Insight: Lots of ways to attack the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix
Spanish Grand Prix
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 May 2016   |  12:21 pm GMT  |  98 comments

This weekend sees the return of F1 to Europe and the Spanish Grand Prix and it should also bring a return to the kind of high speed chess-game we enjoyed in the first three races of the season.

We have a new driver in a front running car, with Max Verstappen in the Red Bull, replacing Daniil Kvyat and plenty of taking points in terms of how the race may pan out, because there are many ways for the teams to approach this race.

Russia was a bit of an outlier because the strategy options were reduced, owing to the nature of the circuit. It meant that only two of the three Pirelli tyre compounds were effective in the race and that pushed people into running longer stints on soft tyres.

Spanish Grand Prix

For Spain, we have a return to variability; the soft, medium and hard tyres are the choices, the latter two being what Pirelli brought in previous seasons. What makes the three tyre rule particularly intriguing this weekend is that the cars will all qualify on the soft, but its not a tyre you would choose to race on. The leading ten cars will have to start on those used soft tyres and they won’t last a long time in the opening stint before they need to be changed.

So we will see many different approaches to the race from there and for the cars starting outside the top ten, this is a great chance to start on a more durable tyre than the cars ahead and pick up positions early in the race. It should really mix things up. We could see a number of cars using all three compounds, while others may opt to make three stops and run fast. The performance difference between the compounds, based on testing in March was:

Soft to Medium – 0.9/1.0 sec
Medium to Hard – 0.5 sec

So you’re looking at 1.5s per lap between the soft and the hard, but the soft degrades more quickly. A pit stop takes 22 seconds, so the soft if you can get a car out into clear air on new softs there is time to be made. Mercedes may explore the possibility of setting their Q2 qualifying lap on the medium tyres in order to be able to start on those, as Rosberg did in China.

It’s a 66 lap race and a new set of medium tyres should last around 22 laps, the hards 26 laps and the softs probably up to 15 laps by the end of the race, which means first pit stops for the top ten within eight to ten laps of the start.

At the front Mercedes will dominate, having finished on top of every timed track session in Barcelona for the past two seasons. Ferrari brought an extensive upgrade package to Russia, including engine tokens spent, but Mercedes kept the margin around the same, which was demoralising for Ferrari. That said we never really got to see what Sebastian Vettel might have done in the race as he was taken out on the opening lap.

Spanish Grand Prix

The weather looks set to be unsettled in Barcelona this weekend. Although the race is expected to be dry, showers are predicted to hit the area in time for FP2 on Friday, which could disrupt the teams’ long-run preparations, and qualifying on the Saturday, so there is a chance of a mixed-up grid.

Upgrades to the fore

Although the development race can be considered pretty much constant in F1 these days, the teams still use the Barcelona track as a clear barometer to test the parts they have been working on since the start of the season due to its prominence in the sport’s annual testing programmes.

Several teams have announced that they will be bringing major upgrades to their cars for the Spanish race in an attempt to climb up the pecking order.


Renault is bringing a new rear wing and tweaks for the RS16’s front wing to Barcelona, but the full update package will not be brought into place until the post-race test. These include a B-spec power unit, which is expected to make its race debut in Canada.

Haas F1 will again try the upgraded front wing it brought to Russia, and will bring a new rear wing to the Spanish race.

We can expect to see big chassis changes at Force India after team principal Vijay Mallya described how the car would have a very different look in Barcelona.

He said: “It’s on schedule to be fitted to both cars ahead of Friday practice. It’s pretty comprehensive and the car will look quite different.”

Sergio Perez

Mercedes’ executive director (technical), Paddy Lowe, explained in a pre-Barcelona preview that solving the MGU-H problems that wrecked Lewis Hamilton’s qualifying chances in Shanghai and Sochi has been the team’s primary concern in recent weeks.

He said: “The highest priority is to come back with our MGU-H problem solved, having had a repeat fault over the past two race weekends.

“The team has been working day and night to understand it and we’re targeting a clean weekend all round.”

Pascal Wehrlein

Pascal Wehrlein attended the first race of this year’s DTM, which he won for Mercedes in 2015, last weekend and told reporters that his Manor F1 squad was bringing a small development package to Barcelona, which he hopes will help them in their back-of-the-grid fight with Sauber.

