Formula 1

Spanish GP preview: F1 hits the reset button

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After the first three-week hiatus F1 heads to Barcelona for the first European race of the year, the Spanish Grand Prix.

Always one of the most intriguing races on the schedule, the Circuit de Catalunya will see teams bring their biggest upgrade packages yet to the 2014 cars and can often shake up of the pecking order.

And after what has been a very close battle throughout the grid in the opening four races there is plenty of scope for a few surprises in Barcelona.

Where they will likely be few surprises, however, is at the front where the dominant Mercedes will likely retain their current grip with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg battling it out.

As much as their rivals will improve so to will Mercedes, though I suspect the gap will be narrower to Red Bull and Ferrari, particularly on the more technical Catalunya layout.

As for the Scuderia, the enigma that is Fernando Alonso will always be one to watch at his home race, despite likely having the third best car I'd fully expect the man from Oviedo to be battling for a podium.

Behind the front three the huge battle between the three Mercedes customer teams, Toro Rosso and Lotus will be one to watch.

As the Renault V6 power unit continues to make up ground expect Lotus to spring a surprise. Romain Grosjean proved the car was capable of running in the top ten in China last time out, while Pastor Maldonado returns to the site of his incredible win two years ago.

In the early build-up, the Venezuelan hasn't ruled out a top five finish in Barcelona, though any kind of points would be hugely welcomed at Enstone.

There will be expectations at McLaren too as the British team has slipped from double podium finishers in Australia, to the slowest Mercedes-powered car on the grid.

Group Chairman Ron Dennis has already outlined a plan to get the team out of a rut reminiscent of the struggles from last year and they will be hoping to challenge the likes of Force India and Williams much more strongly than in Shanghai.

Further back Sauber have endured a miserable start of the season with the car seemingly stuck in the no-mans land between the midfield and the two slower teams at the back.

Personally their poor form hasn't been much of a surprise given the financial strife the Swiss team has been in and I don't have much expectation for a huge improvement any time soon.

Then come Marussia and Caterham who will be set to resume their battle at the back. Given the poor form of Sauber it may take one great result for ninth in the Constructors Championship to become a possibility, however, the likelihood of that result being in Barcelona is small.

With reliability improving I expect the best result these teams could hope would be around 16th place, three off Max Chilton's current result that has Marussia in tenth.

As for the challenges of the race itself, this year marks the first time in a while that the Grand Prix will mark the first visit to Barcelona this year.

Usually the venue is used for pre-season testing, but with Bahrain hosting much of the winter action, adjusting to the long corners with the higher amount of torque may present the biggest challenge as will the key traction zones at the end of the lap.

This race is also one of the big tyre-destroyers with last year's race famously needing a conservative four-stop strategy despite the hardest compounds.

Though I believe a three-stop will be the more likely route this year, managing the tyres will be a key part of the weekend and could offer opportunities to the likes of Red Bull.

With Mercedes still big favourites heading into the Spanish GP weekend we should expect another battle between the on form Lewis Hamilton and his team-mate Nico Rosberg, who will be keen to halt the Briton's current charge.

Best friends Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will also be looking for improvements against their respective team-mates as Daniel Ricciardo will hope to claim a first official podium.

It's a weekend where the sport really does hit the reset button and the season almost starts anew. With so many good stroylines that need resolving it promises to be an exciting weekend in Catalonia.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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