Tom Clarkson's 2008 Spanish Grand Prix preview

Published: 25 April 2008

Big weekend for Lewis Hamilton, this. His world championship challenge requires him to see off Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in the Spanish Grand Prix, as does his confidence.

By his own admission, Lewis made a balls of it in Bahrain. His weekend was a catalogue of errors, beginning with a hefty crash on Friday afternoon and ending with a start line error and another smash in the race. For the first time in his career, the boy wonder had to face the notion of failure.

Hamilton: unaccustomed to failure

The tonic was to disappear home to Switzerland for the three-week break. He could walk around Geneva unnoticed, go mountain biking in the hills and get his head straight. How straight, we’ll discover in the next 48 hours.

He then flew to Barcelona on Wednesday evening, a day earlier than the other drivers, to begin his on-track preparations for the race. He walked the track with his race engineer Phil Prew on Thursday morning, examining the kerbs at every corner; he debriefed with McLaren’s data engineers and discussed strategy. He left no stone unturned.

He stopped his technical discussions to talk briefly to the press on Thursday afternoon. 'Fighting fit, ready to go,' was his message. And you believed him.

McLaren: make or break

Aside from Lewis’s performance, however, this is also a crucial weekend for McLaren. The front-running teams are all introducing updated aerodynamic kits at the Circuit de Catalunya, and such is the intensity of the European season, with races coming in quick succession, that the order established here is likely to remain the status quo for the foreseeable future.

If McLaren are to take the fight to Ferrari this year, they have to start here. Testing at the track last week was inconclusive because Raikkonen ran only on a wet track on the final day, so it’s only in qualifying that we’ll get a true understanding of how the teams stack up. My money remains on Ferrari… 

Come back on Monday for Tom Clarkson's full race review

Click here for the archive of Tom Clarkson's other 2008 race previews and reports

By Tom Clarkson

F1 correspondent, BBC pitlane man, accesser of all areas, head beans-spiller