Race starts at 3:10 pm in Spain/9:10 pm Malaysian time

After completing 4 rounds of the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship, the European season starts this weekend in Spain. As in all the years since 1991, the 2018 Spanish Grand Prix will be held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. This is also the same circuit that the teams go to during the off-season period to carry out testing. The venue, a consolidated racetrack, will be hosting the event for the 28th consecutive year, a milestone that only a few circuits have been able to achieve.

The 4.655-km Barcelona track has often been regarded as an indicator of how a car will perform in other places. If it is quick around the circuit, it is likely to perform well at any of the calendar’s 20 other race venues. The judgement is based on the circuit’s layout, which features a good mix of fast, medium and low-speed corners, as well as swift changes of direction and a long start-finish straight. It’s a combination that tests a broad range of car characteristics and after the particular circuit demands of the opening races, taking in temporary tracks and races in cool and high temperatures, Spain’s GP circuit is perhaps the first time this season that will show each team’s relative strengths.

“It’s so windy out there. Every driver was struggling with the changing direction of the wind. You’re constantly arriving at each corner and the wind direction is never the same, so we saw lots of drivers going off. These conditions make it very difficult to define where the set-up needs to go. We got through all our running and were quite fast compared to previous years,” said Lewis Hamilton after one of the practice sessions.

While the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is perhaps the circuit that offers the largest reserve of historical data for teams to draw upon, this year’s event presents a variable no team has yet come to grips with – in the most literal sense. A complete resurfacing of the track coupled with unexpectedly harsh weather in pre-season testing provided more questions than answers and should make for interesting tyre use this weekend, with Medium, Soft and Supersoft compounds being offered. Williams, in particular, have made aggressive choices, with its drivers opting for sets of ultrasoft tyres.

An utterly captivating race in Baku last time out has altered the shape of the Drivers’ Championship and Mercedes-AMG’s Lewis Hamilton starts the race today at the top of the standings for the first time this year. He also starts from pole position and aims to repeat the victory he achieved at the same event a year ago.

In the race for the Constructors’ crown, Ferrari (114 pts) still holds a narrow 4-point lead over Mercedes. The Italian team is still the most successful at the Spanish GP with a dozen wins over the years.

Niki Lauda won his first-ever F1 race at this event (but on a different circuit) 44 years ago when he was driving for Ferrari. Of the current grid, home hero Fernando Alonso takes the honours for the most podium finishes in Barcelona, with seven, the first one in 2003 when his finished second while driving for Renault.

Michael Schumacher is the most successful driver at the Spanish GP, with six wins. A quartet of drivers share second place on the list, with three wins each: Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost.

[Chips Yap]

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