The stars of Formula One are back in action this weekend for the Emirates Grand Prix of Spain (9 a.m. ET/ESPN 2). We’ve been treated to an extremely thrilling season so far and that doesn’t figure to change this weekend in Catalunya.
Here are five storylines surrounding Sunday’s race.
It’s rare in this new era of F1 racing to see such parity. Through four races so far, we’ve seen three different winners by three different teams. In fact, heading into this weekend, the last three races have been won by three different drivers by three different teams. Sebastian Vettel with Ferrari won in Bahrain. Daniel Ricciardo and his Red Bull Racing entry won in China. Lewis Hamilton in a Mercedes won the last race in Azerbaijan. Will we see a fourth different winner by a fourth different team on Sunday?
If so, Renault, Haas or McLaren could be in for banner days. Even if not a different team, Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen or Valtteri Bottas are each primed for a race win too. Verstappen won this race in 2016 and Raikonnen won in 2005 and again in 2008.
Home Race Heroes
Other than Monaco, there’s really no other race on the F1 calendar more important to Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso. Both Spanish drivers annually look forward to their trips back home for a home race. This season, both have good chances of landing on the podium too.
Sainz, has three straight top 10 finishes in his home grand prix and has finished inside the top 11 in every race this season. Alonso, has four straight top seven finishes to start this year off with and seven straight races of landing inside of the points, dating back to the final three races of last season. He has seven career podiums in his home race.
If some of the big teams have mistakes on Sunday, these two will be right there to capitalize.
Red Bull Drama
It’s been a weird start to the season for Red Bull Racing. From mistakes in Australia to a double DNF in Bahrain to Ricciardo winning the third race in China, to both teammate taking each other out late in the race in Baku while running inside of the top five. With Ricciardo’s status with past this season in doubt, there’s a lot of drama circulating around this team. Can they put everything aside and have a good race weekend is the big question.
Ricciardo has five straight top 10 finishes in Spain, including two podiums, one of which a third place run last year. Verstappen, won this race just two years ago.
They’ll have a chance but can they avoid a third double DNF in five races to start the year off with.
Qualifying On The Front Row Likely Means Race Winner Will Come From There Too
Qualifying matters this weekend more than any other. 24 of the 27 Grands Prix in Catalunya have been won from the front row staring spot (89%), the highest ratio of any circuit on the calendar with at least 10 previous races. Plus, passing is harder there than really anywhere else. That’s why Saturday’s qualifying round is ever so important this weekend.
Hamilton Strong at Spain In Qualifying But Struggled In Those Sessions In 2018 So Far
Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite, but Valtteri Bottas has outqualified him in four of the last six races. But, Hamilton has won the pole every year in Spain since 2014 and he hasn’t started off the front row since 2012. On top of that, Sebastian Vettel has never won at Spain pole before either.
Will Hamilton and Vettel miss out on the front row for Sunday? If so, we could have another different winner.