Last season, Ferrari had a power advantage in Spain as the cars qualified third and fourth (Vettel 0.3sec ahead of Leclerc after a mistake by the Frenchman). This year, the team arrives having run a low downforce setup at Silverstone to mask its lack of power. That approach won’t work at the high-downforce Barcelona circuit, so don’t be surprised to see both red cars battling in the midfield.
Strategy could once again prove crucial, with high temperatures forecast and Leclerc’s confidence will be boosted by his tyre management at Silverstone, which enabled him to stop only once last weekend.
In hindsight, Vettel could have followed the same strategy, said team principal, Mattia Binotto, but he defended the decision to pit the German on lap 22, which dropped him into traffic and prompted a message from Vettel that the team had “messed up”.
“I think we’re not sacrificing Seb, we saw with the times that it would have made no difference for him stopping earlier or later,” Binotto said.
“Reviewing all the data, eventually by leaving Seb out on track, we may have left at least the one-stop strategy open to him as well, which we didn’t, but it was not a matter of sacrificing or not.
“We always said that maximising the team’s points is the first priority and that is what we were trying to achieve, and not compromise anyway.”
The result leaves Vettel 13th in the drivers’ championship with just 10 points to his name after five rounds while Leclerc sits fourth, with 45 points.
Racing Point should have Sergio Perez back in the car this weekend
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There weren’t many headlines during either Silverstone weekend that didn’t include Racing Point in it.
Saturday’s qualifying brought relief from controversy as Nico Hülkenberg‘s put his car third on the grid, on his delayed F1 return. He was unfortunate to finish seventh in the race, behind Lance Stroll.
As the team returns to the track where it showed its potential in pre-season testing, it will hope that it can keep the tyre wear in check, while maximising performance from the Mercedes engine and last year’s Mercedes aero concept. If not, it could be a familiar tale of great promise on Saturday that fades during the race.
The team is hopeful that Sergio Perez will be returning to the car after the Mexican’s period of self-isolation, but Hülkenberg is on standby he returns a positive Covid test again.
Off the track, the team remains under pressure following confirmation that both Ferrari and Renault have followed through on their intention to appeal the decision regarding the team’s brake ducts.
After the Silverstone race, Racing Point was reprimanded for using the parts in question, in line with the stewards decision, so expect another this weekend in Spain.
Sainz has endured the brunt of the poor luck at McLaren
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Out of the two McLaren drivers, it is Lando Norris that has enjoyed the lion’s share of luck so far in 2020 and so it proved to be once again at Silverstone.
Carlos Sainz will be happy to be flying home for the next round after failing to score a point in either race at the team’s home grand prix.
A repeat of last season’s eighth-place would be a welcome gift at this point, as the Spaniard looks to replicate the form that had him end 2019 best of the rest in the championship behind the top teams.
“It’s been a very frustrating start to the season for me, but we keep pushing together as a team to maximise our performance,” Sainz said in the team’s preview.
“The competition around us is fierce and looks like it’s taken a step forward, that’s why losing those many points in the previous races hurts, but we’re focused on ourselves as we head to Spain and know that we must keep pushing.”
Ocon enjoyed a solid eighth-place finish as Renault looked to take a step forward
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Renault put in arguably its strongest weekends of the season so far across both Silverstone dates, with a season-high result of fourth for Daniel Ricciardo in the British Grand Prix.
The French team has elevated its expectations following such a strong performance, and Esteban Ocon believes it can be the springboard the team can use for the next phase of the season.
“I think the car is capable of more than eighth, really and we have seen in qualifying Daniel can go fifth,” he said.
“That’s what we need to improve on my side of the garage. We definitely need to put the car up there and in the race the car is quite quick.
“We are not shy of fighting with the bigger boys so it’s very positive. It’s going to be an interesting season.”
Pierre Gasly has been the more competitive of the two AlphaTauri cars
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After the highs of seventh for Pierre Gasly in the first Silverstone race, his side of the AlphaTauri garage fell into the strategy trap in the heat and it cost the Frenchman a better result.
Team-mate Daniil Kvyat benefited, though, scoring his second points finish of the season in 10th.
Like Mercedes, the team will be eager to identify the causes of the blistering that cost Gasly pace in the middle stint with more hot weather on the way this weekend in Barcelona.
“It was a long time ago now, but we have the data from winter testing and it will be interesting to see how the cars have evolved since February,” Gasly said.
“The conditions were very different then, very cold and now it will be very hot right in the middle of August, which is not the usual time for the race in Barcelona.
“It will make things more complicated for the tyres compared to the race’s usual date in early May, especially when you consider this track is never easy on the tyre front.”
Alfa Romeo continues to struggle at the back of the field
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70 years after it had dominated F1’s inaugural event, Alfa Romeo lined up for its anniversary event on the last row of the grid.
Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi managed to climb up the order, but only to 15th and 17th respectively.
Team principal Fréd Vasseur said the team is yet to extract the maximum out of its current package.
“The team performed well and executed a clean race, but we have a lot of work still ahead of us before we can be where we want to be.
“We need to improve our qualifying pace to be able to start further up the grid: on Sunday we seem to have a good turn of speed and we can keep up the pace with all the others, but we can’t really get anything out of it if we’re starting that far back.”
Giovinazzi believes that it is the team’s Saturday performances that is holding it back.
“I believe our Saturday issues have masked some of the pace we have during the race, so we need to keep working on it to be in the fight for points right from the start of the race,” he said.
George Russell now has three-straight Q2 appearances this year
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Williams has endured a mixed bag so far in 2020 as it slumped to an 18th and 19th place finish after George Russell made it into Q2 for the third time this season.
The Mercedes junior driver has demonstrated the improvements the team has made from last season, but it can’t quite make that same step in the races.
Russell says he is hoping the differing conditions of the past two weeks can help Williams find its way going forward.
“Off the back of two very different Grands Prix at Silverstone, one being cold with hard tyres and one being hot with soft tyres, I think that has given us some good learning.
“This week in Barcelona is going to be really tricky as we normally race there in May, now we are racing there in August.
“However, I am excited to get back driving again and hopefully put in another good Saturday, but this time focus on doing the same job on Sunday.
Roy Nissany will be in the car during FP1, in what will be his Grand Prix weekend debut just over 15 years on from his father’s infamous Minardi outing at the ’05 Hungarian GP.
Kevin Magnussen suffered a double DNF across both Silverstone races
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Two retirements and two 16th places for Haas capped off two difficult weekends for the team.
A gamble on strategy in race one put Romain Grosjean in a top-five position but it was only temporary as the team continued to struggle with the VF-20.
It will have a plethora of data though to fall back on for this weekend with winter testing conducted at the same venue, something that can only be a help for Haas according to its team boss.
“Last year, with the double points-score, having had a bit of a difficult season up until then, it was very good,” Guenther Steiner said.
“In another way it maybe wasn’t so good as we believed in our upgrade, which then ultimately, we put back on the shelf and went back to the Melbourne spec.
“Getting the points last year was a nice moment, but maybe for going forward in the season the package was the wrong thing to do. You learn out of all this and I hope we don’t make that mistake again.
“For this weekend, hopefully the racetrack suits our car, it’s not such a power-sensitive circuit. Hopefully we can get something done, it will be difficult like every track this year, but it looks a little bit better for us. We’ll find out on Saturday and Sunday this week.”