Not a guy who believes in treading too cautiously and definitely not a guy who’s been seen with his foot off the throttle, Max Verstappen is currently operating on a different level altogether.
He’s been hard to catch, even harder to defeat and nearly impossible to conquer except on only two previous occasions as seen so far in 2023.
There’ve been no silly crashes and no half hearted moments of making a pass; it’s all been fast paced and been about brilliant execution in a seemingly unputdownable Red Bull machinery.
To many, Verstappen, who first won a race here at Spain and also happens to be the winner of the 2022 race at Catalonia, is likely to dominate the venue once again.
But having said that, who does the current defending champion need to be wary of, if at all, where it comes to finding immense competition at winning the 2023 battle at Spain?
There are good drivers. There are great drivers. There are legends who drive great all the time and then, there’s a certain Fernando Alonso: the true Samurai of Formula 1.
The most experienced man on the grid will, come Sunday, likely engage in what could be one of the titanic tussles for speed and domination with one of the youngest F1 race winner and world champion of all time.
Will Max trounce Alonso or will the man who’s driven the most number of F1 seasons ever trump the current defending world champion?
There are no pauses and definitely, no stops in Alonso’s world; and it’s a space where the man from Asturias has been getting the podium finishes albeit not the race wins.
But if there’s any prime candidate out there that could stop Max Verstappen at Spain, then it’s the legend Alonso.
The Aston Martin driver has raced at Spain on 19 previous occasions, converting 7 into podiums and gathering 2 wins overall.
The legendary Spaniard has a total of 3 DNF’s at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Sergio Perez is, where the exact current moment stands, desperate and perhaps a touch even broken for what happened at the previous Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monaco.
While surely, mistakes are a part of a sportsman’s life but errors committed during previous moments go a long way in deciding an athlete’s destiny.
Had he committed one during the free practice session at Monaco, F1’s last stop before arriving here at Spain, it might have panned out differently for Sergio Perez.
But that he made a mistake- even if a rare one- during Q1, truly hurt his chances whereby he was relegated to the further back of the grid for the start of the Monaco race.
A P16 in the end didn’t really matter as the previous F1 race proved to be quite a dampener as far as the Mexican driver’s championship charge or contention was concerned.
With that in mind, Checo Perez has entered the Spanish Grand Prix with one intention and one alone: and it’s to claw his way back into the top three finish; something he’d very much desire at the very least.
Given that he’s got a belter of a machine and the winning confidence of having thumped the rest of the grid on two previous occasions, having won both street races of Jeddah and Baku, Perez knows a thing or two about winning.
Moreover, he knows just as well as Max does on how the Red Bull 2023 machinery handles itself on tracks that have high speed corners and long stretches of straights, well longer than tracks like Albert Park and Monaco.
So can Perez find that lost form and transform the inner misery into something commendable, inspirational come the race day?
That said, this is what one needs to know:
Perez has raced at Spain on 12 previous occasions, converting only 1 into a podium finish with no wins here whatsoever.
One of the most talented Red Bull drivers and someone considered as the King of the Streets (venues), the Mexican has a total of 1 DNF at the Spanish Grand Prix.
His best ever performance at the Barcelona-bound Spanish Grand Prix is the P2 he fought hard for at the previous edition of the contest, i.e., the 2022 race. Perez would, in so doing, become the second Red Bull to land on the podium last year.
After a rather disappointing performance in both the free practice sessions right ahead of the qualifying for the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix, Leclerc much like his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz Jr., would be wary of where all is the SF 23 lacking in pace.
For a car that did prove to be a fast charger particularly in the challenging corners as seen in the earlier Grands Prix, the Ferrari didn’t really produce anything sizzling or too captivating for one to note as far as Friday’s results at Barcelona were concerned.
Yet, qualifying, provided the talented Monegasque doesn’t err, will be a completely different day and a fresh beginning to weigh in at Spain.
It ought to be reminded that it was Charles Leclerc who turned out to be the pole sitter at the last edition of the Spanish Grand Prix in 2022 but things didn’t quite go the Ferrari driver’s way on Sunday.
One of the most talented and gifted Ferrari drivers to have broken through in the last few decades, Leclerc has only competed at Spain on five previous occasions, his first contest being the 2018 Spanish Grand Prix wherein he drove for Alfa Romeo.
Up until this point, Leclerc, who’ll certainly like to compete with great pace on the approaching Sunday hasn’t quite captured a single podium at the testing venue.
He’s got a best place finish of fourth here with Ferrari while what’s interesting is that in his first ever attempt at Spain, Charles Leclerc, who’s also registered 2 DNF’s at this venue, bagged a P10 thus immediately breaking into points at Catalonia.
Having said that, all of that was in the past. What can he do, if at all, to stop the imposing Max Verstappen come race day?