Although BAR-Honda’s controversial exclusion might detract from the Spanish Grand Prix spectacle, Fernando Alonso will have vociferous home support on Sunday when his Renault takes on the might of the resurgent Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes teams.

Although BAR-Honda’s controversial exclusion might detract from the Spanish Grand Prix spectacle, Fernando Alonso will have vociferous home support on Sunday when his Renault takes on the might of the resurgent Ferrari and McLaren-Mercedes teams.

Renault may have been the dominant force so far this season, but this weekend looks set to be the sternest challenge yet for the championship-leading team. At Imola, Kimi Räikkönen’s McLaren had a big lead early in the race and Alonso later had to fight off a challenge from Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari in the closing stages.

This weekend, Alonso will be competing for the first time with Renault’s new RS25 engine, which made its début at Imola in team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella’s car. In addition, Alonso will take comfort from the fact that the French team has traditionally been better suited to Catalunya than the bumps and kerbs of Imola.

"I think that Ferrari found very special conditions in San Marino that worked perfectly for them, but it is not normal for one car to be so fast compared to every other car in the field, not just ours,” said Alonso. “Certainly, we are not now fighting the same Ferrari team we saw at the first three races, but I don't think (in Spain) that we will be facing the same strength as in Imola either.”

Fisichella, by contrast, would probably like to just make it to the finish this weekend after failing to reach the chequered flag in every race since he won the Australian Grand Prix.

McLaren-Mercedes showed a huge improvement in performance at Imola. Räikkönen powered his MP4-20 to pole position and in the early stages it looked like the Finn could be the man to end the Renault domination. However, mechanical woes to put a clearly-disappointed Kimi out of the race.

Apologies from team boss Ron Dennis won’t have softened the blow of missing out on what would have been an intriguing battle for victory with Alonso and Schumache,r but the pace of qualifying – and from the two day test at Jerez last week – suggest that Räikkönen – and his now fully-recovered team-mate Juan-Pablo Montoya – can hope to fight at the front again this weekend.

Meanwhile, Ferrari has continued with extensive testing during the run up to the Spanish Grand Prix. The Scuderia is the only leading team shod with Bridgestone rubber and Luca Badoer conducted tests at Fiorano this week to collect data for the team’s tyre supplier.

Although Alonso isn’t too worried about the Ferrari challenge at Catalunya, there is no doubt that Schumacher, who stormed up the order to take second place at Imola, will be on the pace.

The F2005 hasn’t been kind to Rubens Barrichello, who has failed to finish in the points in either race with the new car. But it is only a matter of time until the talented Brazilian joins his German team-mate in a two-pronged Ferrari assault at the front.

Aerodynamic improvements to Toyota’s TF105 should aid Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher at Catalunya, a circuit where the Cologne-based team wasn’t on the pace during pre-season. Toyota’s technical director, Mike Gascoyne, said the team’s aim was to have both cars fighting for points this weekend.

Having tested at Silverstone alongside Jordan rather than with the majority of the grid at Jerez, the underachieving Williams-BMW heads to Spain hoping for an improved showing.

The FW27’s aerodynamics have been updated again and with Michelin providing two new compounds of tyre, technical director Sam Michael was confident of an improvement both from qualifying and actual race pace. Bad luck has prevented both Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld from adding to their points tally, but the pair will be eager to improve on Williams’ below-par showing at Imola.

Red Bull Racing’s Vitantonio Liuzzi and David Coulthard finished in a disappointing eleventh and 13th in San Marino. However, the Scot set the fourth quickest time on the final day of this week’s Jerez test and, with the pressure of his début race now over, Liuzzi can work his way towards the points in Spain.

After missing out on points in Bahrain, Jacques Villeneuve benefited from the BAR Hondas’ disqualification to finish fourth in San Marino. The former champion’s confidence will be high going into this weekend the team’s new aerodynamic package, which the team ran at Imola, should play a large part in ensuring an improved performance by the Villeneuve and Felipe Massa this weekend.

At the time of this report, BAR-Honda were exploring legal avenues to ensure the team’s participation in the Spanish Grand Prix. The FIA appeal court slapped a two-race ban on the Brackley-based team for running an underweight car in the San Marino Grand Prix this week.

There is no further internal appeal process open to BAR, but team boss Nick Fry confirmed he is looking at other legal means to race in Barcelona this weekend, raising the prospect of a civil court action.

"We are examining our options. Our objective is to race this weekend,” he said. "We have some of the best sporting lawyers in Britain and probably the world working on this now.

"Obviously if we are to race this weekend we need to get some judgement from a court pretty soon, probably Friday morning. I think we need to get the car into qualifying so I think that will be our final deadline," he added.

Original article from Car