This weekend, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya once again played host to the Spanish Grand Prix, which saw an underwhelming weekend for the Asian drivers of Zhou Guanyu, Alex Albon and Yuki Tsunoda. Asian Motorsport reviews all the action from the tenth round of the Formula One World Championship in 2024.

By Seb Tirado

Free Practice

RB brought new upgrades to Spain, which the team debuted in FP1. However, Tsunoda would not have as much running with them as his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, completing 21 laps compared to the Australian’s 30 and classifying 20th with a 1:15.916. Elsewhere, Zhou would finish in 16th with a 1:15.616 and Albon would finish up in 10th with a 1:15.417. 

In FP2, Tsunoda would get much more running in the session and complete 31 laps with an improved time and classification of a 1:14.211 and 15th. Zhou and Albon would also both have improved times but would finish lower in the classification in 17th and 19th respectively with a 1:14.345 and a 1:14.807.

Yuki Tsunoda on track during FP2 | Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

In his final preparations before Qualifying, Albon finished FP3 up in 8th with a 1:13.753 on the soft tyres. Much further down the timing sheets, Tsunoda and Zhou finished in 18th and 19th with a 1:14.420 and a 1:14.572 respectively, with the Japanese driver’s RB team still not confident with the upgrades.

Qualifying

A difficult Q1 for RB and Williams would see Tsunoda and Albon eliminated along with their teammates. They would qualify in 17th and 19th respectively with a 1:12.985 and a 1:13.153. On the other hand, Zhou would very narrowly progress through to Q2 with a 1:12.880 in 14th, a thousandth of a second ahead of Lance Stroll in 15th

Zhou Guanyu on track during Qualifying | Credit: Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber

Zhou would ultimately be eliminated in Q2 and qualify 15th on the grid with a 1:12.738. 

Spanish Grand Prix

Williams changed Albon’s power unit prior to the race, penalising the Thai driver with a pit lane start.

Tsunoda would make up ground on Lap 1, moving up two positions to 15th whilst Zhou lost two and moved down to 17th and behind Kevin Magnussen. Elsewhere, Albon began to push his way from the pit lane on a set of new mediums, overtaking his teammate Logan Sargeant on Lap 6 as he merged back with the pack.

Yuki Tsunoda leading Kevin Magnussen and Zhou Guanyu during the Grand Prix | Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Zhou and Tsunoda would be the first to come in for their first pit stops at the end of Lap 9, emerging back out in 19th and 20th on sets of new mediums. Zhou would then slowly make his way up the field as the other drivers made their stops, along with Albon who extended his stint on his starting medium tyres. Albon would come in at the end of Lap 18 from 13th for a set of new softs and Zhou would make his way up to 12th by the end of the first round of pit stops, with Tsunoda still down near the rear of the pack in 18th.

Tsunosa driver would be one of the first to make a second stop at the end of Lap 27, this time for a set of new hards. As others made their second stops, Zhou would shuffle up to a highest position of 9th with Albon also making his way up to 15th. The Chinese driver would pit at the end of Lap 41 for a set of new hards, emerging in 17th just behind his teammate Valtteri Bottas. Albon would make his second stop at the end of Lap 43 for new softs and come out in 19th and Tsunoda would come in for his third a lap later and emerge in 20th, also on new softs.

Tsunoda would be given a 5-second time penalty on Lap 50 for speeding in the pit lane and Albon would have a small incident entering T4 on Lap 59, oversteering on the entry to the corner and having a small excursion into the gravel run-off in the process. In the end, Zhou would finish in 13th, Albon in 18th and Tsunoda in 19th.

Having brought upgrades to Barcelona that promised pace, Tsunoda was disappointed with the result, commenting that “it was a tough race, in which I struggled. The handling of the car was definitely not easy, and I did not feel as comfortable as I normally do. Something wasn’t quite right, and we’ll analyse everything that happened to understand what did not work well and come back stronger in Austria.”

Albon similarly commented that Williams “wanted more this weekend. On the one hand, the car has made a huge step forward compared to last year and we made the right choices throughout the race. At the same time, this track is a bit of reality check. On a more traditional track, our lack of downforce and extra weight combined with high winds and track temperatures held us back. With the midfield getting stronger, it’s clear we’ve got work to do.”

Zhou commented that he “had a good race today especially compared to the last couple of events. We were quite strong for most of the day – I hadn’t expected to be fighting with the Haas – and the feeling is that we have definitely made a step forward. I am happy we made a step forward, it feels like a bit of a breakthrough, not perhaps in terms of results but in terms of feeling with the car: I felt a lot more comfortable; I could put the car where I wanted and control it as I used to. It’s a big step and it gives us all motivation to keep working and closing the gap. Hopefully, we can continue on this trajectory and be back in the points soon.“

Formula One Drivers’ Championship Top 10

  1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 219
  2. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 150
  3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 148
  4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) – 116
  5. Sergio Pérez (Red Bull) – 111
  6. Oscar Piastri (McLaren) – 87
  7. George Russell (Mercedes) – 81
  8. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 70
  9. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) – 41
  10. Yuki Tsunoda (RB) – 19

Formula One Constructors’ Championship Top 5

  1. Red Bull Racing – 330
  2. Scuderia Ferrari – 270
  3. McLaren – 237
  4. Mercedes-AMG – 151
  5. Aston Martin – 58

Next week, the Formula One World Championship returns to the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg for the Austrian Grand Prix.

Header image credit: Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber


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