He said: “We’ll have a few smaller updates for Barcelona [and] I really hope we can make a step there and make the tyres work better. In the last couple of races we battled with Sauber. It would be nice to now move ahead of them.”

Spanish Grand Prix – the key numbers

Qualifying has been the key to success at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona throughout the time it has been used for the Spanish Grand Prix, as 23 out of the 25 races to be held at the track have been won from the front row of the grid. That’s a ratio of 92 per cent, the highest of any circuit on the calendar that has held at least ten F1 races.

Spanish Grand Prix

On the two occasions that a driver did win after starting lower than second at Barcelona, they were both Ferrari victories: Michael Schumacher’s famous first win for the Scuderia in torrential conditions from third on the grid in 1996 and Fernando Alonso’s triumph from fifth in 2013.

The Spanish Grand Prix has at least enjoyed a healthy variability in terms of winning drivers in recent years, as nine different racers have won the last nine events. Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Pastor Maldonado, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg successful have won the race since 2007.

We also head to yet another race with Mercedes on the brink of breaking even more F1 records.

Nico Rosberg

Rosberg can join Alberto Ascari and Sebastian Vettel as the only drivers to win eight consecutive F1 races and equal the record for most wins to start a season (jointly held by Nigel Mansell and Schumacher, who won five races at the start of 1992 and 2004 respectively), if he wins this weekend.

After taking the top two places in Sochi last time out, Rosberg and Hamilton have now notched up 25 1-2 finishes as teammates, one more than the previous record, which was 24 from Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello for Ferrari between 2000 and 2005.

If either of the Mercedes drivers wins in Barcelona, the team will equal the all-time record for most consecutive F1 wins, which is currently held by McLaren from its all-conquering 1988 season.

After Rosberg secured pole in Russia, cars using Mercedes power have now achieved that feat 140 times, one more than Ford, and the manufacturer is up to third on the all-time list as a result, 73 behind Renault’s ultimate total.

Spanish Grand Prix

Additional reporting by Alex Kalinauckas

What are you expecting from the Spanish Grand Prix? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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I presume that type choices shown for Max were made under the assumption he’d be driving a Toro Rosso, which we know now he won’t. This could add an interesting twist to the race. The Red Bull selection is quite different. I assume he’s stuck with what James shows in the chart as Pirelli built to this list. If what Max has doesn’t suit the Red Bull, he’ll just have to cope. An opportunity to show another side of his prodigious talent?


Is it just me…? Slightly off-topic, but:

There’s a lot of comments on this thread (and indeed, all over the Interweb) about the ‘Merecedes snooze-fest’ and such like, and I wonder… The folks who make such comments. Are these the same people that were gunning for Mercedes a couple of years ago, hoping they’d stop the previous Red Bull snooze-fest? When Merc made a quick car, but couldn’t make the tyres last? The same team that almost everyone thought Lewis was MAD to join? The phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’ leaps irresistibly to mind…

Mercedes have done a better job over the last few years and now dominate, fair play to them. It’s what happens in F1, and to a large extent, in other sports too. All the guys who aren’t QUITE quick enough just now have enjoyed extended periods of dominance too, and eventually they were overthrown, just as Mercedes will ultimately be.

I find the repeatedly expressed suggestions that they’re stitching up Lewis to be rather odd – why on earth would they do such a thing? Especially by making their technology unreliable – kind of subverts the brand message when you say ‘Lewis starts 10th as Mercedes breaks AGAIN’…. And if they really DID want Nico to be champion, could they not say to Lewis ‘here’s 10 million quid, keep yer mouth shut’? It just seems more and more ridiculous, as I keep thinking about it.

I read and hear comments like ‘what’s the point watching when you know what the result will be?’. Well, what kind of crystal balls are these, then? Knowing who will probably win is a long way from knowing the result… I guess if all you care about is who actually WINS, it could seem a little dull, just like any other sport. And that being so, there’s no point in watching at all… But if you are watching a RACE (there’s, like, 20 other guys out there), it’s immensely entertaining, TV coverage permitting.

