This weekend's Spanish Grand Prix will be the litmus test for Formula 1's 2011 regulations, reckons Williams technical director Sam Michael, with the Circuit de Catalunya posing the toughest challenge yet for movable wings and Pirelli's tire plans.
The Barcelona circuit has traditionally produced processional racing, with its long high-speed corners and lack of heavy braking zones making it very difficult for drivers to pass their rivals. But with the mixture of F1's Drag Reduction System (DRS) and Pirelli's push for multi-stop races having delivered a huge increase in overtaking opportunities, there is a good chance that this year's Spanish GP will deliver more excitement.
Michael believes that because Barcelona has been so hard in the past for overtaking, if this year's race is exciting, then it will show what a success the 2011 rules have been.
"I am sure there will be overtaking there," Michael told AUTOSPORT. "The traditional tracks that were difficult, with the tire situation and the rear wing things should be different. I think it will be a very good test. It has been the worst track in the past for overtaking."
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said last week that he too believed the Spanish GP would provide a big insight into the success of the new rules.
"I'm particularly interested to see how the rule changes affect Sunday's grand prix," he said. "We've seen how DRS and KERS hybrid have influenced the racing so far this season, so we'll see how things progress at Barcelona given that the Spanish Grand Prix has previously shown limited opportunities for overtaking."
Opinions in the paddock remain split about whether the current rules have delivered perfect racing or are making overtaking too easy, with the early races having thrown up varying levels of strategy and passing. Force India COO Otmar Szafnauer thinks that it may take another few races to work out just where the current rules are at.
"I think the jury is still out," he said. "In China it was fantastic, but maybe in Turkey there were too many pit stops and too much passing. With a lot of pit stops, you get tire differences and overtaking is too easy. I thought that China was great, fantastic – and perhaps Turkey was a bit more extreme. But let's give it a bit more chance – will it tend toward what we saw in Turkey or will it tend toward what we saw in China?
"The nice thing is that if we all agree it has been overdone then you can throttle it back, and maybe get rid of the DRS, or whatever. It is better than it was three years ago, that is for sure."