Conventional wisdom has it the Bore-celona circuit, home of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix is one of the least likely to provide riveting on-track action. Although the Circuit de Catalunya is a driver’s favourite with its challenging sweeps and changes of camber in the turns, it has rarely provided spectacular overtaking and wheel-to-wheel action.
However there is still plenty to look out for. This race could be make or break for six-times Spanish Grand Prix winner Michael Schumacher.
Schumacher, who between 2001 and 2004 marked up four successive back-to-back victories in Barcelona, is having to dig deep in his reserves both as a driver and in self-belief. His less than impressive comeback has clearly acted as a blow to his reputation.
“Earlier, when Schumacher walked into the driver’s meetings there was a definite ‘wow’ factor” said HRT driver Karun Chandhok. “He was above eye-contact, on another level. Now he’s just one of the guys.”
Not surprisingly the Mercedes team is rushing through updates, both aerodynamic and mechanical to attempt to make the W01 car more appropriate to Schumacher’s style. If he can’t make it work, particularly if Nico Rosberg continues to deliver results, one wonders how long it may be before Michael decides the comeback was all a terrible mistake.
Interestingly, the one driver who, Karun Chandhok confides, does have that special presence among his peers is Fernando Alonso. It is not arrogance, more a combination of self-confidence and poise. A winner’s edge.
Even despite the qualifying pace of the Red Bulls and the racing resourcefulness of Jenson Button and McLaren, it is hard to bet against Alonso for victory in his home Grand Prix. Even though he last won the race in 2006, he has always managed to generate something for his home fans to cheer.
Last year he fought his way from eighth on the grid in the unfancied Renault, to snatch fifth place from Felipe Massa. The previous year, even though an engine failure sidelined his Renault, his low-fuel qualifying run to take second on the grid was truly spectacular.
Fernando’s concern must be reliability. In contrast to McLaren’s apparently rock-solid finishing record , there has been a worrying trend in a string of Ferrari engine failures.
Meanwhile, Force India are pinning high hopes on gaining on Renault, while maintaining their early superiority over Williams and Toro Rosso. Behind them, struggling Sauber need to raise their game to avoid being outpaced by Lotus Racing and Virgin.
Catch F1 race commentator Steve Slater on STAR Sports.