The 2014 Spanish Grand Prix is the fifth round of the 2014 season and the first European race on the calendar.
After a three week break, teams will head to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya with major updates for their cars as they look to move up the field.
The track is a challenging one and has a bit of everything, which makes it an ideal venue for testing. However, unlike previous years, teams have not completed any running at the track over the winter, as two of the three pre-season tests took place in Bahrain.
A lap of the challenging 2.9 mile layout starts with the long pit straight, which is where the first DRS zone will be positioned. The run from the grid to turn one is the longest on the 2014 calendar, so a good getaway from the line is crucial.
The first two corners make up a medium-speed chicane. Due to the added speed boost from the DRS, it is the best overtaking spot on the circuit. However, the track is lacking a big braking zone and this makes passing notoriously difficult.
Turn one is a right-hander that then leads on to the full-throttle left of turn two, as drivers try and gain as much speed as possible on the exit. The third corner is undoubtedly the trickiest on the circuit and will be particularly difficult this year with the decreased downforce levels and increased torque.
It is a long right-hander that then leads on to a short straight before turn four. A good car balance here is crucial to eliminate understeer and to save the tyres, as wear is quite high at the Montemelo track. The first sector ends just prior to the braking zone for the fourth corner, which is another long right-hander.
The ultimate line through this turn, named the Repsol Curve, is to brake and take an early apex, before carrying lots of speed through the exit. The circuit then drops downhill for the turn five hairpin, a slow left-hander that can be an overtaking spot in the early stages of a race.
A short flat-out burst, which includes the barely-there turn six kink, follows before the medium-speed, uphill, left-right chicane that makes up turns seven and eight. Drivers would previously cut the second part of the complex but a large kerb has been placed there to prevent this from happening.
Turn nine is a fast, long right-hander that leads on to the back straight, which is where the second DRS zone will be positioned. The approach to the corner is uphill, but due to the downhill exit the apex is blind. Carrying good speed through the ninth bend is hugely important for the following straight and the heavy braking zone for turn 10.
This is where the second sector ends. The 10th corner is a slow left-hand hairpin that then leads on to the flat-out kink of turn 11. The next corner is a long right-hander. The final sector differs from the previous two, as it is full of slow and technical turns, like the turn 14 and 15 chicane that follows the right-hander of the 13th corner.
It was introduced back in 2007 to improve overtaking, but it has so far failed to have much of an impact. Good traction and low-speed grip is needed around the final part of the lap. The pit entry cuts the inside of the final corner, which is a flat-out right-hander that leads back onto the pit straight.
Due to the amount of long corners and the abrasive track surface, tyre wear is usually very high. For example, the majority of the F1 field pitted four times last year. The hard and medium compounds will be taken to the Spanish Grand Prix this year by Pirelli.
Mercedes will undoubtedly remain the team to beat in Spain, even with the large number of updates that will be taken to the track. However, the battle behind looks incredibly exciting, with Red Bull, Ferrari, Force India, Williams and McLaren all looking like they are in the fight to be best of the rest.
Sauber will be hoping that its new parts – including a lighter chassis – will help the team move further up the order. Meanwhile Lotus is optimistic that the team can score points. However, it is very difficult to know what to expect, but it should be a very interesting race.
Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen are the only multiple winners of the race on the grid, with two each. The Spaniard is the home favourite and took the victory last year, after starting from fifth on the grid – only the second time it has been won from outside of the front row.
Qualifying is usually incredibly important at the Spanish Grand Prix. 18 of the 23 F1 races that have taken place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya have been won from pole position. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg look set to battle for their first win at the track, but the big question is, which driver will it be standing on the top stop of the podium?