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Who will reign in Spain?

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F1 Mole | 07:48 UK time, Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The Formula 1 season is nearly a quarter over but this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix will be like a new beginning.

After four races in the long-haul destinations of Australia, Malaysia, China and Bahrain, the sport hits Europe for the first time this year and all the leading teams will be fielding modified cars.

The developments introduced in Spain are likely to define the order for much of the rest of the season - and they could also change the balance of competitiveness between the teams.


The Brawn team, who have emerged from the ashes of Honda to lead the drivers' and constructors' championships this season, started the season with a performance advantage of nearly a second over the rest of the field, but this has been clawed back in recent weeks.

After Jenson Button's win in Bahrain - his third in four races - the Englishman admitted the team's cupboard was bare and that they needed the upgrade package they are introducing in Barcelona if they wanted to stay ahead of the pack.

Brawn's chief rivals on pace so far this season, Red Bull and Toyota, will also have upgrades to their cars in Barcelona.

Of these three, Red Bull are the only outfit without the controversial 'double-decker' diffuser that dominated paddock discussion at the first three races of the year.

The device makes a big difference to the performance of a car fitted with it - as much as 0.5 seconds per lap, according to most F1 designers - so the fact that Red Bull are so quick without it speaks volumes for the quality of their car.

But it is also likely to mean that they still have another big step forward in pace to come compared to their rivals - which, if they remain competitive in Spain, could be an alarming thought for Button, among others.

For the three teams that dominated F1 last year, though, this race could define their season.

McLaren, Ferrari and BMW Sauber have all struggled to one degree or another this year - and all have upgrades for their cars in Barcelona.

McLaren and Ferrari will both have their first version of a double-decker diffuser - so it will be fascinating to see where that puts them over the weekend.

BMW, meanwhile, have admitted that while they do have an aerodynamic upgrade for this track which makes such a heavy call on a car's efficiency through the air, they will not have one of the trick floors.

They have also taken the decision to abandon the Kers power-boost and energy-storage system for the next two races. Which, given that Kers only escaped being canned this year because of BMW's support for the device, has raised a few eyebrows.

BMW drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld finished at the back in a dispiriting outing in Bahrain.

Only a fool would write BMW off but, right now, the Mole finds it hard to see much of a chance of them returning to their winning form of 2008.


  • 1. At 09:53am on 06 May 2009, boro_fanatic wrote:

    interesting article mole but do you know if any teams that didn't have the double decked diffuser in the last race in bahrain are planning to in barcelona

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  • 2. At 10:09am on 06 May 2009, jpjnew wrote:

    hamilton has already used an updated rear diffuser. Was this not the infamous "double decker" design?,19528,12433_5198452,00.html

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  • 3. At 10:26am on 06 May 2009, Andrew Benson wrote:

    To clarify the Mole's remarks about double-decker diffusers, McLaren have indeed already used one, but Spain is the first time it will be used as part of a new aerodynamic package that should help optimise it more effectively. As Renault have also proved, you can make small performance gains by simply bolting one on, but it takes more holistic work to see the full benefit of it.

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  • 4. At 10:47am on 06 May 2009, jpjnew wrote:

    Thank you for clearing that up

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  • 5. At 11:04am on 06 May 2009, 355gts wrote:

    Andrew Benson, are you the mole?

    Scratch that, are you the Stig?

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  • 6. At 12:38pm on 06 May 2009, mclovin_f1 wrote:

    The Red Bull car has the pull-rod suspension system different to all the other cars on the grid, does the mole know if this will cause any delays in them introducing the double decker diffuser? From reading above it sounds as though it wont be in place for this weekend - will we see revised Red Bull aero package in Monaco or more likely Turkey?
    Get diggin' moley! I'd like to know your thoughts.

    Great Blog - keep it up

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  • 7. At 12:39pm on 06 May 2009, jensonsmum wrote:

    I am the stig!! ;-)

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  • 8. At 12:41pm on 06 May 2009, quicksesh wrote:

    No KERS on the BMW ... hmm looks as though they really have a handling issue from the fundamental chassis design of the car, so need to reposition ballst - no aero package will mask that.

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  • 9. At 12:41pm on 06 May 2009, jensonsmum wrote:

    Or maybe I am Spartacus!

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  • 10. At 12:45pm on 06 May 2009, SLUMDOG_C wrote:


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  • 11. At 1:30pm on 06 May 2009, Phil wrote:

    Nice bit of optimisim but more likely to be the better of the two Englishmen that win in Spain!

