The 2015 F1 World Championship resumes at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona this weekend, marking the start of the European leg of the season following a three week break.
Lewis Hamilton arrives in Spain with a 27-point lead at the head of the World Championship standings courtesy of three wins from the opening four races held so far this year. His form has been so dominant that he will line-up this weekend as the odds-on favourite to score a fourth win of the campaign.
Speaking this week, the 30-year-old Briton said: “We have had a three week break since the last race, but during that time we have all been working very hard.
“The competition, especially from Ferrari, is very tough this year and everyone at Mercedes-Benz is keen to maintain our early season advantage during the next few races.
“The Circuit de Catalunya is a track we all know well. It always hosts pre-season testing so every driver and team have a good feeling about the track and because of that, I think it will be a closer race for many to call this weekend.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate, Nico Rosberg, who sits second in the title race, is keen to claim his first victory of the 2015 season for the Brackley team.
He said: “My pace has been good this year, although I have not been able to win a race yet.
“My hope is that situation will change this weekend in Spain. I like this track and I know from previous experience that the Mercedes-Benz car performs well at the circuit. We had good pace in pre-season tests here, and I hope that can be replicated again this weekend.”
The closest challengers to the local Mercedes drivers in Spain is expected to come from Ferrari and Williams. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen are third and fourth respectively in the standings, just ahead of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.
Silverstone’s Sahara Force India racer Nico Hulkenberg arrives for the Spanish Grand Prix fresh from contesting the second round of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), and will race alongside team-mate Sergio Perez.
For the part Bicester-based Toro Rosso team, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. will be in action.
The Toro Rosso pair have been out of the points for the last couple of races, and are both keen for their pointless runs to come to an end.
Sainz said this week: “I am very excited to race a Grand Prix car in my home country for the first time. This is a big thing for me.
“My father was very successful in the World Rally Championship here in Spain, and I would really like to carry on this tradition for my family in Formula 1.”
Current standings: 1. Hamilton, 93pts; 2. Rosberg, 66; 3. Vettel, 65; 4. Raikkonen, 42; 5. Massa, 31; 6. Bottas, 30; 7. Ricciardo, 19; 8. Nasr, 14; 9. Grosjean, 12; 10. Hulkenberg, 6.