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Spanish Grand Prix 2021

F1 Spanish Grand Prix Preview: Can Verstappen rein in Hamilton?

Expect another battle between Red Bull and Mercedes at this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton hoping to deliver another blow to his rivals after a vintage display in Portugal.

Article
To news overview © Mercedes

It's a quick turnaround for drivers and teams alike as F1 prepares for the second race in as many weekends with the Spanish Grand Prix set to take place from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Max Verstappen will look to answer back following Lewis Hamilton's impressive display in Portugal, which increased the Brit's lead in the drivers' standings to eight points.

Catalunya is an ever present stop on the F1 calendar, hosting the Spanish Grand Prix uninterrupted since the venue took over from Jerez back in 1991. Teams are very familiar with the track as it usually plays host to pre-season testing, though that wasn't the case this year with Bahrain taking over.

Last year's race was a hot and dry event with Hamilton finishing 24 seconds ahead of Verstappen and 44 seconds up on teammate Valtteri Bottas. The Brit was so dominant that Lance Stroll, who finished fourth in his Racing Point, finished the race a lap down.

The rest of the grid, especially Verstappen, will be hoping to make things a little more difficult for Hamilton this weekend. Catalunya offers a wide range of corner types and speeds, however overtaking has proven to be difficult at the venue. Last year's race saw just six normal overtakes, while 25 required the assistance of DRS, meaning qualifying could have a big say as to who will take the chequered flag come Sunday.

Verstappen keen to stop Hamilton momentum

Just like Portugal, Pirelli are bringing their hardest tyre compounds to Spain. While track conditions are expected to be considerably cooler than last season when F1 visited in mid-August, the high-energy demands of the the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya remain.

The long right-hander that is Turn 3 puts considerable stress on the front-left tyre, while Turn 9 poses its own set of problems, making the hardest compounds the most appropriate for the weekend.

Expect another close fight between Mercedes and Red Bull, with the Silver Arrows looking like they've closed in on their championship rivals in terms of outright pace. Toto Wolff remarked he thought the team missed out on a one-two finish in Portugal, with reliability issues ultimately preventing Bottas from challenging Verstappen for second.

The Dutchman will be happy that was the case as he never really looked capable of stopping Hamilton in Portimao despite making his way past the Brit in the early stages of the race. However once Hamilton got past the Red Bull and his teammate, he never looked back and cruised to his second win of the season and 97th of his career.

The low-grip track surface in Portugal and tricky tyre characteristics makes it hard to know whether Red Bull or Mercedes had the fastest car. Therefore, expect another tight battle at the front with Verstappen looking to recreate the magic that saw him claim his first career victory in Spain back in 2016.

Red Bull and Max's hopes of challenging Mercedes will be boosted by the presence of Sergio Perez, who finished fourth on track for Racing Point last season, only to be dropped down to fifth for ignoring blue flags. The Milton Keynes outfit need him to be at the top of his game this weekend after a fairly anonymous outing in Portimao compared to Bottas.

Speaking of the Finn, he's finished on the podium in Spain in each of the last three seasons. A fourth this weekend would get his season well and truly back on track, and likely quell those reports suggesting Mercedes might swap him with George Russell midway through the campaign.

Ferrari looking to bounce back as Alpine improve

The battle behind the top two teams has been led by McLaren for much of 2021 thanks in large part to Lando Norris, who has finished in the top five at every race so far this season. The same can't be said for teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who was unceremoniously dumped out of Q1 in Portugal.

In the end the Australian battled back to finish ninth, and he's said he's targeting a stronger performance at the familiar settings of Catalunya. It will be interesting to see how Ferrari respond as well, as the Scuderia had a disappointing race last time out.

Although Charles Leclerc finished sixth, the Scuderia failed to turn their strong showing in practice and qualifying into tangible results. The Monegasque driver never challenged Norris and had to settle for sixth, while teammate Carlos Sainz, who started fifth, fell out of the points after graining on his tyres compromised the second part of his race.

The two teams will likely be joined by Alpine, as the French team impressed with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso finishing seventh and eighth. Whether they can keep that up in Spain is the big question heading into the weekend when it comes to the battle for best of the rest.

RN365 News dossier F1 2021 Spanish Grand Prix

The latest news about the Spanish Grand Prix straight from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

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