True test of Merc’s upgrades 

After unveiling their substantial upgrade package in Monaco, this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix will be a true test of whether it truly works.

The initial impressions from Monaco have been positive but given that the iconic street circuit is an outlier in terms of characteristics - bumpy track surface, low-speed corners and having to run maximum downforce - it’s too early to say whether Mercedes are on the right path to challenge Red Bull again.

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"Barcelona is like the best test bench circuit for us, so I think it'd be really difficult here to really know. The car feels really stiff, there’s lots of bumps, it's tricky," Lewis Hamilton told Sky after Monaco.

The team have heavily focused on the sidepod profile and front suspension as they slowly look to change their car concept. 

Spain will give Mercedes more answers.

Firstly, whether the car has improved in terms of lap time.

Secondly, the general handling of the car - Toto Wolff has described the W14’s rear-end as “a bit nasty”.

Spain was one of Mercedes’ strongest circuits last year with George Russell running up at the front, while Hamilton showed outstanding pace from the back of the grid following his collision with Kevin Magnussen.

It’s another big weekend for Mercedes.

Under pressure Perez and Stroll

Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll endured torrid Monaco weekends.

Starting with Perez, his title dream is hanging by a thread after he was lapped twice by teammate Verstappen.

His weekend was completely undone in Q1 with a needless crash at Sainte Devote.

Given Red Bull’s general pace advantage, he was under no pressure to get out of Q1 nor did he have to take any unnecessary risks.

The pressure would have inevitably been on Perez given his track record in Monaco and street circuits in general - he is the ‘King of the Streets’ - supposedly anyway.

He’s now 39 points off Verstappen as F1 heads to more traditional tracks such as Barcelona, Red Bull Ring, Silverstone and the Hungaroring.

Any talk of a title bid from Perez was always premature but it seems that it’s ended sooner than many expected.

At Aston Martin, Stroll continues to underperform in the second-best car on the grid.

His stuttering form means Aston sit just one point ahead of Mercedes in the constructors’ championship.

He is the son of Aston Martin billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll, so his future with the team is never in serious doubt.

But if Aston Martin are serious about winning then upgrading Stroll is a necessity. 

Stroll is capable on his day, particularly in changeable conditions, but those days are few and far between.

New (old) Barcelona layout 

For this year’s race, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has reverted back to his original layout.

It means drivers will no longer have to tackle the “Mickey Mouse” chicane in the final sector.

Instead they will stay to the left of the track and take the final couple of corners effectively flat-out.

This layout (aside from the other modifications made to the old Turn 10) was last used back in 2006.

So on the current F1 2023 grid, only Alonso has driven on it.

Historically, Barcelona rarely springs a great race, with drivers unable to follow through the aforementioned chicane.

Perhaps this change will result in more overtaking and a better spectacle overall.

More rain in the air?

Remarkably, the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona hasn’t been affected by rain since 1996, when Michael Schumacher took one of the greatest victories of his illustrious career.

At the time of writing, rain is forecast for Sunday afternoon.

As seen in Monaco, which like Barcelona is traditionally a dull event, could throw up some additional chaos if the new layout doesn’t.

The forecast will no doubt change as we get closer to the race weekend so it’s one to keep an eye on.