I think I’m just annoyed about the negativity the sport seems to be generating at the moment. I am a longstanding fan over many decades and I make a lot of effort to get into the details, so by default, the sport is fascinating to me – I have never seen a dull race! But perception is everything – as much as I can easily demonstrate that the naysayers are wrong, should I really have to? Back in the day (go on, pick your own) the sport was considered awesome by default. Now, rather less so. Everyone thinks they could do it (at least, those that have never driven an actual RACING car – that changes yer world), and perhaps having an 18 year old kid in a top drive kind of supports that impression. Ok, I know he had a pretty big headstart, but that’s the sort of info racing fans have, and the public are generally unaware of. They will just see ‘young kid without driving license lands top F1 drive’, and frankly, that’s just not awesome for the image of the sport.

When I first got into F1, my hero was Nigel Mansell. I had this perception of him as a man with huge physical strength who was pushing it far, far harder than anyone, Senna excepted. Sometimes they were so destroyed by the effort, they could hardly get out of the car, never mind lift a trophy… Senna’s first win in Brasil pops into my mind at this moment. These were monumental feats of human endurance, some of the tech was SO new it didn’t even have a military application yet, And everyone knew how dangerous it was. People look back at Ratzenberger and Senna’s death as some kind of watershed, but truth be told, a lot of us were surprised at the time, that it had been so long since someone was killed at an F1 race – if you follow motorsport at anything more than a superficial level, you notice that quite a lot of people get killed. It says on the ticket etc. etc…. It’s the harsh reality of the game. And while it’s not politically correct to say it these days, it really was about who’s got the biggest balls. Hmmm, there’s a subject for debate – Drivers who won a Championship by sheer Big Balls? My vote goes to Graham Hill in 1968.

I don’t think for a second that a modern F1 car is easy to drive,but the PlayStation generation generally believe it is. The way Formula E has marketed itself is quite interesting, especially the thing they do were you can compete against current drivers in a simulator competition. F1 could do with a bit more of that sort of thinking….

Thank you for indulging me.




Hear, hear. (y)


What are the odds Kvyat finishes ahead of Max this weekend ?
Before any car hits the track, I’d love seeing a poll to see who’s voted ahead.
If Max grids ahead, he better be carefull of not finding a russian driver pushing him trough the first corner sideways haha.
Great stuff ahead .. might be a boring race, but some of the results will be interesting to watch “for sure”.


I think Raikkonen can win this race if the Mercs have any hiccups at the start- if not its over by the 1st corner. Hes always done well at this track even in cars he struggles with (2008). He & Alonso are the only 2 have won twice in Spain. I think Alonso can finish as high up as 6th here. Wouldnt be surprised if Vettel gets punted again- this time by Verstappen!.


Of the current grid, y’mean. Mansell, Schuey and Hakkinen all won multiple times.

Oh man, if your last sentence happened, then wow. Would be just like F1 to have it go that way though.


Im sure Sainz will still not be replacing Max if Max does a Kvyat.


And who says F1 is boring????????????


Maybe it will continue being wet for Saturday and Max will get Pole 😛 Maybe the title contenders will think pragmatically about not risking their Championship against a young Max eager to show off for his first race with Redbull. Maybe then the narrow track flanked by grass and low over taking opportunities and high risk will mean he will win. Then maybe James Allen will ask us, what this win really signifies? 🙂 All of the above, or Max is a future Champ, or both.


I want to see a straight fight in qualy and race between the Mercs. We still need to see if Lewis is struggling since the tyre pressure increase. It’s the one unknown.


O please let LH have a clean weekend. I don,t. Believe even Merc would continue with the recent procedure??? Even Toto must be praying for a clean weekend? Well maybe??
I do wonder what NR mindsets will be if. LH and SV do well and Nico does not will it. Underline what everyone has been saying for ages? ie he is only good when everyone isn’t.


The leading ten cars will have to start on those used soft tyres

Is it likely that Mercedes will complete Q2 on the medium tyre? They have the pace advantage to get through and can therfore start the race on the preferred tyre whilst still using softs in the top 10 shootout.


