Five themes to watch for in Spain

Five themes to watch for in Spain

What can Lewis Hamilton achieve from the back? Can Pastor Maldonado and Fernando Alonso hang on at the front? And will tyre wear decide it all? Edd Straw ponders Barcelona's big pre-race questions

Hamilton on a mission

When Lewis Hamilton ground to a halt on his slowdown lap, most in the paddock realised that McLaren could have a serious problem. It was no surprise that the FIA wouldn't accept McLaren's argument that sending out a car that had accidentally been short-fuelled does not constitute force majeure so Hamilton finds himself at the back of the grid. It's the latest setback in a season during which the 2008 world champion has had more than his fair share of bad luck. Like the pitstop blunders in Bahrain, this was out of Hamilton's hands but he has the chance to make up for it. The fastest car/driver combination at the back of the grid should make for some spectacular racing and Hamilton has a decent chance of coming out of the race with at least a few points.

Maldonado's big day

Pastor Maldonado's shock pole position, which followed a stunning performance to take a front row slot and Lewis Hamilton's penalty, makes the Spanish Grand Prix the biggest moment of the Venezuelan driver's career. Not that Maldonado is a stranger to starting at the front having done so here in GP2 in the past (although he did stall on that occasion!). Williams has also generally shown better race pace than qualifying pace meaning that it's not impossible that, if he holds the lead at the start, he could stay up the sharp end. Maldonado has become an ever-smoother and more consistent driver during his time with Williams without sacrificing his pace, so anyone assuming that he will chuck the car at the scenery, something that the 'old' Maldonado might have done, could be in for a surprise. Let's just hope for no repeat of his last-lap Melbourne disaster.

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