Formula 1 is back on familiar ground after the second visit to Portimao as the paddock makes the relatively short trip to the Circuit de Catalunya Barcelona for the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix.
Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton put a difficult Emilia Romagna race behind them comprehensively with a one-two on Saturday and a statement victory on Sunday, but will that carry over to Spain?
Red Bull continues to throw everything into the ’21 title fight, unleashing a plethora of upgrades during the Portuguese GP weekend but extenuating circumstances disguised whether those worked perfectly or not.
That should become clear in Barcelona. The traditional testing venue for F1 has a mix of everything layout-wise that will reveal a truer idea of the competitive order this season.
McLaren has the measure of Ferrari so far but Daniel Ricciardo will need to start picking up the slack as he tries to catch team-mate Lando Norris. Alpine looked stronger in Portugal but could fall back towards the so far anonymous AlphaTauri in the midfield battle.
Here are a few things to keep an eye out for during the Spanish Grand Prix race weekend.
Red Bull’s extensive upgrade package
Red Bull ran plenty of upgrades in Portugal including redesigned bargeboard fins and wings
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Max Verstappen should have taken pole position around Portimao but another track limits transgression let Mercedes off the hook and the Silver Arrows locked out the front row.
Both Sergio Perez and Verstappen ran bits and pieces from Red Bull’s war chest of upgrades, including a redesigned diffuser and barge board layout. All of the changes aim to redirect the airflow more efficiently around the rear of the car and into the central channels of the diffuser, in turn generating greater downforce for a car that has looked far more stable than its Mercedes counterpart.
However, a difficult track surface that many struggled to get to grips with limited the effectiveness of the upgraded RB16B package so its true performance gains were largely hidden. That should not be the case on the familiar Circuit de Catalunya Barcelona layout.
Teams have plenty of data and it won’t take long to ascertain whether updates are correlating as planned on the track, and Red Bull could be back on top again in Spain despite slipping behind Mercedes in Portugal.
Turn 10 changes
The demanding flat-out Turn 9 now leads into a redesigned Turn 10 at the Barcelona circuit.
Overtaking has not been the most straightforward of tasks when compared to other layouts on the F1 calendar, but the changes to the beginning of the final sector aim to change that and promote more wheel-to-wheel battles throughout the race.
The hairpin following the second DRS zone on the track has been remodelled and is no longer as tight. A less acute arcing corner has taken its place.
Its new layout is similar to that used back in the early years of the circuit during the 1990s, but it will be a step into the unknown for teams this season.
Winter testing took place in Bahrain and the F1 circus hasn’t visited the circuit since the changes have been made. Will it promote more overtaking? Let’s hope so.
The French team looked more competitive in Portugal than it did at the beginning of the season but was it a false dawn or a serious step forward for Alpine?
Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso were the duo on the move during the final stint of the Portuguese Grand Prix, taking another double points finish for the team with seventh and eighth places respectively.