The Spanish Grand Prix has, traditionally, been the time for the first major upgrades of the F1 season to appear and, after a three-week break between races, pacesetter Mercedes is interested to discover whether its advantage is going to be eroded.
The Three-Pointed Star has won three of the four races to date, with only Sebastian Vettel's first victory for Ferrari in Malaysia upsetting a possible clean sweep. Lewis Hamilton's triple success sees him – and Mercedes – out front in the championship picture, but the Brackley-based team faced greater opposition through the 'flyaways' and technical director Paddy Lowe is keen to see whether, even with the pattern of development having changed in F1 over the years, any team can take a big step to close the gap.
“It feels like a long, but well-needed, break since Bahrain, having barely had more than a week's gap between events since the pre-season programme began,” he noted before heading to Barcelona, “This has given us time to reflect, regroup and pick up on what we've learned in the first part of the year.
“We now head to the first European race, which is traditionally seen as the first major upgrade point of the season [although], in practice, recent years have seen car upgrades become more of a constant and relentless campaign throughout the year. We may see a little more than usual after the three-week gap, however, so it will be interesting to see what each team brings to the table.”
Barcelona won't hold many surprises for the teams this weekend, with two pre-season tests having been staged at the Circuit de Catalunya prior to the cars being shipped off to Melbourne for the season-opening race back in March, although Lowe is wary that climatic conditions may make a small difference to settings.
“Barcelona is one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar, testing both chassis and power unit, and it's often said that if you're quick here, you'll be quick anywhere,” he pointed out, “We looked strong during winter testing - but time has passed, teams will have developed their cars significantly in the subsequent weeks and we'll now see much warmer temperatures, so we don't know how we'll look until we get there. That's part of the excitement of F1!”