Could be, but if the gap soft to medium turns out this weekend to be greater than 1 sec they’ll have to be careful


This is a weekend where quite a few drivers have something to prove, not least Lewis and Nico. Hopefully, they’ll both have a trouble free weekend, Lewis especially. Lewis needs to start making up ground and bring the championship back to life. A clean weekend for Lewis isn’t just not having mechanical issues, he also needs to make a good start. The race could be lost at the first corner, like in the opening 2 rounds.
Nico also needs to give his championship run some creditability, can he beat Lewis under equal circumstances? He needs Lewis to have a clean weekend too, let’s see how he’d respond to that.
Also of interest, Max in Red Bull, will it pay instant dividends? Will Marko be saying I told you so by the end of the week? Will Ricciardo make Max look ordinary, or will it be the other way around?
Will Kvyat bounce back and gain admirers? Will Sainz keep him honest, will he show Kvyat how to perform in front of a home crowd?
Also, will Ferrari make us believe this is a contest after all? Will the close the gap to Mercedes?
Can McLaren get into Q3, will their updates move them up the order, bearing in mind a lot of teams are bringing updates as well?
Have there ever been so many questions going into a race weekend?


“can he beat Lewis under equal circumstances”

Seriously, the Hamilton fanbois need to look at the reality that Rosberg has won 7 races in a row. Under “equal circumstances” just that Hamilton stuffed up the start twice, broke his engine twice, broke his gearbox once and got beaten for race pace twice even when his car was running perfectly. The undeniable fact is Rosberg hasn’t lost a single race since the hat throwing incident, which in future years may well be described as the turning point in his F1 career.


Why don’t Ferrari or Mercedes (in particular Mercedes) ever try to get through Q2 on the prime tire? With the pace advantage that Mercedes has surely they would be able to get into Q3 without putting on the options. I’m surprised that you don’t see more people trying this. If Ferrari could pull it off and stay close to Mercedes in the opening stint while protecting their tires they would jump Mercedes at the first stop and run in clean air. They would force the Mercedes to eat up tires and fuel chasing them down and perhaps be able to hold them up. Then they could attack on fresh primes late in the race.


Mercedes did at the last race. They couldn’t risk it at the start of the season as the elimination format meant if they weren’t quick enough on the first run, they would not have time to try a second run on the other tyre.


If I’m not mistaken, Merc did just that in China with Nico.


“Why don’t Ferrari or Mercedes (in particular Mercedes) ever try to get through Q2 on the prime tire?”

I’d guess that it’s because they’re worried that if they tried and failed to make it through to Q3 on primes they’d end up looking like a bunch of * 🙂

* Supply your own term


Also with their starts not being class of the field, and overtaking being what it is at the moment, softer rubber helps them hold track position into the first corner.


Good point 🙂


Do Merc have a big enough advantage to get through q2 on the medium? If so, it’s game over for the others before q3. They’ll run medium/medium/soft in the race and finish 30s up the road without breaking a sweat.
The only hope for racing up front is that Lewis and Nico have full reliability and are ALLOWED to race!!!


Im not sure they would want to start on Mediums, on a track where overtaking is so difficult they will want to take every possible measure to make sure they get to the first corner first.

With a medium start, IF they get to the first corner first they breeze to the win, but theres a risk of getting jumped.

With a soft start, they just have to match everyone else who will inevitable also start on softs being unable to get into Q3 on mediums. I think they will choose a level playing field.

Not to mention if one Merc tries on Mediums the other could use softs for a green light jump.


It’s one of my least favourite tracks on the calendar… a good test track not necessarily a good race track.

Hopefully we get a good downpour of rain for a bit of excitement.


Yes, Merc need to fix the MGU_H problem before it happens to [Mod]…SIGH…

[Please stay respectful of drivers names at all times – Mod]


hope the extra tyre choice livens up the race, also the starts are now much better I think due to the single clutch levers? as a viewer I can see that the drivers get varying get aways. it will be interesting to see how Verstappen gets on, I haven’t been that impressed with his second season, so far.


I do wish that the Circuit de Catalunya would remove that awful chicane at the end of the lap, that final corner used to be (as Martin Brundle would say) mighty, and it was an absolute travesty when they neutered it.


True! Even in F1 pc games, I always felt like it’s a “good for nothing” chicane ever since it was introduced.



