With three teams likely to be in the hunt for the victory this weekend the battle to be best of the rest could decide who takes home the points for seventh and eighth positions – assuming the Ferraris, McLarens and BMWs all come home in one piece.
So who from Renault, Williams, Red Bull, Toyota and Honda will do the business at Barcelona?
Fernando Alonso’s record at home is pretty formidable – he’s been in the top four in his last five visits. In 2003 he was in marvellous form and audaciously took the fight to Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari. Only being delayed by Ralf Schumacher during a pit stop sequence prevented him from chasing the elder Schumacher across the line at the end.
He had to give best to Kimi Raikkonen’s McLaren in 2005 but finally won in 2006. Last year he gambled everything on a risky attempt to pass Felipe Massa at the first corner, and lost. He rolled in third after Raikkonen’s car had failed.
After last week’s test Alonso was cautious not to sing the praises of the revised R28 too highly – perhaps not wanting to excite the expectations of the home crowd. But Renault’s Bob Bell has described the team’s performance as being in the order of “multiple tenths of a second”. In which case, a solid top ten qualifying performance and points finish is definitely on.
Webber finished seventh in the last two races and, with a reliable and quick car under him, is starting to deliver on the promise that’s lain dormant in years spent driving unreliable and uncompetitive cars.
His best result here was sixth in 2005, when he equalled his best-ever starting position of second.
Webber recently remarked that Red Bull’s strength was that they had two drivers who can be relied on to score points – unlike Renault’s Nelson Piquet Jnr and Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima. But David Coulthard has been in crashes in the last two races and badly needs to rediscover his form or risk being left behind by his team mate.
Williams started the season brightly with Rosberg scoring his debut podium, and after a scare at Malaysia where they seemed to get totally lost on set-up, they looked competitive once again at Bahrain.
Now comes the hard part for a non-manufacturer team. How well will they cope with the grind of races every other weekend, chasing to develop the FW30 without the kind of budgets enjoyed by Toyota and BMW?
They suffered front wing failures at the first test at the Circuit de Catalunya, which is one of the bumpier F1 tracks, but seemed to have no problems once they returned.
Often the quiet man of Formula 1, Trulli is revelling in a more competitive Toyota, seems not in the least bit perturbed by his new team mate, and is pushing the team hard for more developments.
He’ll inevitably go well in qualifying, up there with Webber and Rosberg on one-lap pace, but his race performances have looked stronger so far this year as well.
Button got the Honda RA108 into the top ten entirely on merit at Bahrain three weeks ago, only to suffer a race-ruining puncture on the first lap.
He said he thought a points finish was on at Bahrain and if either of the Honda drivers is capable of getting there it will be Button.
Who do you think will be best of the rest in Barcelona?