There's no rest for the wicked as F1 moves quickly along to the Spanish Grand Prix and probably a certain amount of Alonsomania. Michael Schumacher may have improved Ferrari's fortunes with two consecutive victories but this coming weekend it will...
There's no rest for the wicked as F1 moves quickly along to the Spanish Grand Prix and probably a certain amount of Alonsomania. Michael Schumacher may have improved Ferrari's fortunes with two consecutive victories but this coming weekend it will be Fernando Alonso in the spotlight at his home race.
Renault's reigning champion has never won in Spain and no doubt the whole country would go mad if he ascends to the top step at the Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday. Despite the weight of expectation from the fans Alonso enjoys racing at home.
"It is a very special feeling for me to be at my home Grand Prix, it is something unique in the whole championship," he said. "It can be a bit stressful too, but the main emotion for me is that I really enjoy the whole weekend, seeing the fans from Wednesday and Thursday onwards. There are so many of them, it is a shame we only have one race in Spain!"
An Alonso victory would thrill the Spanish fans but Ferrari aims to prevent that happening. The Maranello squad has taken the fight to Renault in the last couple of races and Schumacher is ready for more. "Sometimes these consecutive races can be a very good thing and allow us to carry the wave of optimism into the next race," he remarked.
However, he knows it will not be an easy task to secure the win. "We will have to be on our toes as the competition is tough," he added. "We would like to repeat the experience of the past two races and I think that we can do it. We should have a good chance of challenging for victory at Barcelona."
The Circuit de Catalunya is familiar to the teams as a lot of testing work is done there but quickly changing track temperatures mean unpredictability. There are long, high-speed corners and aerodynamic efficiency is one of the key requirements and downforce settings tend to be quite high.
"Barcelona is a unique circuit, but it is also challenging to find a well balanced set-up there," said Williams technical director Sam Michael. "The reduced engine power compared to last year means that two of the four high speed (250kph+) corners are now full throttle, although they still put a large loading on the car."
Being a high-speed track it's quite tough on tyres but the surface is less abrasive since it was resurfaced before last season. "It has several long, high-speed corners which means that our tyres must be strong from both a compound and construction point of view," said Bridgestone technical manager Hisao Suganuma.
While Renault and Ferrari are fighting it out for the top step of the podium, what's happened to the rest? McLaren and Honda were thought to be serious challengers this season but so far the performance from both has fallen short of expectations. However, McLaren is only eight points behind Ferrari so things could quickly change.
Jenson Button is optimistic for Spain. "It's a circuit where you need to be strong aerodynamically and I think our car is good in that respect," the Honda driver commented. "The weather is likely to be nice and hot which always suits us better and if we can resolve the engine problem from last weekend, I think we should be able to get a good result."
Jacques Villeneuve picked up a point in eighth for BMW Sauber at the N?rburgring and Barcelona holds some good memories for the Canadian. "The Circuit de Catalunya is a good circuit and one where I've been pretty successful, having won three GPs there," he commented. "And of course we all know the track like the back of our hands because we do a lot of testing there."
Toyota came away from Europe empty handed but Ralf Schumacher was encouraged by the team's performance during testing at the Circuit de Catalunya. "We have been doing quite well during testing in Barcelona," he said. "We are in the upper middle field, better in the race than in qualifying -- at least in my case -- and so I'm quite happy about that."
Will we see another battle between Alonso and Michael this weekend or is somebody else going to join in? It's good to see a fight for the wins but it would be nice if more drivers were involved. However, if Alonso takes the victory you can be sure there will be an awful lot of happy people in Spain.