With five races done and as many as seventeen left to go, these are still very early days in the 2022 World Championship. And yet, quite a lot has already happened in a season where Leclerc and Verstappen are clearly engaged in a dogfight for supremacy, where Mercedes aren’t the supremos as such whilst Ferrari certainly seems to be.
Though, make no mistake, the Maranello-based side clearly has Red Bull in its mirrors.
While we’ve also seen the rise and rise of Leclerc and some very amazing drives by the likes of Magnussen of Haas and Red Bull’s Perez, there’s so much more happening elsewhere on the grid.
So as the Spanish caravan arrives in Spain to take part in what could be a highly-enjoyable and thrilling round#6 of the current championship, what can be expected from Catalunya, Barcelona?
KyroSports present you 5 things to look forward to from the impending Spanish Grand Prix of 2022:
1. The focus on the man who would be king someday: Carlos Sainz Jr.
Few other drivers than Carlos Sainz have experienced both agony and ecstasy in the same season and in such a short spate of time.
From driving home a sensational second at Bahrain, the first race of 2022, which would be followed by a daring third at Saudi Arabia, Sainz’s season would suddenly nosedive given back-to-back DNFs at the races that followed.
At Australia as well as Imola, he’d unforeseeable disasters, sustaining race retirements despite seeming in fine touch.
That he came back strongly at Miami, a first for Formula 1, was visible evidence of the Ferrari driver’s return to form. But for that form to continue and translate into something big and meaningful, Sainz would have to come up with an ace at the forthcoming Spanish Grand Prix.
There’s an abundance of hope that he will do something special and that’s not just down to the fact that the smiling Smooth Operator of F1 has always finished in points here at the Spanish Grand Prix.
The 66-lap long race also happens to be his home race and when you are driving much amid the roaring applause of your fans, you are bound to drive with a spring of newfound confidence.
So can Sainz actually eke out a win? We shall have to wait and see.
2. Can Alonso and Vettel get up and back among points?
Two titans of F1 racing who, unless you forgot, have, cumulatively speaking, no fewer than 620 race starts and as many as 5047 racing points, haven’t really been in the best of forms.
While Alonso’s already suffered two DNFs this season (Saudi Arabia and Imola), Vettel had to face the ignominy of sitting out from the races at Bahrain and Saudi Arabia owing to a COVID-enforced medical leave.
Therefore, Alonso and Vettel, both multiple championship winners, sit against a rather lowly stack of two and four points, respectively.
But surely, Alonso is much better than his best-result of P9, gained at Bahrain and likewise for Vettel, the German can do awfully better than the P8 gained at Imola.
Can they both, therefore, bounce back and find the lost touch at Spain?
From Alonso’s point of view, there could possibly be nothing better than the Alpine driver bringing home some valuable points much to the thundering applause of his home crowd.
He’d be motivated by simply remembering the famous 2013 triumph in red racing overalls, his last win at Spain in a Ferrari.
Whilst Vettel, who seemed to be in much better shape here at Spain whilst driving a Ferrari, will certainly like to push his car and gain some valuable points and maybe go better than his best performance of P8.
3. Mercedes seem to be on the run for improvement
Mercedes have long suffered the malaise of porpoising, an aerodynamic phenomenon that has, thus far, hampered the results of Lewis Hamilton, who has against his name a solitary podium in five races.
While, on the other hand, George Russell, among the few drivers to have scored points in every Grand Prix so far, has seemingly coped better despite the evident problems in his bouncy W13.
Yet, when the second practice session was rendered complete on Friday, Mercedes brought forth some massively improved performances; Russell and Hamilton in second and third, respectively, as the Silver Arrows trailed the roaring Ferrari of Leclerc.
Can they produce something stellar in the qualifying, which is about to happen shortly and therefore, go on to add more stars in their Spanish caravan on Sunday?
This will be one of the most keenly-anticipated facets of the upcoming race in Spain.
4. Another Leclerc vs Verstappen dogfight?
Verstappen lost out to Leclerc at Bahrain, the season-opening race but would bounce back at Saudi Arabia. Leclerc would then take Australia and lose to Verstappen at Imola.
Up to that point, F1 saw a seesaw of sorts among two of the most gifted drivers of their generation. But now that Max has fired another shot at Miami by clinching a famous race win, it’s up to Leclerc to answer or should we say, hit back?
Though, can that happen? We don’t know yet. But what we do know, as a matter of fact, is that where the Friday practice results unfurled, the famous Monegasque emerged the fastest on the grid.
But Leclerc will need more consistency to finish on top of the qualifying if he’s planning on beating Verstappen and the likes of Sainz and Perez, two other drivers who’ll definitely come hard at him on Sunday.
We really have an entertaining Grand Prix on our hands.
5. Can Perez upset Max’s rhythm and play the surprise winner?
He’s brought home dazzling podiums at Monaco, Montreal, and even Monza, he’s won at Baku on two separate occasions and even mesmerized fans back home at Mexico City.
But the driver who won the famous Sakhir contest of 2020 has never set foot on the podium in Spain even once.
Can Sergio Perez change all of that come the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix, which is about to begin on Sunday, which is the next few hours?
For a driver who sustained a sad DNF in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix and has since then, gone on to capture memorable podiums at Australia, followed by Emilia Romagna (in both events he garnered a P2), Perez would want to improve his moderately successful runs at Catalunya.
In 2020, he’d gather no more than a P5, which would be the exact same result the following year.
So can 2022 bring the long elusive podium finish for one of F1’s most dependable drivers?