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  • 12. At 1:55pm on 06 May 2009, Ginger wrote:

    Not sure if LH will win the race in Spain, I suspect not but he can be had at about 8-1 to win the drivers championship. I think that McLaren will be strong for the rest of the season and given the consistancy of the two English drivers it's just a case of can he catch Jenson.

    Either way will suit but I am sure that there will be more support for Jenson as this appears to be his big season.

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  • 13. At 2:58pm on 06 May 2009, nickbashford wrote:

    This will certainly be an interesting weekend this season. I am hoping to see Brawn continue their success so far and for Mclaren to expand on the progress they have made, in light of the hearing distracting from the ability they have shown. will be nice to see them improve without that hanging over their shoulder and with all the focus on their race.

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  • 14. At 4:35pm on 06 May 2009, xFlying-Scotsmanx (#1-Buttonfan) wrote:

    BMW will return to KERS again.
    The fact that they have made so many changes to the aero package suggests that they should concentrate on fine tuning the new aero updates at the expense of other systems.
    I think it also underlines just how poor the original design was.
    From what i can gather,BMW will be using a new nose,new front wings,new rear wings,new sidepods and a new undertray.....sounds more or less like a new car to me.

    Im not sure that red bull will go the double deck diffuser route at all.The car is already performing fantastically and any updates they already had in the pipeline should help see them maintain their excellent performance.
    The push-rod system they are using at the rear of the car suggests to me that any extra performance should be sought out in other areas of the car,as a complete redesign of such an already outstanding car could hamper its performance rather than help.

    I wouldnt count out another win for red bull in barcelona,as it is a circuit that requires good aero performance (something Newey's Red Bull already has by the bucketload).

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  • 15. At 4:36pm on 06 May 2009, xFlying-Scotsmanx (#1-Buttonfan) wrote:

    also....can i have some of what Slumdog is smoking?

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  • 16. At 4:53pm on 06 May 2009, tallclarkie wrote:

    I cant wait i think button will win barrichello in 2nd and pehaps sutil in 3rd

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  • 17. At 5:01pm on 06 May 2009, hairybudda2 wrote:

    3 races is nearly a quarter of the season? Can I have some of what the mole is smoking??

    Looks like Toyota and Red Bull have the quali cars and Brawn have the race pace (aero updates notwithstanding) so I expect much of the same if we get a dry one in Spain... which we will.

    Go Jenson

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  • 18. At 5:27pm on 07 May 2009, chelsearule83 wrote:

    I would love Brawn to continue to dominate - if ever a driver has earned a chance it's Jenson! I think it's great that the field is so different from last year, it took half the tension out of the sport when Ferrari/Shumacher were winning every championship without even the appearance of trying.

    (Although I do have to point out my own hypocrisy at this point and own up to being one of those people who raged against Ross Brawn when he was with the team mentioned above.)

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  • 19. At 09:37am on 09 May 2009, khimaros wrote:

    Not wishing to be pedantic but it was Brawn who stated that there was nothing left in the cupboard and MOST F1 designers have claimed the double diffuser gives a gain of 0.2-0.3seconds per lap. It's only been a few who have claimed it's as much as 0.5 seconds, which is massive and unrealistic.

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  • 20. At 10:36am on 09 May 2009, Arthur Brede wrote:

    Beeb English: 'optimise it more effectively' - after it's been maximised a little bit, maybe?

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  • 21. At 10:31pm on 09 May 2009, doctorspike666 wrote:

    well here we are again on the eve of another tantalising race for us fans to enjoy,with jensen on pole,young vittel in 2nd,and rubens a strong 3rd,i seem to recall in my last comment the threat or mr.f.alonso,on home soil,mansel often said the roar from your home crowd is such a boost to the driver,mr alonso is probably after god{which ever one you may worship},the pope,as spains no1 sports star,is lurking in 5th,just far enought to pick up any places from a first courner incident,which we hope there isn,t,and jensen gets away,with rubens a close 2nd,i should imagine you may have worked out,i am a huge jensen button fan,and the genius of ross brawn,ferrari must be kicking themselfs for letting this man slip from their grasp,i shall probably not get to much sleep tonight,if i do,i hope it is filled with the memories of my trip in 95 to spa,five days of pure bliss,and yes eau rouge is steep and scary,jensen was a creiditable 3rd that wet sunday,rain in spa,surely not,that was the race sato took out a mr.shumacher,i was on the camel straight,which promptly cleared of 10,000 ferrari /shumacher fans,i was an under dog fan then and was there to cheer on minardi,which mr.stoddart sold that weekend to red bull,roll on 1 o'clock tomorrow,sleep well fellow f1 fans,

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