So, here we are in Spain, Again. It’s warmer than it was in February when we were here for testing, but otherwise it’s the same old, same old. Back in the saddle at the Circuit de Catalunya.
This is the big upgrade race. At least in theory. The basic idea is, having spent about a billion quid designing 2019 F1 cars a few months ago, F1 collectively decides it doesn’t really like the colour and redesigns them every couple of months. Spain is traditionally the race where a load of new updates appear. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between this and any other race, as new parts are arriving all the time. The distinction is that the usual stream of bits and bobs simply* bolt onto the existing car. The big update, on the other hand, is a load of new bits designed to work together, that may mean changing the old car. A bit. Sometimes.
Does it make a difference? Difficult to say. As everyone brings the big update, it’s entirely possible everyone will make more or less the same gains, and effectively nothing will change – but this is what F1’s all about: sometimes working flat out affords you the privilege of standing still. And make no mistake, it’s a good thing to have our factory boffins working flat out. The devil makes work for idle hands. If they weren’t designing new strakes and bargeboards all the time, we’d probably have a nuclear-powered kettle and clockwork mice running the stores when we got home.**
But why does the update happen in Spain? The technical explanation suggests it’s because we’ve had a couple of months since winter testing, and there’s been time to create new parts with data from the shakedown. Garage wisdom says it’s done in Spain because everyone’s just got comfortable building the old car and management hates us.
The other big upgrade we have here is the new Energy Station, which is offically called the Red Bull F1 Energy Station, after Spy’s suggestion of ‘The Power Complex’ was vetoed. The crew are rejoicing, as the new building is constructed from wood. Among the many advantages of a building made of tree, rather than brushed steel, the one that has them bouncing up and down and clapping their hands is not having to polish it eleventy-billion times a day to get rid of finger prints. It also smells like a sawmill, which is a dream come true for those of us who have always wanted a really big garden shed full of bacon, tea and Formula One cars.
But is this going to be its only appearance in Spain? The rumour mill is churning and says the Spanish Grand Prix is facing extinction. Will we miss the Circuit de Catalunya? We won’t have to, ‘cos no doubt we’ll still be testing here, but it would be a shame to lose the Spanish Grand Prix. There’s a big crowd and a big buzz. In many ways, the Spanish Grand Prix is a victim of its own success. Back in the day, when the Special One was in his pomp, the queues were backed up ten miles at 6am trying to get into this place. Things have slowed down a bit now – but only to the extent that it’s moved to ‘very busy’ from ‘stupid busy.’
If it is the last time we come here – and that’s still an ‘if’ – hopefully on Sunday we can provide a proper send off.
* ’simply’ may be stretching the definition.
** Opinion in the race team is divided between believing this would result in the dystopian future of The Terminator or just mean the factory would look like something from Wallace and Gromit.