Wolff mentioned that Mercedes may turn down performance on cars to address reliability concerns. Would that only be to Lewis who has less PUs available? Or both cars as a preventative measure? Would that be as of Spain – as the indication was given after Sochi?

Here is the quote:
“Internally, we call our engine guy Andy Cowell ‘Mr Performance’, because he wants to get everything out of it that is humanly possible.”

“But we might have to take a small step back and ensure that we are giving the drivers a car with which they can get to the finish line,” Wolff is quoted by RTL broadcaster.


I think it’s pretty clear he is talking about both cars.


Oh dear … poor LH … booo … hooo … 🙁


Well that’s just great Toto.
Let’s slow Lewis even more !
Robbery must have a full on cheesy grin. As that’s another easy victory for him! Toto and his letter are as worthless as share in Ratners.


Presumably they’d turn the dial down on both their cars.

Imagine. Lewis leads Friday practise one and two. He leads qualifying 1, 2 & 3. He has the pole. He leads into the first corner, and is ahead after the first pit stop. They’re both on a two stop strategy. Last pit stop and Lewis is ahead by 12 seconds. He’s on cruise control. He comes into the pits. The pit crew member on the back left, a chap from Leicester dreaming of his football team, gets his gun stuck on the nut. Two seconds, five seconds, ten seconds, fourteen seconds. Finally the wheel is off and the new one is on. Lewis finishes second. Toto ages five years in a few minutes. Rosberg celebrates and establishes a few new records. This site has over 300 hundred posts after the race.
I write soaps for a living. Just kidding.


Aah yes the Spanish race usually signals the start of development race however thanks to high tech simulators in modern F1, the teams just end up cancelling each other out.

Looking forward to another high speed chess game however with Barcelona being infamously hard for overtaking, I fear, it maybe played out in the pits

On the tyre front, a couple of teams such as Ferrari and Haas will be hoping there isn’t an early safety car as this may ruin their strategies.

Having said that, Barcelona gives the best chance of somebody beating Rosberg as we haven’t had a back to back winner on the track since 2004.

Matter of fact Mansell, Mika and Schumi are the only drivers to have won it back to back

As for the question, what I am expecting from the Spanish grand prix, well I expect one of the greatest run downs to the first corner as Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bulls lock horns proper


Welcome back to Europe the grand prix circus…………this is where the season starts properly. All the fly away/Tilke dromes are just a warm up really for the big show – it’s from now until September where upgrades, developments and crucially limited but valuable in season testing is where the championship is really won and lost.

It’s a shame that the circuit is ruined by the tight, bumpy, clumsy, silly chicane before the last corner. That old 5th/6th gear sweeper onto the pit straight was one of the best curves on any circuit, and a real neck jarrer and bowel rattler for the drivers too. Not quite flat out, even on low tanks, but still a very fast and daunting corner that was crucial to maximise speed down the long pit straight.


Interesting stats:- Mercedes have done what Ferrari did in half the time! Also the need for Renault to rescue their legacy as Mercedes are catching their record of wins Already!.

Wondering if Force India are going to change the nose to a totaly new concept – like the rest. Ferrari will be much better at Barcelona


Prepare for another snorefest; unless Mercedes have more ‘gremlins’ (but don’t count on it), it will be one more ‘race’ in the MMC (Mercedes Managed Championship).
Kvyat got the shaft, but that’s the way it goes…
Hoping Max can win his first race in Red Bull, but I’d rather dream of Kimi winning.


Are Mclaren bringing new engine upgrades to Spain? Will Alonso try and get the fastest lap times on a light fuelled Mclaren in Spain?
Lewis Hamilton for the win. The man will be hoping he has a car is Sound [Mod]. Mercedes best hols there breath for the back lash if anything happens to his car.
Toto will have his ears burning from the conspiracy posse.


What does it mean when I see this [Mod] on the screen. Am I not seeing something because I have a brand X computer? Or is it a smart phone thing?


[Mod] appears when James or his team have seen something in a post that they would prefer not to appear on the site. They put that in to show that something has been removed.

Basically, they read EVERY post and moderate on the fly. A very time consuming and thankless task. I’ve done this myself in the past and know how much time and effort it takes. Hats off to them.


