Mercedes Dominated the F1 Season So Far but Will Ferrari Close the Gap in Spain?
The current Formula 1 season promised to be very different before the season began. During winter testing, which ostensibly took place in the venue for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, it appeared as if the dominant force in F1 racing over the past few years, Mercedes, were in danger of being caught and surpassed by the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull.
Successive sessions during testing suggested that both the Ferrari and Red Bull had closed the gap on Mercedes and even were outperforming the German constructor’s champions and come the first race of the season in Melbourne, Australia, it was felt that this could be the year when the German’s stranglehold on both the constructor’s and the driver’s championships could well finally be broken.
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However, after a stunning performance in Melbourne from Mercedes two drivers, Valtteri Bottas, who won, and Lewis Hamilton, who finished second, it seemed that the results in winter testing had been something of an anomaly. That was confirmed over the next three races where once again Mercedes drivers finished 1-2 in the standings, meaning that not only are Bottas and Hamilton well clear at the top of the Driver’s Championship, but Mercedes have once again opened up a big lead in the Constructor’s race too.
This weekend though, the action turns to Spain and this is the Grand Prix, the first of a number of Grand Prix across mainland Europe, where many teams will have ready some new parts and technology for their cars, which they hope will improve their performance. Will these improvements mean that Ferrari and Red Bull can finally close the gap on Mercedes, or will the German’s teams’ enhancements only make their own dominating car even faster?
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F1 Season So Far
The season has been a stroll in the park for Mercedes thus far. Their two drivers have finished in the top two positions in each of the four races, splitting the wins and second places equally. Vallteri Bottas leads the Driver’s World Championship by the single point he picked up for the fastest lap during the race in Australia but both he and Lewis Hamilton are already well clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in third.
Indeed, not only has it been consistency for Mercedes in the top two places, but if you expand that to the top five, then you have had the same five drivers finish in the top five in every race so far, although their finishing positions within that behind the two Mercedes drivers have changed from race to race. Alongside Vettel, his team mate Charles Leclerc and Red Bull driver Max Verstappen are the only drivers to have finished either on the podium or inside the top five this season so far.
Only Williams has failed to pick up a point so far in the constructor’s championship, while four drivers are yet to record a point in that particular battle. However, with Spain seeing all the teams hoping for a boost in improvement, thanks to the small changes they will make to their cars and the new technology that will be ready for this race, could we see things change when the race starts on Sunday?
Let’s preview the race itself and find out.
Spanish Grand Prix Preview
The Barcelona-Catalunya circuit is one of the most familiar circuits on the calendar and it is also one that the drivers enjoy. A total of 16 corners, combined with a long start/finish straight, which can see plenty of action at the beginning of the race and is where DRS will be enabled during the race itself, usually means the race has plenty of action.
The current lap record is held by former Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo who posted a time of 1.18.441 in last year’s race, but it is thought that with the improvement in speed this season, we could well see a new lap record set this coming weekend.
Of all the driver’s competing on Sunday, Lewis Hamilton has the best record on the track tasting victory on three occasions in Spain in the past, including the past two years as well as 2014. The only other drivers currently set to race on Sunday who have won here are Kimi Raikkonen (2008), Sebastian Vettel (2011) and Max Verstappen (2016).
Given that the race starts on a long straight, drivers can make good starts and pass a number of drivers on that long run into the first corner, however as the cars bunch up on the first corner, there can be incidents and collisions and it is not unusual to see the safety car out early on in the race should two or more cars encounter each other trying to take that opening corner.
Current Odds to win the Spanish Grand Prix
- Lewis Hamilton – 11/8
- Valtteri Bottas – 5/2
- Sebastian Vettel – 7/2
- Charles Leclerc – 9/2
- Max Verstappen 12/1
- Pierre Gasly – 100/1
- 1000/1 bar
As you can see, the bookies feel that only five drivers have a realistic chance of success in Spain this weekend and it is hard to argue with that when you look at the evidence. Gasly may be in the same car as Verstappen but he has not shown that he can be anywhere near as quick in the Red Bull as his team mate.
The odds seem to suggest Ferrari’s enhancements to their car and the track may well suit them this weekend and Leclerc and Vettel have both looked in good form at times this season, but just unable to match the pace of Mercedes.
However, I can’t really see this race being won by anyone other than a Mercedes driver and while I do expect their monopoly on the top two places in the race to end here, I still feel Lewis Hamilton, at odds of 11/8 on a track where he has been so dominant in the past, is the best value bet here to back.