Formula One hops from Portugal to Spain for round four of the championship this weekend with leader Lewis Hamilton a narrow favourite at
21/20 to earn his third win of the season.
Familiar Venue May Produce a More Reliable Form Guide
The drivers and teams struggled to get to grips with the slippery Portimao circuit last week – a track which was hosting F1 for only the second time.
But it will be a very different story in Barcelona, as the Circuit de Catalunya holds no surprises for the F1 teams.
The venue has hosted a race every year since 1991 and is the circuit most often used for pre-season testing, although not this year.
That means the teams are able to extract the maximum potential from their cars and it is harder for the driver to make a difference. That is particularly the case in qualifying, where it is not unusual to see team-mates line up two-by-two on the grid.
The Barcelona circuit is also more typical of the tracks that make up most of the calendar, so form from the race tends to be reliable. A good mix of corner types also helps highlight the relative strengths and weaknesses of the cars.
Verstappen Hasn’t Shown Best Form Yet
The first three races of the season have thrown up some interesting trends. Perhaps most significant is that Max Verstappen, who is
7/5 to win Sunday’s race, could have started all three from pole position.
In Bahrain, the Dutchman stormed to pole by a huge four-tenths of a second, but at Imola he had a scruffy qualifying lap and started third. In Portugal last week, Verstappen set a lap which would have been good enough for pole, but he ran off the track in the process and the time was disallowed.
It’s hard to see Verstappen being caught out at a circuit as familiar as Barcelona, and at
11/10 the Red Bull star looks the one to be on in the fastest qualifier market.
Hamilton Thriving on Pressure
Another common theme from the first three races is that they have all seen Verstappen overtake seven-time world champion Hamilton. However, he has only stayed in front once.
Hamilton is revelling in the Dutch youngster’s challenge and, despite a bad error in the wet at Imola, the 36-year-old has put together his strongest ever start to a season.
Verstappen became the youngest winner in F1 history when he claimed his maiden victory at Barcelona in 2016, but only after the Mercedes cars had taken each other out on the first lap.
Since then, Hamilton has won all four races at the circuit.
Alonso Finding his Feet
Dual world champion Fernando Alonso is getting back into the groove after two years out of F1 and he caught the eye with a late charge to eighth place in Portugal in his improving Alpine.
At least one of the Alpines has reached the top ten in qualifying at every race, and while there will only be 1,000 fans in attendance on Sunday, Alonso can be expected to make another step forward racing on home tarmac.
4/1 that Alonso finishes the race in the top six, which could be worth a small interest.
*All odds correct at time of writing