Formula One: In comparison to last term, the 2012 Formula One campaign has so far been quite an open contest, but Sebastian Vettel’s return to the top of the rankings must have his rivals sweating ahead of Sunday’s Spanish grand prix.
Victory in the controversial Bahrain event saw the two-time world champion emerge as championship leader, meaning the outcome at Circuit de Catalunya takes on extra significance.
And after winning there in 2011, the 24-year-old is confident this time around. “Of all the current GP tracks, Barcelona is the one that we know the most because we have done so much testing there in recent years,” Vettel said.
“In general, a car that functions well aerodynamically in Barcelona will work everywhere — so it will be an interesting weekend.”
Yet while the increasing confidence of the world champion looks ominous for the other drivers, a number of other leading teams have their eye on claiming a win in the opening event of the season’s European leg.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso is one man particularly eager to perform, given that the event is his home race.
He said: “It’s always a special event for me, because racing in front of my fans has always been a unique feeling.
“We must continue to work day and night with the same spirit of wanting to win and being prepared to fight with all one’s strength to achieve that, which is the spirit that has driven me ever since I was a kid racing karts.”
Another team warmly anticipating the event are Lotus, seen by some to be dark horses for a title tilt this term.
And following a strong showing in Bahrain Kimi Raikkonen revealed that his sights were set on victory.
“I am here to race and I race to win,” he said. “That is the target for me and the team. We want to win grands prix. We have a good car and we saw in Bahrain it is good enough to win. So that’s the target. I expect Lotus to be very competitive. It’s going to be very, very close between the top teams.”
Meanwhile McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton was looking forward to the race after a positive test session on the track in February.
He said: “Our performance in Barcelona during winter testing looked promising — but the form of the season is still very hard to read, so it’s difficult to predict who’ll be at the front.
“Nonetheless, we had a great race there last year — I pushed Sebastian all the way to the finish.”
Hamilton, who has yet to win in Barcelona, added: “It’ll be interesting to see how straightforward overtaking will be this year. It’s always been a tough place for passing — as I found out last year — but I really hope DRS (Drag Reduction System) and KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) combined will make it a little easier.”
Hamilton’s concerns with the track stem from the fact that Barcelona is infamous for its lack of overtaking.
Indeed, in the three races from 2008 to 2010 there were an average of just two passing manoeuvres but that changed dramatically 12 months ago as there were 51 in total.
The introduction of DRS accounted for 29 of those and it is hoped that its application on the long straight after turn 16, in tandem with KERS, will spice things up.
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