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Verstappen to confirm F1 fears?: What to expect at the Spanish GP

What should you look out for at this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix?

Formula 1 returns to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the Spanish Grand Prix with a revision to the track layout. The old double right-hander to finish the lap has returned, signalling an end to the slower chicane that had replaced the corner in 2007. Max Verstappen took the upper hand over Sergio Perez in the F1 title battle after contrasting fortunes at the Monaco Grand Prix, whilst Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon secured podiums behind the Dutchman. So what should you expect from the Spanish GP weekend?

Verstappen to confirm title fears

Verstappen's victory coupled with teammate Perez's disastrous weekend leaves the Dutchman with a 39-point lead after six races. With no team other than Red Bull securing a race win as yet, the title battle was only ever going to fall between the duo and even that seems a foregone conclusion now. Whilst Verstappen already has one hand on a third F1 World Championship, another win this weekend would stretch the gap to a minimum of 46 points – a total only overturned once in the sport's history when the Dutchman overhauled Charles Leclerc last season. And who can bet against a Verstappen victory? Only once this term has the gap between Verstappen and the next-best non-Red Bull been below 20 seconds at the chequered flag, which is an anomaly given the Australian Grand Prix finished under Safety Car conditions. Focus for championship excitement will have to turn to the race for second in the Constructors'.

Alonso to spark Spanish fiesta

Alonso is well and truly back to his best form this season and his Monaco GP second was a well-deserved best finish of the year. The Aston Martin driver returns to Spain with a chance to stand on the podium in front of his home crowd for the first time since winning the event for Ferrari a decade ago. If Perez turns in a performance more suitable for a Red Bull driver after his nightmarish weekend in the Principality, third will likely be the maximum for Alonso, which would still likely spark pandemonium in the grandstands with the people's hero picking up silverware. For teammate Lance Stroll, form must improve to assist Alonso in fending off Mercedes in the Constructors' standings, with only one point between the two outfits despite the Spaniard's run of five podiums in six races.

Mercedes' first real look at upgrade package

Mercedes added its long-awaited upgrade package in Monaco, having seen the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix cancelled. The Principality streets will not have given an incredible data set to judge performance from, though the Silver Arrows' fourth and fifth finishes courtesy of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell would have been encouraging at a venue that has proved a thorn in the side of the team in recent years. The upgrades can be franked at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this weekend, however, with the track F1's traditional test venue up until this year. As such, teams would usually wait until this event before adding larger update packages anyway in order to form a more rounded comparison between configurations. Whilst results are always desired in F1, Mercedes will be desperate to discover positive traits that will allow a new development arc to push towards Red Bull at the front of the field.

Alpine recover from Rossi polemics

When Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi labelled his team as 'amateurish' in Miami, form could have gone one of two ways: either the pressure would have been too much and a capitulation would follow, or the outfit would regroup and turn around fortunes. Luckily for Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer and drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, the latter has rung true. Ocon was sublime in Monaco when securing a podium – the first driver outside the top four teams to do so this year. The result has led to confidence in the camp as Sporting Director Alan Permane explained there would be no reason to suggest Alpine couldn't again out-perform Mercedes and battle to finish as the third fastest Constructor across the weekend. Perhaps Rossi played a masterstroke!

Chicance removal to aid overtaking?

A critical change has been made to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this season. The slow right-left-right chicane was added to the end of the lap for 2007 in order to aid overtaking into Turn 1. But with ground-effect aerodynamics now enforced by F1's technical regulations, the decision has been made to bring back the old, medium-high speed penultimate corner, bypassing the chicane and instead ending the lap with a thrill. Side effects of the decision will see a tougher task in holding onto front-left tyres with degradation set to increase. This could force teams into a second stop rather than the single-stop races we have become accustomed to. Will overtaking improve? There's only one way to find out.

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