The Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya has undergone a facelift since F1's last trip there, with the final chicane switched to the original configuration's sweeping right-hander. Whether this will improve the racing at a track that often sees processions remains to be seen. The teams hold so much data from this popular test location that any alteration is welcome to shake things up.
What to watch out for in the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix
Technically Monaco kicked off the European season, and technically F1 has a trip to Canada next, but the Spanish Grand Prix kicks off a period of traditional tracks for the sport. Free Practice will see the car developments, most notably the Mercedes W14's sidepod additions, get their first mileage on a more representative venue than Monaco. Indications suggest that no team has any secret to topple Red Bull from their massive performance advantage, but the field might still bunch up behind them.
Of course, the missing last chicane will be an element for drivers to familiarise themselves with. The circuit previously had the final sector have the sweeping double right-hand corners before 2007, but few of today's drivers would've raced on that layout, even in their junior years.
Also featuring in Free Practice will be additional sets of Pirelli's hard compound. Tweaks to the tyre's material will debut in July's British Grand Prix for drivers to race with, but Friday's FP1 and FP2 are the first chance to get data on the rubber. This updated hard compound was set for a 2024 introduction, but the development pace by the teams came faster than anticipated.
2023 Spanish Grand Prix Pirelli Tyre Choices
Aside from the altered-material hard tyres to test on Friday, it's the C1, C2, and C3 compounds that the teams have for their strategic planning this year. With the 2023 addition of the C0, Pirelli's hardest tyre, this trio is the second-hardest compound possible.
The wet conditions of Monaco might follow F1 for the weekend, however, with the weather forecast looking damp across the race weekend. The intermediate tyres favoured by the frontrunners in Monaco may reappear, but so might the lesser-spotted full wet compound. As you might've heard from the Monaco commentary, the blue-walled wet tyre is a new specification for 2023, and more drivers might try it this weekend than the brave few guinea pigs that ran in Monte Carlo.
Who could win the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix?
Max Verstappen hasn't been off the podium in Spain for the last five attempts, winning last time out despite facing technical problems with his DRS flap. If the championship leader can win the 2022 Spanish GP with a faulty car, backing him to win in 2023 with an even better Red Bull seems logical.
However, Fernando Alonso is in an Aston Martin that looked like it could take pole position for two of three sectors last weekend, and he will feel buoyed by his first P2 finish of 2023. The Spaniard is on home soil, and having fans cheering him on might be the advantage that tilts the scales in his favour. Alonso's last F1 win came in Spain in 2013, and it'd be poetic to reach the top step again at the same venue.
As ever, Ferrari and Mercedes will hope to pick up any pieces left by Red Bull. If they have any car developments that help their straight-line speed, they could be in with a chance of hindering the Anglo-Austrian constructor. This weekend will be the first time they'll see the full ability of their car advancements, and they'll hope to have made inroads to the front.