It was time to head back to the best known track on the calendar, the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit, which all the teams had visited in slightly cooler conditions back in February for eight days of pre-season testing.
The Spanish Grand Prix is popular with everyone in the sport, for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact that, following on from Melbourne, Shanghai and Baku, it’s a very short flight, or even a road trip for all the teams. More time at home is always the most valuable commodity in a 21 race season, no matter how much we love our jobs! The return to Europe tends to mean a greater influx of stars from other sports coming to watch the races and in Spain we had famous faces like Neymar and Dani Alves from the world of football in attendance. At Toro Rosso, we also had a special guest, the famous Swiss wrestler and film star “Cesaro.” The WWE star joined our pit crew for a practice pit stop and clearly, picking up a wheel was no problem for this gentle giant. We were also wondering if he could fit into our STR14 cockpit… well, he did in the end, after we removed the seat and headrest!
Also turning up by road were the teams’ trucks and motorhomes, making their first appearance of the season. Every year, the term “motorhome” seems less and less appropriate for the structures the teams use to feed everyone and house the offices and driver rooms. This year, quite a few teams had decided to refresh or replace their units and Red Bull was no exception. We now have a brand new home which, as usual, we share with Aston Martin Red Bull Racing. It might be themed to look like an Austrian mountain chalet, but it’s a green one with all sorts of eco-friendly aspects to its build and the way it’s erected, pulled down and run.
Across the way from the motorhomes, on the “serious business” side of the paddock, having introduced some updates on the car in Baku a fortnight ago, we had some more new parts to try here. Combined with the updated PU from Honda, which also first appeared in Azerbaijan, once we got a handle on how best to run the car with the new parts, the STR14 definitely looked very competitive in the mid-field and Daniil again got through to Q3 on Saturday and Alex was not far behind. Of course we are biased, but we were not alone in thinking that Daniil drove a fantastic race; aggressive, smart and error free. He should have been the best of the rest behind the top three teams and did indeed run in seventh place for a while. He also pulled off some fantastic overtaking moves. He was definitely many people’s Driver of the Day, although, dare we say “as usual” that our former driver Max Verstappen won. But without going over it again, there was a radio communications issue between pit wall and garage and the double pit stop at the time of the Safety Car, did not go well. We lost far too much time for both drivers, but we add 2 points to our tally courtesy of Danill’s ninth place. As for Alex, he, unfortunately, finished just out of the points ending P11. We now need to turn the page and move on, as we prepare for the next round in Monaco in a fortnight’s time, after the two days test in Barcelona: Daniil is in the car today and tomorrow Alex takes over behind the wheel.