(Montmeló) A few days after his crushing victory in Monaco, Max Verstappen (Red Bull) will still be the man to beat this weekend at the Spanish Grand Prix, seventh round of the F1 world championship, where Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) will try to shine in front of his supporters.
A whole country has been waiting for this for ten years: a victory in Formula 1 for the national hero, the “Bull of Asturias”. His last success, obtained at the wheel of a Ferrari, dates back to May 2013 on the same circuit of Montmeló, a few kilometers from Barcelona.
“I hope to see all the Spanish and Aston Martin fans supporting the team wholeheartedly. I hope to see a lot of green (the color of Aston Martin, editor’s note) in the stands this weekend. We got several third places, a second last weekend in Monaco and the next one we want is first place, “said the double world champion.
“To do that, we will have to maximize our weekend and take advantage of any opportunity that may arise. But I’m not obsessed with it (winning). We have a lot of experience on this circuit, but it is always a big challenge. It will be interesting to race on a circuit without a chicane at the end of the lap and hopefully it will give more overtaking opportunities,” added Alonso.
But the Spanish veteran will have a lot to do to thwart the supremacy of Red Bull and Verstappen, the reigning double world champion who flew over the legendary Grand Prix in the Principality, where observers expected the Austrian team to be less dominating.
On the Circuit de Catalunya, a more traditional route, the Dutchman is comfortable, like his victory last season. It was also at Montmeló that in 2016 he achieved the first success of his career in the premier category of motorsport.
“I can’t wait to get back to a circuit that we all know very well. I’m curious to see the new layout in the last two corners. Obviously I have very good memories here, especially my first victory in F1. I hope the weather will also be part of the celebration,” explained Verstappen.
The performance of his Mexican teammate Sergio Perez, who lost big in Monaco finishing only 16th, will also be closely scrutinized. Now relegated to 39 lengths behind ‘Mad Max’ in the world championship, ‘Checo’ has seen Alonso come dangerously close and he will try to consolidate his place as runner-up.
Mercedes will also be expected after the novelties brought to its single-seaters in Monaco, where it is difficult to get an idea of the advances made by the modification of the suspensions and the sidepods as well as by the new floor.
“The Spanish GP will be an opportunity for us to establish a new base for our car. It’s a circuit that we know, with different types of corners, which will allow us to learn a lot about the changes that we have just introduced. We don’t expect a big improvement in terms of performance, but we hope it will bring more stability,” said Toto Wolff, the boss of the Silver Arrows.
Ferrari, which disappointed again last weekend on the Côte d’Azur, arrives under pressure in Barcelona, where new features will be tested on the SF23.
“It’s not all about potential and upgrades, it’s mostly about having a more consistent car. With the improvements made, we have a lot of room for improvement in terms of performance, ”acknowledged Fred Vasseur, the manager of the Italian team.
On the French side, Alpine will try to ride the euphoria of Monaco, where Esteban Ocon won the third podium of his career with an unexpected third place, while Pierre Gasly finished in seventh place.
“We can all take great satisfaction from this result and it just shows what we are capable of. In recent weeks, we have made changes that work very well on the single-seater and we should have a new validation of these improvements this weekend in Spain, “said Otmar Szafnauer, boss of the French team.