With two wins out of three from the Formula One season so far, Lewis Hamilton’s quest to surpass Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles appears to be well on track but this weekend’s meeting in Spain is expected to be tighter than ever between his team Mercedes and rivals Red Bull.
The Barcelona Grand Prix, which has been granted permission to allow up to 1,000 fans to attend, will likely provide us with the best assessment yet on where the balance of power lies between these two manufacturers this season, and Mercedes’ trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin says, like Bahrain, heat could be an issue on Sunday afternoon.
“We have got plenty on our list of things to worry about,” said Shovlin.
"It can be pretty hot there. It is a Tarmac that is now getting pretty aggressive and gives the tyres a tough time and we have just done two circuits that have been pretty cold and it has been fairly hard to get the tyres in the right window.
"Barcelona is a little bit more like Bahrain in the way that you are almost always overheating, and Bahrain was not a very kind place to us in some respects so that will be the main thing that we are worried about."
Despite concerns over performance at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Shovlin says the gulf between Mercedes and Red Bull is marginal, and very little will likely separate the two teams as the season progresses.
“But, to be honest, I think it will be more of the same, you won’t be able to split the [Red Bull and Mercedes]. You won’t be able to read quali and you won’t be able to read the race.
"I think it will just be very, very tight and I think we are kind of settling into that.
“I think the whole year is going to be like that and you have got to enjoy the competition and not let yourself get too stressed about it because it is going to be a long tough year.”
Verstappen, who came second in Portugal at the weekend, roughly 30 seconds behind Hamilton, also thinks the Spanish Grand Prix will offer a decent idea of where his team’s performance stacks up against Mercedes.
“For me, I think the whole weekend we haven’t been really satisfied with the grip in general,” said the Dutchman after the Portuguese GP.
“Last year this [Portugal] was a very difficult weekend for us and it seemed like it’s still not great for us. Let’s say it like that. It’s a bit difficult to judge, to be honest.
“I prefer to wait again to Barcelona and see how the progression from the beginning of the season to that track will be.
"This was a bit of an odd weekend in terms of grip – but clearly we still have to improve and do better because we should be fastest on every single track and in every single condition – because the track is the same for everyone.”