Resetting The Dial

The upcoming Spanish Grand Prix is traditionally the first stop of the season in Europe, where F1 remains until September. While the Circuit De Catalunya itself is considered one of the least excitable races, with it’s often processional-style events, this year’s does have a bit extra to offer.

Massa has trailed team-mate Alonso in four out of four races in 2012

Teams will bring their first major updates of the year and there are some in drastic need. Ferrari’s first four races were spent well short of even serious podium contention. Only the rain in Malaysia and the win it so unexpectedly produced for Fernando Alonso was able to give the Scuderia much to smile about. The top step of the podium is where they always aim for, but Felipe Massa says that is too much to realistically hope for just yet:

“To close the gap you need to improve much more than the others and they are working and improving,” he said. “In three weeks, you see cars improving by two or three tenths, so we need to make a huge step forward.

Definitely it [winning races] is a bit too optimistic but when we have new parts and everything on the car then we can talk better. Without trying the new parts it is difficult to say, but to close the gap to the guys in front and win races is a little bit too optimistic – but we hope.”

Force India had hoped for more by this stage

Force India are another team who, on form, are far from meeting their targets.  The ex-Jordan crew began in Australia with the aim of finishing the year as the fourth-placed team, but are currently sit in eighth position, the second-last of the teams to have scored points.Team principal Vijay Mallya is unsure of how much the team will have improved come this weekend due to how close this year’s grid is, but is sure the team should still be able to fight for points:

“As well as developments for the car we are pushing hard to maximise the strategies and the drivers are delivering excellent performances in the races,” he said. “That’s so important this year with the margins between the teams so tight. If we can continue to deliver like we did in Bahrain then we should be able to remain in the hunt for points this weekend.”

McLaren have won just once in four outings this year

McLaren will want to try to win back points which slipped from their grasp on more than once occasion, after proving that having the quickest car doesn’t necessarily mean getting the most championship points. Lewis Hamilton says that overtaking will be difficult, but that strong qualifying will help his cause:

“It’ll be interesting to see how straightforward overtaking will be this year. It’s always been a tough place for passing – as I found out last year – but I really hope DRS and KERS-Hybrid combined will make it a little easier,” he explained.

“I think it’s going to be one of the toughest tracks of the year for overtaking, but I’ll be hoping for a strong performance in qualifying in order to make it as straightforward as possible in the race.”

Vettel and Red Bull won the last race in Bahrain

Red Bull started this year as title favourites but only in the last race in Bahrain did they begin to look like serious contenders. Sebastian Vettel said during last week’s test session that 2011-like dominance is unlikely,  and his team still have work to do:

“Dominant is always a very difficult word,” he explained. “We had four races this year, and we had one win. All-in-all, I think the other races we had we were competitive. Surely not strong enough to win, but not disastrous enough either.

“We can be happy with what we have achieved so far, but we want more. That is why we are here working hard to find new parts to improve the performance of this car.”

Mercedes’ first race win now leaves them wanting more of the same

Mercedes have seen their race hopes mostly fade in the afternoons as issues with tyre management prevented them for acheiving their maximum, despite still getting a race victory for Nico Rosberg in China. Michael Schumacher does not expect great things from the Spanish GP as he says, the German teams knows they are not particularly strong on the Catalunya circuit:

“Barcelona is a track we have driven extensively on, and this is why we know that its characteristics do not exactly play fully into our hands. But then, we will definitely go there and try our best and at the same time keep on working for the things to come.”

Lotus had all but the race winner on the podium in the most recent Grand Prix

The name everyone had their eyes on in pre-season was Kimi Raikkonen and he has kept up with expectation with strong showings and almost a win last time out in Bahrain. The Lotus car has showed well in the hands of both Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, with Raikkonen now aiming for nothing less than wins:

“We had the car already in the first three races to be up there, but we made some small mistakes and it cost us a lot. I would have been much happier if we had managed to get the victory, but nevertheless it’s a good result and the team deserved it for all their hard work. We have been good in every race so far, so hopefully we will be regular visitors to the podium this season.

I am here to race and I race to win. That is the target for me and the team. We want to win grands prix. We have a good car and we saw in Bahrain it is good enough to win. That’s the target.”

One thing for definite is that some teams will be pleased and others will be disappointed with how they fare in Spain. The need for Ferrari to hit back, along with Lotus’ surprise pace and other elements in a year which is proving so hard to call, is why this year’s Spanish Grand Prix may be the best one yet.

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