This week it is the first European Grand Prix of the season, the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.

Recommendation

Daniel Ricciardo top Six finish 11/8 Coral 

This is a significant race because after the fly-away races that start the season, teams bring their first major of the season to Spain at a track all the teams know well from winter testing.

Form so far this season has seen three Mercedes wins and Ferrari winning in Malaysia, with both teams clear of the field and Ferrari closer to Mercedes in engine performance than before and with some advantages in tyre wear. One thing we have already seen, which is affecting race strategy and outcomes, is that whereas Mercedes engined teams are obliged to spend parts of the race in a more ‘conservative’ race mode, the Ferraris can run at a single more aggressive mode for the whole race.

Eight out of the last 10 races have been won from pole position in Spain (and only one from outside the first row of the grid). It is a front-limited circuit, from a tyre perspective and if it is hot tyre degradation will be quite high which will suit Ferrari more than Mercedes but the likelihood of Mercedes on pole due to single lap pace is high and with prices for the front end of the grid short (Hamilton 1/2 for both pole and the win, both markets 7/1 bar Mercedes) we have to look further down the field and into sub-markets for value

In Barcelona manufacturers are introducing updates with some of their “engine token” allocations being used to improve performance. Renault in particular, with the highest token allocation, will have an updated engine looking at fixing some of the reliability issues it experienced with Red Bull and Toro Rosso. For Red Bull, Ricciardo’s engine expired at the finish of the last race, his third engine failure of the season. For Kvyat, reliability issues and mistakes have combined to produce a return of only two 9th places in four races.

As well as the engine upgrades, Adrian Newey and team are producing an expensive new front wing, reputedly one that is revolutionary and only passed crash safety tests at the 60th attempt. Red Bull has always had a competitive chassis but if this is the start of a) a more competitive engine proposition and b) a good downforce package then they should be mixing it with Williams behind the front two teams in the near future. Ricciardo has stated this week that he is “looking for a top five finish in Barcelona”

If we look at the markets for the Red Bull drivers, both are odds on to finish in the points. Ricciardo is 11/8 with Coral for a top six finish with both Williams drivers 1/2 and Mercedes/Ferrari drivers shorter. Ricciardo manhandled the car to the top six in Australia and Bahrain, and even if we factor in no benefits from engine and front wing upgrades we have the back-stop that the three teams in front might not get all six cars home

Recommendation

Daniel Ricciardo top Six finish 11/8 Coral