(Mod) is placed in a sentence to replace something defamatory ,derogatory or to hide a profanity.
In my case it was in relation to the European Currency 🙂




Young Leclerc had his first taste of a Ferrari .
OK it was an old one. But perhaps Ferrari are looking inside their camp rather than outside for a perspective alternative?
Lewis for the win . Come On The Brit.
All depends though on The Mercedes inept Saga regarding all the mishaps with the British car engine & crew. Just hope it’s not another ‘Unsubtle Rosberg Day for Mercedes’ or there will be an obvious theme of hampering Lewis to give the Golden Boy an easy title pathway.


Lewis needs a trouble free weekend.
Mercedes better sort that out or the Protestant Rosberg Conspiracy will continue Mr.Toto Wolf !


Even if Lewis does win and/or Rosberg is eliminated the conspiracy theorist will say Merc just did it to make it look like they weren’t purposefully trying to Sabotage Lewis. They have chosen their solution and will work hard to fit the evidence to their ‘story’


Unlike yourself?


I hope Sebee gets himself plenty of rest – He might need it 🙂


That whole thing is so over.

It happened, believe it or not, desired trajectory has been achieved, innocence claimed, most bought it. You think the intervention needs to be season long? They’ve done enough. If anything now, we may see obvious human error during pitstops for example due to pressure and extra scrutiny on that team. I believe Lewis has less PUs as well, so any other corrections to achieve the desired outcome can be done end of the season with good justification.


I’m a milliner and boy do I have a hat for you. Don’t worry about the cost just send me your bank account details.


And what is your surname Sebee? Hamilton?


No, but I hear it’s an amazing play.


Protestant ????
I mean PRO Rosberg


Ah, it’s a good thing you cleared that up. I was wondering about this special use of the word Protestant.

Enjoy the race.

Fursty ferret

Unfortunately this track is just terrible for overtaking,so barring unreliability which ever merc leads into the 1st corner has the race sown up,with Monaco next as well same problem, but what are the odds Rosberg has a problem in qually ala like Lewis?


I have a feeling that since Lewis is so far behind Nico on Points, he might just become very aggressive on passing Nico if required; with absolutely no fear of crashing while also establishing his Superiority. Nico as always would be worried about crashing and not being able to maintain that points gap and let go and talk about the larger picture. I hope Nico gets Pole and then Lewis attacks him 😛 or else Spanish grand prix *shudders at the boredom* Behind them, i wonder if the bromance will last long if Vettel gets stuck behind Kimi after the start and behind them Max on DR trying to establish himself will be the most interesting statement to look out for.


What’s the bet that Max will find a way to overtake?


I bet he will. I wonder how DR will keep him in line with his ever smiling maturity.


Why should anything vary from the last 36 out of 42 wins by mercedes? there may be some action down the grid as ‘changed’ drivers attempt to set the record straight but other than that, same old same old ATM.


leave religion out of it!!! haha


That side of the garage will be a pressure cooker this weekend. It will be fascinating to watch.


I guess that will help them melt the butter 😉


Well I hope Mercedes provide Lewis with a rock solid car with no mechanical issues for a change. Give him a chance this time around to compete on an equal basis to retain his title.
I hope Lewis gets a good weekend in Spain.
Maybe Rosberg gets a DNF for a change hey Mercedes & we get a Lewis 1 Vettel 2 Max 3 on the podium. As its starting to became a yawn fest with Rosberg having absolutely zero issues. If Mercedes are not too scared of unleashing Lewis against an average Rosberg.


It would be nice having Alonso First followed by Sainz Second in their Home GP but chances for that happening needs the creation of a new Parallel universe.

Tornillo Amarillo

Too many people overexcited , VERSTAPPEN to prove himself, KVYAT to show himself, SAINZ to have it right, PEREZ & HULK with new parts to recuperate territory, HAMILTON…

My guess 1-2 for Mercedes and RAIKKONEN.

Tornillo Amarillo

Best thing is not a DNF for ROSBERG… just normal race, and you get the result.


“Scared to unleash Lewis,” lmao, at least the Lewis [Mod] are good for a laugh now and again lol.


“As its starting to became a yawn fest”

Just starting to become??

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