The Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona often provides important moments in Formula 1’s history; we look back at McLaren’s woes, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes war, Max Verstappen’s first Red Bull win and more; watch the Spanish GP live on Sky Sports this weekend
By Adam Williams
Last Updated: 31/05/23 11:57am
Formula 1 teams love certainty, but in a sport where anything can happen, that is hard to come by. However, the battleground for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, the Circuit De Barcelona-Catalunya, can throw up clues of what is to come in the future.
The circuit, just a 40-minute drive from Barcelona, is known inside out by the teams as a traditional test track in years gone by, with the perfect mix of medium and high-speed corners helping the teams understand how good their aerodynamics are.
Mercedes will be among a few teams travelling to Spain with intrigue after unveiling upgrades in Monaco’s unique streets and now wanting to know their true performance.
But the Spanish GP also has a canny knack for foreshadowing future events in Formula 1 – here Sky Sports F1 takes a look at six recent examples…
2012: A reason for Hamilton to go to Mercedes?
Similar to the 2023 season, Lewis Hamilton’s contract ended at the end of the year in 2012 so his then-team McLaren hoped they could provide a car to give Hamilton the confidence to stay.
It made a promising start, with McLaren winning the first race of the season in Australia through Hamilton’s team-mate Jenson Button.
Hamilton knew that he had the fastest car at the start of the season, and he could bid for his first world championship since 2008.
However, the Spanish GP that season would summarise why 2012 would be a year of frustration for Hamilton.
The Briton took pole position, a stunning half a second ahead of the rest of the field, but, from the celebrations, quickly came back down to earth when the team told him to stop on the track.
McLaren had not put enough fuel in the car for F1’s governing body, the FIA, to take a sample, and Hamilton was disqualified from qualifying, dropping to the back of the grid.
While we have seen Hamilton come from the back of the gird to score big points since, this was a season in which multiple drivers and teams were competitive – the opening seven races saw seven different Grand Prix winners.
So, while Hamilton would fight back to eighth, impressively beating team-mate Button, Venezuela’s Pastor Maldonado took his only victory and Williams’ last victory to date in a thrilling duel with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton could have won that race, but he was hamstrung by his team.
This theme continued throughout 2012, from painfully slow pit stops to technical failures, leaving Hamilton unable to compete with the consistency of Sebastian Vettel and Alonso.
Hamilton’s gearbox failure in Singapore that year was widely regarded as the moment Hamilton decided to switch from McLaren to Mercedes, but perhaps the botch-up in Barcelona was the first of the seeds that would grow in Hamilton’s head that year.
Meanwhile, at Mercedes, a certain Michael Schumacher crashed out of the race by misjudging the braking of Bruno Senna and clumsily driving into the back of him.
The legendary Schumacher would receive the blame and a penalty from the stewards, perhaps encouraging his Mercedes team to look elsewhere for a replacement.
2014: The Silver War turns sour
Many suggested that Hamilton’s Mercedes move would ruin his career as he moved from a race-winning seat to a team that had struggled in the midfield.
In just his second season, though, the doubters were silent as Hamilton duelled with a former friend and team-mate Nico Rosberg for the title in a dominant Mercedes.
In Spain Hamilton started on pole position but was frustrated by his team’s decision to change his tyres earlier in the race, which allowed Rosberg to close in in the final laps on fresher tyres to fight for victory.
While being interviewed on the podium, Hamilton admitted that he was “moving them [his settings] up and down, really trying to find extra time”.
It later became clear that Hamilton was using engine modes that he should not have been using, which led to his new boss Toto Wolff confirming that drivers would no longer be able to change them without permission.
Mercedes had clamped down on what happened in Spain, but this was a move that Hamilton believes led Rosberg to take their rivalry to a new level.
The next race was on the narrow streets of Monaco, where qualifying was everything.
In the final session, the drivers were doing their final lap, and Rosberg was ahead on the timing screens and, crucially, on the track.
The German locked up at Mirabeau, sliding down an escape road, which brought out a yellow flag and stopped team-mate Hamilton from being able to improve his lap time.
“Very good,” said Hamilton on the radio, but the sarcasm in his voice and body language showed that he was less than impressed – he knew that the gloves were off in a rivalry that would eventually last three seasons, and perhaps he had pushed Rosberg to do that just a week earlier in Spain.
“Bahrain, Nico did one thing, Barcelona I did one thing, and then Nico took it to another level in Monaco which definitely made it very difficult for us, for me,” Hamilton told Sky Sports at the end of the 2014 season.
2016: A star is born
In the third of those three seasons, Spain saw the most explosive of spillovers between Hamilton and Rosberg as they again competed for the world championship.
After overtaking Hamilton at the first corner, Rosberg accidentally went into a slower engine mode, allowing Hamilton to rapidly close up on the exit of Turn Three.
Rosberg closed the door aggressively, but it was too late – Hamilton had already committed to the inside.
The result – both Mercedes crashed out of the race.
Somehow, this was not the biggest story that day – it was a young 18-year-old called Max Verstappen.
Just a few days earlier, Red Bull had shocked the F1 world by dropping their driver of the time Danil Kvyat, to promote Verstappen from Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri) to the senior team alongside Daniel Ricciardo in what was just his second season in F1.
While Mercedes held crisis talks to manage their drivers, Red Bull picked up the pieces with Ricciardo taking the lead, followed by Verstappen.
A puncture for Ricciardo ruled him out of a thrilling fight between Red Bull and Ferrari for victory, but his team-mate became F1’s youngest winner – aged 18 years and 227 days – in his first race for the team.
