With the Formula 1 season now in full swing, t5m’s resident expert Alex Walters predicts what the future holds for some of the sport’s biggest stars…
Formula 1 has been in something of a dream world during the last few weeks. Jenson Button and Brawn GP have made the greatest comeback since Lazarus; Toyota’s engine, widely assumed to burn money instead of race fuel, has finally begun to bear fruit, and Ferrari languish at the back among the Force Indias. There are many who speculate that the old order changeth.
Yet this could be the weekend that the dream world is cast off and the sleeping giant of Mclaren awakes, with their silver-clad champion, Lewis Hamilton, swatting aside the pretenders to his throne.
Hamilton has made the best of a bad job this season. Dubious steward-manipulating aside, the Mclaren number one has caressed, cajoled and KERS’d through the pack with rampant charges reminiscent of his hero, Ayrton Senna. Last time around in Bahrain the car appeared, for the first time this season, to have a modicum of pace. With a fortnight’s gap between Bahrain and Spain, you can bet your ticket to Silverstone that Mclaren will be coming out ready and refreshed.
The main problem that the Mclarens will face is the high downforce nature of the Catalunya circuit, which doesn’t suit their MP4-24 car as well as some of their rivals’. Brawn GP, however, should find the track more to their advantage. Yet the level to which other teams have closed down their blistering start to the season was belied last week only by a magnificent drive from Jenson Button. The Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel and the rejuvenated Jarno Trulli of Toyota may have had more to say about the outcome of the race had Button not managed a spectacular pass on Hamilton at the start of lap 2.
Button will find himself under a lot more pressure this weekend. Hamilton is likely to go light on fuel in qualifying in order to push up the grid and, with a slower car than his rivals, the main objective will be not to get stuck behind him and the awesomely effective Mercedes KERS system. Rumours also abound that Ferrari have made significant changes to their F60, with a lighter package and significant aero-dynamic changes. It is unlikely to be enough to save their season, but don’t be surprised if they pick up a bit of pace over the weekend.
The stage is set for an epic battle between the Brawns, the Toyotas and the Red Bulls. Hamilton, however, has shown his true worth in getting the best out of a weak car. If the Mclaren team have improved at all, and they get their strategy right, we could see Lewis amongst the leaders after the final pit-stop.
In the Spanish Grand Prix of 1986, the closest race in F1 history saw Ayrton Senna beat Nigel Mansell by just 0.014 seconds. If the Brawns have been caught up as quickly as is supposed, expect another close one.