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Patrick Kluivert, Newcastle United legend is among the celebrities watching today. “I love Lewis, he represents the right things,” he said after being glued by Sky. He tips City for the league, and Sergio Aguero is also among the spectators today. Coincidence? Surely not.

This is Fernando Alonso, who triumphed on this circuit – albeit nine years ago: “I have nothing to lose, and it can only get better by starting last, so we will be aggressive and we will see the result. I hope Carlos can give something more from the front, and for my part, I will try to put on a good show today.

Sainz says tire management will be key and he’s not wrong: the track is at 48 degrees today and we’re expecting a two-stage race. Here is what is on offer:

What about home drivers? Carlos Sainz starts from a good place, third on the grid, and he has never failed to finish in the points here. “It’s a decent position,” he said. “I think the key will be the start, the tire management.”

As for Fernando Alonso, he started all the way back after an engine penalty and a 17th place in qualifying. This does not bode well, nor the fact that his five races this season have resulted in two retirements and only one final point: he could well be satisfied with the latter here.

It’s a torrid in Catalonia – well above 30 degrees – so all eyes will be on the drivers’ tire strategy this afternoon. All of the top three teams outfitted their two riders with two new sets of mediums and one hard.

In the meantime, here’s what Verstappen had to say on his loss of power in the last qualifying lap yesterday: “It’s always hard to say but I couldn’t do my final run, either the DRS didn’t open up or I I just lost power. It’s a bit of a shame but I think overall to be in the front row for us here, looking at the whole weekend so far, I think was a good achievement.

Preamble

After the glitz and showbiz of Miami, it’s match time at the Circuit de Catalunya, where Max Verstappen is looking to hunt down Charles Leclerc in the standings and on the tarmac with a third straight GP win. The Dutchman, coldly triumphant in Miami and Emilia-Romagna, seems to have found his bearings after a disastrous start to the season but his task today is daunting.

His Monegasque rival, 19 points ahead in the standings, circled the circuit with an almighty lap yesterday to beat Verstappen to pole. The way he spun in his first moto – and the fact that he has never done better than fourth at this circuit – will give hope to his rivals, although the fact that Verstappen’s car lost power on the final lap will bring unwanted flashbacks to early-season breakdowns that left him playing catch-up.

Drivers and constructors championships begin to take the form of a two-horse race, with Ferrari and Red Bull pulling away from the chasing pack in the latter. The Mercedes team, which has floundered so far this season finding no answer to the porpoising problem caused by the new regulatory constraints, is desperate to quash any league atmosphere.

Yesterday, however, offered clues that they may be preparing to show up to the party, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton achieving their best combined qualifying of the season. “We’ve definitely improved which is great,” Hamilton said after qualifying two places behind his sixth-placed teammate.

The other pleasure of the week came courtesy of Aston Martin, whose upgraded car sports a strikingly similar design to Red Bull. The fact that two senior aerodynamicists left Red Bull for Aston Martin last year led Christian Horner to lament the suspicious emergence of a “very close clone”, who has since been dubbed the “green Red Bull” and the Horner’s pit wall team spent Friday practice ostensibly sipping green cans of Red Bull in a gloriously petty protest. Watch this place.



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