL FERRARI TAKE BACK THE ADVANTAGE?
It is likely that Ferrari will arrive in Barcelona with some trepidation, as the last two Grands Prix have been won in quick succession by Max Verstappen. If the F1-75 was faster during the first rounds (in any case more robust), the trend has clearly reversed for two rounds. Faster in a straight line and managing its tires better, the RB18 has evolved significantly since the start of the championship, while the scarlet single-seater has hardly changed since the first tests in Barcelona.
Having lost 43 points in Imola and Miami, Maranello has scheduled a significant development for this weekend. Eagerly awaited, this should provide the hoped-for gain in time, at a time when the Prancing Horse’s development strategy is being called into question. Admittedly, Barcelona requires substantial downforce and does not have a long straight, but the Ferrari will need a boost to allow Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz to compete with Max Verstappen. The Spaniard will have for the first time in his career a horse capable of winning him at home. Provided he doesn’t make any more mistakes at the wheel of a chassis in which he lacks confidence.
WILL DEVELOPMENTS CHANGE THE GAME?
All teams, except Haas, will bring changes to Barcelona. Firstly because the circuit is well known to the engineers, who have a reference (the data from the winter tests) to assess the operation of the new parts. Then, because the European location of the Circuit de Catalunya saves the teams a few days of transport while allowing them to bring more parts (the transport from the factory to the circuit being done by road and not by plane).
If we will have to wait until the beginning of the weekend to know the details of the new parts (even if Alpine has officially announced that it will introduce a new spoiler), it is likely that the majority of teams will introduce a new flat bottom. To gain in performance, but also to limit the phenomenon of pumping (or “porpoising”) which had surprised the engineers during the first laps of the F1 2022. Aston Martin should present a “B” version of its single-seater.
Among these teams, Mercedes has still not managed to make its single-seater competitive. The Miami Grand Prix made the Brackley engineers even more perplexed, the W13 born under a bad star showing itself sometimes competitive (Friday) sometimes sluggish (Saturday and Sunday). One wonders how such an experienced and titled team (eight world titles in a row) could have come to this. A retouched W13 shot Wednesday at Paul-Ricard.
In Barcelona, the team will be able to confront the first version of the W13 (with conventional sidepods and less prone to pumping) and that which appeared in Bahrain (refined to the extreme). Both specs will run on the same track, making it possible to accurately compare the behavior of the two machines. By analyzing the data collected, the thinking heads of Mercedes will have to make a difficult decision: to continue with a concept which only seems to work in simulation or to return to a more conventional but less efficient design.
END OF THE BLACK SERIES FOR ALONSO?
In five Grands Prix, Fernando Alonso has only picked up two points. In his long career, there are only three seasons when the Spaniard has done less well: in 2001 for his first campaign with Minardi, then in 2015 and 2017 when he drove a McLaren powered by a Honda as fragile as iron. glass.
After Australia, the Asturian had a string of disappointments: retirement due to engine failure in Jeddah, incident in qualifying then massive graining in Melbourne, retirement following a collision with Schumacher at Imola, too long pitstop in Miami, where he received two penalties.
At 40, Alonso has lost none of his speed, but he is dogged by persistent bad luck which comes at the wrong time. He must indeed begin negotiations concerning his future at Enstone. Esteban Ocon, who has registered 22 units, is under contract until the end of 2024, while Oscar Piastri, Alpine’s third driver, will probably be loaned next year.
Anyway, like his compatriot Carlos Sainz, Alonso needs to rebuild in Catalonia after a difficult start to the season.