Aggressive Red Bull and McLaren rear wings catch the eye in Barcelona

Uros Radovanovic
Max Verstappen leads Lando Norris in the wet in Canada

Max Verstappen leads Lando Norris

After a weekend break following the Canadian GP, the European legs of the F1 Championship are back.

With three different race winners in the last four races, Ferrari and McLaren seem closer to Red Bull than ever before and Mercedes is gradually returning to form. However, the characteristics of the Barcelona circuit make it the perfect venue to truly assess the performance of all teams.

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya – A True Racing Track

The Barcelona circuit is often hailed as a “true racing track.” For years, it has been the testing ground for teams before the season begins, and for good reason.

Historically, the fastest teams usually triumph in Barcelona, and the results support this. Excluding Mercedes and Red Bull drivers, the last winner here was Fernando Alonso in a Ferrari way back in 2013.

The main feature of this not-so-flat track is its long, fast corners. In the first sector, besides a long DRS zone, we have the extensive Turn 3, where rear stability is crucial. The second sector features the challenging Turn 9, which, due to its gradient and potential crosswinds, is very demanding. Finally, the third sector, recently revised to remove the final chicane, has increased overtaking opportunities, allowing drivers to follow the car ahead more closely.

Due to these fast corners, the lateral forces during the race will be significant, affecting both drivers and cars. Stability and balance, easily achieved with well-distributed downforce, are essential. The removal of the final chicane has also prompted engineers to increase overall downforce with aero packages for stability through the last corner.

When it comes to tyres, Pirelli has opted for the hardest compounds: C1, C2, and C3. Despite this, tyre wear in Barcelona is high, making two pit stops likely on Sunday. Strategy is likely to play a significant role in the final result.

It’s also important to note that this year’s race is three weeks later than last year, meaning higher temperatures and greater degradation.

Key talking points heading into the Spanish GP

👉 Could Adrian Newey snub Ferrari for sensational switch to Aston Martin?

👉 F1 flexi-wings rules explained as potential fresh saga begins to bubble

Teams’ Aero Packages

The aero packages prepared by the teams for Catalonia are mostly medium-high downforce setups. Top speeds on the main straight won’t be as critical as efficient navigation through the fast corners.

Although differing in many ways, the rear wings of the teams are almost the same as in the previous race in Canada. Red Bull and McLaren have taken an aggressive approach with steep DRS plates, while Mercedes has opted for a less loaded rear wing.

We should also watch for updates, as there will certainly be many in Spain. Almost all top teams will try to boost their performance with upgrades, with Team RB reportedly bringing their biggest new package here.

Despite this, Red Bull appears to be the favourite for the Barcelona race. This track type suits their car perfectly. However, Max and the team won’t have an easy task against Ferrari and McLaren.

McLaren has proven to be very good and stable in fast corners, and their lower top speeds won’t penalise them much here.

Ferrari might face tyre heating issues, which could be costly if they don’t find a solution. They’ve struggled with heating the hard Pirelli tyres earlier this season, causing problems at the start of races. However, we saw a new rear wing from Ferrari paired with a new beam wing introduced in Canada. Hopefully, this will help resolve their issues.

Mercedes, on the other hand, seems to be awakening after a disappointing first half of the season. They showed potential in Canada, but the real test is yet to come. Mercedes won’t bring aero upgrades here, but mechanical changes are expected to reduce the car’s weight.

This is the place to clearly see the true performance levels on track. As fans, we hope all top four teams will be competitive, providing an exciting battle for the top spot.

Read next – Five Spanish GP questions: Carlos Sainz’s future, Ferrari upgrades, Mercedes on the up?