Spanish GP: what time is the race? And can Alonso end his 10-year dry spell? | Top Gear
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Wednesday 4th October
Formula One

Spanish GP: what time is the race? And can Alonso end his 10-year dry spell?

F1 heads to Spain for Fernando Alonso’s home race. Could he grab a fairytale win 10 years after his last victory?

Published: 01 Jun 2023

With the dust yet to settle on the Monaco Grand Prix - a race which Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso might have won, if only he’d gone straight to inters - F1 has made the short (ish) hop to Spain for the seventh race of the season in Barcelona.

Although Max Verstappen is dominating the championship, Alonso’s resurgence at Aston is just as topical, and this weekend’s Spanish GP couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.

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Not only is it Alonso’s home race, but it is now 10 whole years since the double world champion claimed his last F1 win at - yep, you guessed it - Circuit de Catalunya. How is that possible?!

Ending that barren run will likely require a couple of DNFs on Red Bull’s part, although stranger things have happened. In fact, that exact thing has happened here before: anyone remember Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg taking each other out on the opening lap in 2016? That crash also gave us Verstappen’s maiden victory, if you’ll recall…

Further down the pecking order, Mercedes wants to see how its new sidepods perform on a proper race track and Ferrari desperately needs an error free weekend, having (once again) messed up quite badly in Monaco.

Then you’ve got Alpine and McLaren battling it out ahead of Haas, Alfa Romeo, AlphaTauri and Williams, all of whom look closely matched and are providing plenty of competition for the minor places.

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Lots to watch out for, as always. Keep scrolling for the full lowdown…

What time is the Spanish GP? And what time is qualifying?

The Spanish GP starts at 2pm UK time on Sunday 4 June, while qualifying begins at 3pm on Saturday.

If you’re the type of person who will glue their eyeballs to the practice sessions as well (we know you’re out there), then FP1 begins at 12.30pm on Friday 2 June. FP2 starts a few hours later at 4pm, and the final shakedown that is FP3 takes place a short while before quali on Saturday, with the track open for an hour from 11.30am.

What’s the weather going to be like?

Friday’s practice sessions are expected to be dry, but for the third weekend in a row we could see the action impacted by rain (remember Imola was called off altogether because of heavy flooding). At the time of typing, showers are predicted to hit on both Saturday and Sunday… maybe Alonso and Aston will get the decisive call to switch to wets/inters right this time.

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Where is the Spanish GP taking place?

Circuit de Catalunya is hosting the Spanish Grand Prix for the 33rd successive year, having previously been held in Jerez until 1990. The track is located a few miles from Barcelona, and is a popular destination for F1 because of its mix of high- and low-speed corners. This is why it’s played host to pre-season testing so many times over the years.

How many laps is the Spanish GP?

The Spanish GP will feature 66 laps of the 4.657km (2.894mi) circuit, which this year features a new layout that gets rid of the much-hated chicane in the final sector. Much-hated because slowing the cars down to a crawl meant it became very difficult to overtake down the main straight, leading to very many quite dull races. Instead we’ve now two sweeping left-handers (and two DRS zones) which should hopefully deliver more action. Touch wood.

Who’s going to win the Spanish GP?

Well, we’ve had six races so far and Red Bull has won… all of them. Max Verstappen has grabbed four of those and teammate Sergio Perez the other two, so the form book suggests it’s going to be a 1-2 finish with the Dutchman the overwhelming favourite to cross the line first.

No doubt the fans will be roaring Fernando Alonso along, but if the pace of the Aston is (as expected) still shy of the imperious RB19, then we should have a close battle for the final podium place between Alonso, the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, and maybe even the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz if the team can successfully get through a weekend without too many self-inflicted wounds.

The dark horse in all this is the other Aston of Lance Stroll. The Canadian unarguably has the second fastest car on the grid right now but is currently only eighth in the standings…

How can I watch the Spanish GP?

On the telly? On a laptop? By buying tickets and actually going there? We kid, of course. In the UK you can either subscribe to Sky Sports for its dedicated F1 channel or subscribe to Now TV in order to access Sky that way. Or simply visit a pub that has already done one of those things on your behalf.

Channel 4 will broadcast free-to-air highlights of qualifying and the race, starting at 7.40pm and 6.30pm on Saturday and Sunday respectively. If you want to watch those without knowing the result, we recommend turning off the power at the fusebox and hiding under a blanket so drama can’t be ruined by the internet or radio or TV or whatever. And tell your friends you will disown them if they divulge even the slightest detail about the race. If they do, even by accident, you’re better off without them.

What’s the Top Gear view on the Spanish GP?

The Spanish GP has never been our favourite race on the calendar having delivered one too many bore-fests over the years, but hopefully the new layout will improve things immeasurably. And don’t forget that overtaking isn’t the only measure of excitement in motorsport: George Russell kept Max Verstappen at bay like his life depended on it last year with a defensive display that was a joy to watch.

Anyway, we’ll be doing what every other neutral fan will be doing this weekend and secretly hoping El Plan comes to fruition with a long overdue Fernando Alonso victory. Vamos!

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