The 2012 Formula 1 season resumes this week with the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona.
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The paddock arrives at the Circuit de Catalunya after three weeks off since Bahrain. The circuit has come under much criticism of late for not producing enough overtaking opportunities. In 1999, there was only one recorded overtaking move during the entire race while the 2011 event was the first not won by the pole-sitter in 11 years. However, with the introduction of KERS, a DRS zone and the new Pirelli tyre compounds designed to deteriorate quicker, the opportunity for overtaking should be enhanced.
Interestingly, wind direction can have a say in the final outcome. It can change drastically during the race, which can prove to be significant given the importance of aerodynamics to modern Formula One cars. Drivers and teams alike are continuously battling for a good setup, as the race and track conditions are prone to changing throughput the weekend.
Red Bull and in-particular Sebastian Vettel, had appeared to be struggling for pace over the first three races of the season, but responded fantastically well in Bahrain. Vettel won the Spanish Grand Prix last season, and will try to become the first driver to win two races this season. Team-mate Mark Webber who won in Spain back in 2010, secured his fourth consecutive fourth-placed finish of the season in Bahrain.
McLaren were the pacesetters early on in 2012, but they appear to have lost that advantage. Although McLaren's botched pit-stops were the most dramatic features of the team's miserable afternoon in Bahrain, a fundamental lack of pace and premature graining on the tyres meant that Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button were never in realistic contention for a podium, let alone victory.
Hamilton is second in the drivers’ championship despite not winning a race this season. The 2008 champion, has recorded three podium finishes in the Spanish Grand Prix, but has never won any of his five races. Button meanwhile, retired in Bahrain and is now fourth in the championship. Button will be hoping to replicate his win in 2009, when the flag comes down on May 13.
2006 Spanish Grand Prix winner and home favourite Fernando Alonso sits joint-fourth in the drivers’ championship, despite driving a poor Ferrari car. Alonso has been grinding out results despite the car not having the speed to match the front-runners, a win here would appear unlikely.
Team Lotus have perhaps provided the biggest shock this season, as they appear to have the race pace to match the front-runners. In Bahrain they secured a double podium finish with Kimi Raikkonen second and Romain Grosjean finishing third.
Mercedes meanwhile, felt disappointed with their weekend after securing just 11-points in Bahrain. Nico Rosberg sits in sixth place in the drivers’ championship, while Michael Schumacher is somewhat unfortunately down in 18th with just two-points. However, Schumacher is a six-time winner at the Spanish Grand Prix and will expect a touch of luck in an unlucky season for the German so far.