Reset your prediction devices this may as well be a new start to the season. The number of new parts being brought to Spain for this race would probably be enough parts to run the three new F1 teams we’re supposed to be getting next year.
Some teams have been slowly but surely adding bits over the races (McLaren, Renault and Force India) others have been waiting for this race to spring their big updates (Ferrari, Brawn and BMW) and finally there are teams like Williams, Red Bull and Toyota who have been banking on their advantages to stem the need for new parts until Turkey.
The ones who have been adding bits as they go along will not be expecting big steps however McLaren’s slow but steady pace has been bringing them closer and closer to the front. They have a new double diffuser this weekend. This could well bring them up to the level of Toyota and Red Bull. What it means for their position versus Brawn is hard to say as we don’t know quite how many tricks they have up their sleeves.
Renault have also brought some new parts along and while they have likely moved forward they haven’t moved forward as fast as McLaren in previous weekends and you’d have to guess it will be the same again.
Ferrari and BMW are the big unknowns. In essence they have both brought B spec cars. So many changes have been made to both of them. However BMW haven’t quite finished their set of changes so there will be again no KERS for them and still no double diffuser. They think they have moved half a second a lap forward. The only problem is that so has everyone else which is why they were so far back in Bahrain.
Ferrari have it all done however. A super light car for Kimi. His car is 10kg lighter than Massa’s (the weight difference between Kimi and Massa). Presumably this makes the car less reliable or or more expensive or you have to wonder why they haven’t given it to Massa as well. They have the double diffuser and KERS. They are getting all of their presents at once.
The only question is how tricky this Ferrari will be to set up. In the old days it was the law that while it was tempting to bring bits and prices one at a time, the big teams held their nerve and brought several prices at once. It allowed them to be much more efficient in the way that they worked back at the factory. Small teams would do the bits as they could afford them. The big teams did big projects that took three or four races and then they delivered it.
But Renault and McLaren have bucked that trend this year. Perhaps it was a mistake from the less experienced Martin Whitmarsh, perhaps Flav had to be seen to be doing something by Renault? But since the banning of in season testing perhaps they have called it correctly? Ferrari have changed a lot of things at the same time and have no time to test them. At least McLaren and Renault added bit by bit allowing them to measure each of the changes.
The principal question is Ross Brawn’s sleeves. What has he got up them? At this stage a small 0.2 of a second a lap update might be enough to keep them ahead. But McLaren will be bringing new updates each race and Ferrari will gain more and more performance as they get to grips with all of the potential of their new car.
Finally this race will be the traditional benchmark for the season. Will the rule changes allow overtaking at Barcelona? Oh and it might rain on Sunday.
All of this is to say, your guess is as good as mine. Which is exactly what we’d like to prove.
Please, before qualifying starts, let us know who is on pole and who you think will be the top eight for the race.