‘Baseline’ is a popular word in the world of Formula One, with engineers talking about Friday morning practice giving you a baseline in terms of set-up for the weekend, and the marketing crowd love a nice sponsor budget baseline, so they’ll all be looking forward to this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix which will provide a whole range of opportunities to go Barcelona baseline barmy.
The winter testing here provides the baseline from which to chase an ideal set-up, the testing lap times provide a baseline of what to expect. Another Catalunya cliché states that a car which performs well here can do the same anywhere, therefore this weekend could also provide a baseline to see which way the championship might pan out over the remaining thirteen rounds that follow.
And if you’ve had enough of baselines, what about a few litmus tests? Because this weekend will definitely provide one of those in terms of seeing just how effective the new rules are at promoting overtaking. A slow moving funeral cortege can provide more exciting overtaking moves than we have witnessed at the Spanish Grand Prix at the Catalunya circuit, so this Sunday could be an important pointer as to what we can expect.
However, what’s become clear from the first four races this year is that, never mind Kers, never mind the DRS, it is tyre performance that has really blown the races wide open, especially in their closing stages and, to use a new word that might well join “baseline” as an F1 favourite, this weekend could be “Pirellissimo.” If the Catalunya circuit delivers an exciting grand prix, then that really is a good omen for the rest of the season, although overtaking might not be quite as straightforward as in Istanbul, because the Barcelona straight is not quite as long as its Turkish counterpart.
With Red Bull Racing dominating at the front of the pack, the really close action is focussed on the mid-field where Scuderia Toro Rosso is locked in battle with the likes of Force India and Sauber and the contest is so evenly matched that the slightest slip up seems to be making the difference between top ten points or coming away empty handed.
Sébastien Buemi will be keen to repeat his strong Turkish showing that faded slightly in the last few laps in Istanbul, while it goes without saying that Jaime Alguersuari will be pumped up for his home race, where he can expect plenty of support and even his own fan club hanging their banners from the grandstand opposite the pits.