Spanish GP 2009 Preview

Dan LoweContributor IMay 8, 2009

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 08:  Kazuki Nakajima of Japan and Williams drives during practice for the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya on May 8, 2009 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Following the frenetic first 4 races, F1 makes its annual return to Catalunya, Spain, F1's  favoured test circuit. 

With Jenson Button still the man to beat, I ask, was the Bahrain GP his best drive ever?  And who, if anybody, can beat him in sunny Spain?

On current form, you still can't look past the Brawn Mercedes team.  Fastest in session one, by almost half a second over the chasing pack; in the 'reborn' Jenson Button's hands, with Barrichello up there in session two.

Despite all the efforts of the other teams to catch-up, Brawn GP still find themselves ahead of the rest, and to be honest, look set for another good weekend.  The new cooling implements have solved any issues over engine reliability that meant we didn't really see a true reflection of the teams real pace in Bahrain, but even so, we did see just how good Jenson Button can be with the right car underneath him. 

With the team for the first time in Bahrain finding out that F1 wasn't all about being able to control the race from the front (should it remain dry!), Button still proved why his talent has been wasted in bad cars over the last few years. 

A breathe taking manoeuvre on a KERS boosted Lewis Hamilton and a swerve pit stop strategy by Ross Brawn and Andrew Shovlin, added to by some stupendous driving by Jenson led to the team to unquestionably; their finest win yet.

The chasing pack?  Well, Red Bull still appear to be the team closest to challenging the Brawn.

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber may not have been at the sharp end of the practice times, but there's no reason to doubt that they'll still be up there and challenging, and who knows; when Adrian Newey and his team finally bolt on the new rear diffuser, we really could see a titantic battle at the front. 

Toyota, who flattered to deceive last time out in Bahrain, still seem to be the 3rd fastest team currently, with Jarno Trulli second fastest in P1.  Expect another low fuel run from them in qualifying to again be up at the sharp end.

Of course, as we are in Spain, thousands and thousands of people are hoping that Fernando Alonso and Renault can turn on the style.  Despite not having the fastest car in F1 at the moment, even by Fernando's own admission, the team will be determined to put on a display for the Alonso aficionado's. 

Likewise therefore, expect a deceptively fast Fernando in qualifying and an early pit stop in the race.  His team-mate on the other hand will be hoping for a good performance after a turbulent year which has again seen his suffer the wrath of Flavio Briatore. 

Piquet knows he must step up his form soon with Renault's own Romain Grosjean. Takuma Sato and possibly even Bruno Senna all waiting in the wings should Flavio wheel his axe.

Last year in Spain saw Raikkonen win his second race of the season and look set to again challenge for the world title.  This year? 

He's nowhere near it.  Ferrari may have avoided their worst start to an F1 season, but that still doesn't paper over the cracks of what has been a wretched year for the team. 

He and Felipe Massa have struggled all year for pace and consistency, and Ferrari needs to rectify these issues fast.  As with Ferrari, Mclaren are also suffering for last years titanic championship battle. 

Lewis Hamilton may have show glimpses of speed in Bahrain, but he knows as much as anybody that the team needs to improve quickly if he wants to be in a decent position to challenge for the title.

Two teams who have really flattered to deceive this season are Williams and BMW.  Williams, who started the year with the 'controversial' double decker rear diffuser, have dominated many Friday sessions, but come the race, they're nowhere. 

In Nico Rosberg, they have a quick, young German (Finn), and like Jenson, he's seeing his talent wasted at a team still struggling to get to grips with its race pace.  Just 3.5 points shows the scale of their issues. 

His team-mate Nakajima, has also struggled, mainly with staying on the circuit that on keeping pace with the rest!  Whilst Williams struggle, BMW have fallen off a cliff. 

After telling everybody they would have won in Australia had Kubica and Vettel not collied, they then find themselves battling over last place in Bahrain!  A nightmare year can surely not sit well with Kubica, who say the team 'give-up' on his title challenge last year to focus on this seasons efforts!  How must he be feeling now, wondering if he can make it out of Q1 tomorrow?

At the back, don't be surprised to see the Toro Rosso's and Force India's, although this may not be the case much longer once Force India gains the much wanted Mclaren KERS system around the Turkish GP time. 

Toro Rosso on the other hand must wait for its yearly supply of 'hammy-downs' from the Red Bull team, and hope to lift the fortunes of ailling Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais and the ever impressing Sebastian Buemi, who has surprised many with his speed this year.

My tip?

Another Brawn and Button win, with Vettel second and Barrichello third.

Enjoy the race!