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Have Mercedes made a step forward? Barcelona will reveal all

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Mercedes will be forgiven a ‘spring in their step’ as they head to Barcelona for the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix, in the wake of a welcome renaissance in Canada last time out.

George Russell put the Mercedes on pole and went on to score the team’s first podium of 2024. Lewis Hamilton in the sister car was perhaps at his best so far this season too. Suggesting the former Formula 1 World Champions made a useful step into the very tight pecking order at the front of the field.

Was Montreal a flash in the pan for Mercedes? They have previously flattered only to deceive, ‘kings’ of Free Practice have tended to whither into insignificance on Qualy days and then in the race on Sundays.

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However, Montreal seemed different. There was genuine pace in the package throughout the sessions into the GP as well. Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya provides nowhere to hide for all teams this weekend. The former hotbed of F1 testing is very well-known to all teams and drivers.

Expect sub-72-second lap times at the sharp-end, with little to separate the teams is sure because Red Bull with Max Verstappen only (teammate Sergio Perez is lost) may have a little edge, McLaren and Ferrari (although they went AWOL in Canada) have closed the gap it appears. At least at recent circuits.

Where will the revamped Mercedes end up this year in Barcelona?

Like rival cars, Barcelona will shine a spotlight on the Red Bull RB20 and ‘that’ gap. Anoraks are going to have a field day comparing Spanish GP numbers from the past year to this.

A glance at the StatsF1 results shows that last year Verstappen cruised to a 24-second victory over none other than Mercedes duo Hamilton and Russell. In Qualifying, Verstappen claimed pole position. Best Merc that day was Lewis in P5, half a second shy of the top time.

Will Mercedes beat Max this time around? Will the Montreal form carry over? Do they really have a handle on the W15 this time? We will know soon enough.

Ahead of Round 10 of the 2024 F1 World Championship, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff is positive but cautious: “We continued to make incremental gains across the past few races. It was encouraging therefore to take another positive step forward in Canada.

“To see that translate into our strongest team result of the season so far is a reward for everyone’s hard work. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a unique track, however. It has a narrow range of corner speeds and, with a newly re-laid surface, was something of an outlier compared to more traditional venues.”

Wolff: Barcelona an opportunity to evaluate our progress

Toto Wolff 'would love' to have Max Verstappen as there's no F1 team who  'wouldn't do handstands' to sign him | Formula 1®

“We know our competitors will perform more strongly at upcoming races so we will need to continue to work hard to consistently get ourselves in the fight for podiums, and eventually race wins,” hoped Wolff.

He also knows that the weekend in Spain will be revealing: “Barcelona will provide a good test of our progress. It has a mix of fast, medium, and low-speed corners, a long straight and plenty of elevation change. Tracks that contain this wide speed range have been a weakness of ours so far this year.

“This weekend will therefore provide another opportunity to evaluate our progress through our recent updates, and we hope to build on the positive momentum from Montreal,” added Wolff, whose team are fourth in the championship standings after nine rounds, and have scored less than half the points leaders Red Bull have so far.

Notably, Hamilton holds the record for most consecutive wins at a Grand Prix circuit with five in Barcelona (2017-2021). He shares this record with Ayrton Senna and Monaco (1989-1993)

Russell triumphed at Barcelona in 2018 while driving in Formula 2. He shared the podium that day with future F1 drivers Lando Norris and Nyck de Vries.

Big Question: Have Mercedes made a big step forward or was Canada an anomaly?