2006 Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix
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Can Bridgestone deliver again ?
One of the surprises at the Nurburgring was the high rate of attrition. This indicates that some of the teams are pushing the development while compromising reliability. The high rate of attrition means that many cars will be starting the Spanish Grand Prix with fresh engines giving them a small advantage as the following race in Monaco is one of the least demanding on engines.
The Barcelona track (layout) has a mixture of all types of corners and has two long straights. Cars run in high downforce configuration as the two long straights are preceded by high speed corners. This also means that overtaking will be very difficult. The track is also very abrasive and even though the track has been resurfaced last year, tyre wear rate is still high and it will be interesting to see how the teams and their tyre suppliers deal with this. There was no testing during the week as the Spanish Grand Prix is the second of another back to back races. The teams did test a few weeks ago and Renault looked very strong with their test driver Franck Montagny setting the fastest lap time for a 2006 Specification car so far.
Here is a team by team preview: (Click here for selected team and driver race preview quotes)
Renault: They were surprisingly slower than Ferrari at the Nurburgring but that was due to the tyres. They should be
strong in Spain and the favourites to win.
Drivers: Fernando Alonso settled for second at the Nurburgring after he was overtaking by Michael at the second pit stop.
With the current points system and engine rules, Alonso did what he was supposed to. Not good for the fans but those are the rules.
A win is likely.
Giancarlo Fisichella continues to struggle. Missed out on the 3rd qualifying session due to traffic. In the race he
managed to finish 6th but had there not been so many retirements, he would have been outside the points. Given that he is driving
the same car as Alonso, he has to do better. He should finish on the podium in Spain but a lower points finish is more likely.
Ferrari: Won at the Nurburgring and the were the fastest. The team was clearly happier in their celebrations than they
were 2 weeks ago at Imola. They do have a fast car but need a consistent tyre from Bridgstone to take the fight to Renault. It will
be difficult for them in Spain but they cannot be discounted.
Drivers: Michael Schumacher showed at the Nurburgring that he still has what it takes to win. Just give him a good package
and he'll deliver. He needs to maximise his points at race where the package isn't as good and this race could be one of those.
Felipe Massa scored his first ever podium finish at the Nurburgring and was never too far behind Michael. This should give
him a boost. It will be interesting to see how be compares with Michael in Spain where the Bridgestones aren't expected to be better
than the Michelins. Points likely.
McLaren: Drop back to third place following the retirement of Montoya at the Nurburgring. They seem to have the race pace
but continue to struggle in qualifying and that isn't giving them a chance to challenge for race wins.
Drivers: Kimi Raikkonen was challenging Massa for 3rd at the end of the race at the Nurburgring. Reasonable result but had
he qualified higher he would have been fighting with Alonso and possibly Michael. Podium is possible if he qualifies well.
Juan Pablo Montoya retired with an engine failure at the Nurbugring. The engine was on its second race. Like Kimi, if he
qualifies well, he could make it onto the podium.
Honda: Continue to struggle during the race and an engine failure for Button means the reliability isn't there either. It
is hard to see them compete with Renault and McLaren.
Drivers: Jenson Button suffered an engine failure at the Nurburgring and has shown his frustration with the team. A new
engine in Spain will give him some confidence but the race pace isn't there yet. Points expected but a podium is unlikely.
Rubens Barrichello finished in 5th ahead of the Renault of Fisichella which isn't such a bad result but when you finish
over a minute behind the winner, that isn't too encouraging. Points possible.
BMW Sauber: Scored a point at the Nurburgring thanks to the many retirements. The car seems to lack the race pace as they
(like Honda) seem to go backwards in the race.
Drivers: Jacques Villeneuve managed to out-qualify and out-race his team-mate yet again. This must be causing some
surprise to many people as it was thought Heidfeld will easily beat him. Points if there are many retirements.
Nick Heidfeld had another bad weekend at his home race. He needs to pick up his pace otherwise the team won't be happy
with their number 1 driver. By the poor form he has shown in the last 2 races, points are unlikely.
Williams: Continue to struggle with reliability problems. Webber retired with a hydraulic failure at the Nurburgring but
the car had the pace as both Webber and Rosberg demonstrated but that was partly due to the Bridgestones.
Drivers: Mark Webber suffered a hydraulic failure ending his race and that was frustrating especially after having a great
start from 20th (due to an engine change). He will have a fresh engine and that should help. If the Bridgestone tyres are good then
points are likely.
Nico Rosberg impressed with his drive from 22nd to 7th. It seems that Rosberg does well when he starts from the back!.
Racing with the same engine in Spain may cause him problems. Points will be difficult.
Toyota: Were close to finishing in the points once again with Ralf Schumacher but an engine failure put him out of the
race. Like the other Bridgestone runners, it remains to be seen how much of the improvement came from the tyres.
Drivers: Ralf Schumacher was on track to scoring points for the second race in a row but an engine failure robbed him of
that. Points possible but difficult.
Jarno Trulli struggled at the Nurburgring finishing 9th and a lap down. He still doesn't seem to be very comfortable with
his car. Points difficult.
Red Bull: They continue to struggle putting more pressure on Adrian Newey to deliver some magical fix. The car remains
Drivers: David Coulthard retired from the race early after Liuzzi spun into him. He needs better luck but the car isn't
strong enough to get him in the points.
Christian Klien retired yet again with a mechanical problem. This time it was the transmission. Still it would have been
hard for him to score points. Expect more of the same in Spain
Toro Rosso: They continue to be ahead of both MF1 Racing and Super Aguri. We will continue hearing complaints about Toro
Rosso using restricted V10 engines. There is some merit to the complaints, however the cars aren't that fast and points in Spain
will be nearly impossible.
Drivers: Scott Speed finished the race at the Nurburgring ahead of both MF1 cars which is a good result for the rookie
driver. Expect a similar result in Spain.
Vitantonio Liuzzi was spun out of the race by Ralf Schumacher putting him into the path of David Coulthard. He'll be
hoping for a better result in Spain.
MF1 Racing: Once again finished behind Toro Rosso and they would certainly be unhappy about that. This is something that
they need work on hard.
Drivers: Christijan Albers finished behind his team-mate at the Nurburgring and that wasn't expected although the Liuzzi-Ralf-Coulthard
tangle at the start affected his position. Expect him to do better in Barcelona
Tiago Monteiro did well to finish ahead of his team-mate. Until they improve, the two will be fighting with Toro Rosso for
the last places.
Super Aguri: Once again both cars retire from the race. The team seems to be pushing hard but without much testing,
problems will appear during the race. Montagny will drive in the next 2 races as Ide has now been stripped of his 2006 Super Licence.
Drivers: Takuma Sato retired from the race at the Nurburgring but he did give the two MF1 Racing a hard time before they
overtook him. Expect more of the same until the team get their new car ready to race.
Franck Montagny replacing Yuji Ide, he immediately was near the pace of Sato. Unfortunately he retired early and we
couldn't see how close he would have been to Sato at the end of the race. Expect a close fight in Spain.
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