This was the first of a growing list of wins for Verstappen and Red Bull, many of which have been at the expense of Mercedes.
Verstappen will return to Spain this weekend already searching for his 40th Grand Prix victory.
As well as foreshadowing the force that was to come from the young Dutchman, this was the start of the end of Ricciardo’s first relationship with Red Bull.
The Aussie left at the end of 2018, not wanting to be Verstappen’s No. 2, and now finds himself off the grid in 2023 as a Red Bull third driver.
2017: A new era in F1
2017 was the start of F1 as we know it today, with the cars longer and faster and the sport opening up more in the hands of the new owners, Liberty Media.
It was also a season which welcomed Ferrari back into the title fight as Sebastian Vettel took on the Mercedes of Hamilton, with a retired Rosberg out of the picture.
Both world champions were backed by Finnish team-mates in the form of Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas, and they made contact at the first corner as they jostled with Verstappen for third position.
Verstappen and Raikkonen retired, much to the dismay of a young fan who was seen on the TV feed crying in the grandstand.
Hamilton and Vettel would race on, going wheel to wheel for the first time that season in an aggressive but fair way.
While it was initially closely fought between the two rivals, Hamilton would eventually overtake Vettel to win at a canter – much in the same way the season played out.
The dismay of the Ferrari fan televised earlier in the race probably suggested how the Tifosi would feel as the year went on.
The young boy’s day did not end in tears, though, after he met Raikkonen in the paddock later that Sunday for a hug and a hat.
This was also the first weekend in which the top three drivers were interviewed in front of fans on the grid following qualifying, giving the fans what they wanted.
This moment symbolised the direction of Liberty Media and the new era of F1 – this is a sport for the fans, and they could get closer to the drivers than ever before.
2021: No more ‘Mr Nice Guy’
As we learned in 2016, the thorn in the side of Mercedes would always be Max Verstappen in his Red Bull, and in 2021 that was very much the case.
In a title battle for the ages, Mercedes’ Hamilton defended his championship from the young pretender Verstappen.
Turn one saw pole-sitter Hamilton lose out to an aggressive Verstappen, who dived down the inside, forcing Hamilton to yield to avoid an incident.
Having played the percentage game, Hamilton made the most of Mercedes’ strategy, pitting once more than Verstappen and catching the Dutchman to pass him in the closing laps in a thrilling race.
This Grand Prix highlighted the two protagonists’ contrasting styles that season – Verstappen uncompromising and Hamilton more patient.
The first corner was the last time the two would go head to head on similar tyres before the cataclysmic crash at the beginning of the British Grand Prix that took the relationship between the pair and their teams from tense to intense.
Hamilton may have got away with being bullied off the circuit in Spain. Still, this race was pivotal as the two heavyweights felt each other out in the opening rounds of this legendary title bout.
2022: All is fair in love and war
Last year’s Spanish Grand Prix painted a picture of how the season would go but was also part of the plot that has led to tension between Red Bull’s drivers to this day.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc led Verstappen into the first corner after starting on pole position. He looked on course for victory when his team-mate Carlos Sainz and championship rival Verstappen span into the gravel at turn four.
Leclerc, though, was often unable to catch a break across the year due to a mistake or a reliability issue. In the case of this race, it was an engine failure, and his championship campaign took a big blow.
Further back, Verstappen struggled to overtake Mercedes’ George Russell due to a DRS issue, leading to some fruity language on the radio before eventually passing the Brit.
But he still didn’t have the lead.
Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez was ahead, and was asked to let Verstappen past, something the Mexican described as “unfair”.
Verstappen won convincingly despite things going against him, while Leclerc and Ferrari rued a missed opportunity – a fair summary of not just this race but the season as a whole.
However, perhaps Perez’s discontent with the team led to THAT moment in Monaco just a few days later.
Perez took pole position and the victory, but it’s alleged Verstappen feels Mexican crashed in qualifying on purpose to secure pole position (much like Rosberg had done to Hamilton six years earlier).
This season, the pair are seemingly in a two-horse race, and given their history, Verstappen wants nothing more than to beat Perez.
Find out the next twist in every driver’s tale as the Spanish Grand Prix gives them their fortune this weekend live on Sky Sports F1.
Sky Sports F1’s live Spanish GP schedule
Thursday June 1
2pm: Drivers’ Press Conference
Friday June 2
8.50am: F3 Practice
10.00am: F2 Practice
12pm: Spanish GP Practice One (session starts 12.30pm)
1.55pm: F3 Qualifying
2.50pm: F2 Qualifying
3.45pm: Spanish GP Practice Two (session starts 4pm)
5.15pm: The F1 Show: Spain
Saturday June 3
9.25am: F3 Sprint
11.15am: Spanish GP Practice Three (session starts 11.30am)
1.10pm: F2 Sprint
2.15pm: Spanish GP Qualifying build-up
3pm: Spanish GP Qualifying
6.15pm: IndyCar – Detroit GP Qualifying
Sunday June 4
8.50am: F3 Feature Race
10.20am: F2 Feature Race
12.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday Spanish GP build-up
2pm: THE SPANISH GRAND PRIX
4pm: Chequered Flag Spanish GP reaction
5.45pm: Indy NXT – Detroit GP
8pm: IndyCar – Detroit GP
Will Red Bull’s winning run in F1 2023 continue at the Spanish GP? Watch all the action live on Sky Sports F1 from June 2-4. Get Sky Sports
Source : Sky Sports