THE GAME CHANGES AT THE SPANISH GRAND PRIX

The pressure is building on Ferrari ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix.

Yes, the team still leads the constructors standings and Charles Leclerc is ahead on the drivers table, but nailing the first major round of updates is the final frontier for a team on the rebound after years of poor results.

Ferrari’s development work since bottoming out in 2020 has been notable for its patience and finesse. That it’s in title contention this year after finishing a painful sixth in the standings just two years ago.

But that patient strategy and its five rounds with limited updates has seen it slip behind by an estimate 0.2 seconds to Red Bull Racing.

This weekend’s updates must claw that back if we’re to believe Ferrari’s title fight is sustainable rather than just a fast start.

“It’s clear we now need to respond,” Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto said. “It’s no doubt that in order to keep the pace we will need to develop ourselves with new upgrades.”

Red Bull Racing will have upgrades of its own, particularly aimed at saving weight, but the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya’s technical layout will favour Ferrari’s base set-up, making this the ideal round to replenish its dwindling points buffer.

Ferrari and RBR won’t be the only teams in the spotlight, with Mercedes in particular in need of a productive weekend. When F1 went testing here Mercedes was using an older car aero kit it’s adamant is slower than its current troublesome design.

It now has the chance to verify that theory, and it too has brought some intriguing upgrades to help it unlock the potential it saw briefly in Miami.

“A huge amount of hard work has been going on in the factories to unpick the data from Miami and turn it into improvements for Barcelona,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said. “Having run there in winter testing, albeit with a car that has evolved a lot since then, it will be a good place to correlate the information we have on the current car, and we’re hopeful that we’ll make another step forward.”

In fact virtually all teams bar Haas, which is holding fire for a few more rounds, have brought upgrades to this weekend, with some, like Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo, bringing substantial revisions resembling B-spec cars.

Behind Ferrari and Red Bull Racing, whatever we thought about the 2022 form guide could be set for a shuffle in Spain.

TIP

On paper this is very much a Ferrari circuit that will play to the known strengths of the SF-75. That said Red bull Racing is improving markedly and will have upgrades of its own this weekend, so I’m not convinced Ferrari will have everything its own way.