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Can the new Formula 1 rules and regulations help the Spanish Grand Prix become exciting?

Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen races during qualifying for the Miami Formula One Grand Prix. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP

Red Bull Racing's Dutch driver Max Verstappen races during qualifying for the Miami Formula One Grand Prix. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP

Published May 18, 2022


Johannesburg - The much maligned Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is on the Formula One menu this weekend in the Spanish Grand Prix, and it will be the first true litmus test for the new rules and regulations this season.

There were questions raised about the Miami GP and how competitive it would be.

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In spite of all the glitz and glamour – and cringe-worthy prerace grid walk by Martin Brundle, where he was rebuffed by American ‘celebrities’ with the opinion that they are bigger than the sport – Miami proved to be somewhat of a dud.

It did, however, give a limited indication of what to expect from the new rules and regulations, though.

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Overtaking was difficult, while the street circuit fell into the stereotype of all its ilk as it became a bit of a procession. It took a safety car in the latter stages of the GP to liven things up a bit, but even then, Red Bulls’ Max Verstappen cantered to an easy victory ahead of closest rival, Charles Leclerc of Ferrari.

In a word, it was boring – and the criticism levelled at the track design this past week is thoroughly justified.

It was an inauspicious start for the Miami GP, but Spain is one of those tracks where predictability is the norm.

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Indeed, it is one of the reasons F1 moved away from its previous aerodynamic set-up to this one, where ground effect is the primary generator of downforce.

In previous seasons, the air flow over the cars there would create a vortex of ‘dirty air’ behind them, making it highly difficult for cars to follow closely behind for extended periods, while also affecting the following car’s downforce and speed.

It made building pressure and overtaking all the more difficult, and mostly left the Spanish GP bereft of much excitement.

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As a result, strategy has always played a massive part of this GP, as it did last year.

That is when Lewis Hamilton pitted late in the race in a two-stop strategy to put on some new rubber, chasing down Verstappen with six laps to go. It was one of the better Spanish GPs in recent memory, but still had an air of inevitability about it.

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The new car design is supposed to negate all of this and ensure far more wheel-to-wheel action, with drivers getting their elbows out good and proper, instead of relying on the pit-lane to do the work for them ... or the start to make up precious places, and thereafter a safety car to do the same.

In this regard, Miami was a bust, but at least Spain has the advantage of not being a street track.

It is a proper 4.6km test, and it will give us the clearest indication yet on how far the new design will take the sport into the future.

All the teams have intimate knowledge of the track as it is the preferred pre-season testing venue, and they are expected to bring a bevy of new packages, with lessened weight, to the event this weekend.

If previous races are a marker, then one can expect that there will be plenty of action in midfield, but that track position will still be key.

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Right now, up front it seems unlikely at this point in time that we will get the close racing we expected or experienced last year.

Red Bull seem to have a handle on the new rules and regs, with Ferrari just hanging on, while the rest are chasing their designs and performances.

That in itself has made the season somewhat formulaic. Until all the teams understand how to engineer their race cars to that standard, the current status quo will not change, and certainly not at the Spanish GP.

Will it improve this weekend to something close to a spectacle? Yes and no, methinks.

It will be great if you are following the field behind Red Bull and Ferrari – at least until it falls into a familiar pattern – but right now, I think the problem is the lack of understanding of the cars, and not so much the tracks that are being raced on, perhaps save for Monaco.

Spain will see improvement in that department, but not outright change.


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Formula 1