The Monegasque and Ferrari arrive this weekend in Spain in a leading position – a position that neither the team nor the driver have yet left this season. But it is more fragile than ever, well started by the two consecutive victories of the Red Bull driver.
After the demonstration of the reigning world champion in Emilia-Romagna (Italy) at the end of April, his victory in Miami two weeks ago allowed him to return to 19 points from Leclerc (104 pts), after a race that the Scuderia driver has never really been able to dominate. “For the moment, it seems that Red Bull has the upper hand in the races”, admitted the Monegasque in Florida.
Red Bull and Ferrari, with their leaders at the wheel, are the only cars capable of winning so far, as no other team has placed a driver in the first two places in the first five races.
We can therefore expect a new wheel-to-wheel duel between Leclerc and Verstappen in Spain, with their teammates in ambush, Sergio Pérez at Red Bull and the Spaniard of Ferrari Carlos Sainz Jr, who will try on his land to snatch the first win of his F1 career.
Reliability versus speed
Since the start of the season, the RB18 has continued to be developed, unlike its prancing horse competitor, whose single-seaters have not progressed since the start of the season.
“In the next races, it could be our turn to try to develop the car as much as possible. […] We don’t have the money to spend on improvements at each race”, defended his boss Mattia Binotto, who recalls that each team has a budget ceiling to respect for the season. “At some point Red Bull will stop developing,” he said.
On paper, if the Scuderia dominates the debates, followed by the Austrian team only six points behind, on the track, the speed of the Red Bulls still promises to be a definite advantage this weekend on the circuit of Barcelona-Catalonia. Unless mechanical problems once again disrupt the plans?
Since the start of the season, the Austrian manufacturer has suffered from reliability problems which have already led Verstappen to retire twice, and once Sergio Pérez. “We still have a few problems that we have to solve,” acknowledged the reigning world champion after the Miami GP.
“End of the first quarter”
After around thirty GPs since 1991 and winter testing every year between 2014 and 2020 and then in 2022, drivers and teams know the Catalan track by heart. If Verstappen tries to win his first Spanish round there since 2016, his rival could become the first Ferrari winner at the Spanish GP since Fernando Alonso in 2013.
Behind, Mercedes, currently third in the constructors’ championship, seems powerless against Ferrari and Red Bull. Plagued since the beginning of the season with performance problems, the team, the current constructors’ world champion, is counting on the Spanish round to finally understand and tame its single-seater with its original aerodynamics.