Barcelona Track Preview

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is preparing to host its 26th annual Formula 1 Spanish Grand-Prix this Sunday since its inception into the race calendar in 1991. Its construction coincided with the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, where the circuit was used as the start-finish line for the road team time trial cycling event.

The 4.65 kilometre track containing 16 corners; nine right-handers and seven left, boasts five main overtaking points at turns 1, 2, 4, 10 and 13, as well as a 1.3km flat-out section where cars reach speeds of 332kph.

The left-hand side pole position sits 730 metres away from turn one, making it one of the most important starts of the season. However, wind-speed often violently fluctuates around the municipality of Montmelo, meaning without correct aerodynamic set-ups, the Catalan tarmac can particularly be a tough place to maintain a lead.

So, taking all the challenges that lay ahead for the 20 drivers this weekend into account, let’s look at this race-weekend’s track preview: The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Familiarity.

The circuit is a familiar one to all teams with it not only playing host to the Spanish Grand Prix, but is also the home of F1 winter testing. The FIA often receives criticism that there is little overtaking during the 66-lap race nowadays due to drivers being so knowledgeable of the track – with races during the early stages after construction littered with daring manoeuvres, particularly in the last two corners.

However, with track temperatures expected to be between 40.5 and 42.4 degrees Celsius, conditions are vastly different to those experienced during testing. Combining this with the ever-changing aerodynamics, the 307km-long battle can provide as many twists and turns as anywhere on the calendar.

We only have to take a look at last year’s collision between Mercedes pairing Lewis Hamiltion and Nico Rosberg to know Barcelona can provide thrilling entertainment.

Tyres.

We have already discussed how influential aerodynamics can be, however not many tracks provide as much tyre strain as that of Barcelona.

The circuit is known for being tough on tyres and teams often split between a two and three-stop strategy with Soft, Medium and Hard compounds the three options for this weekend.

History.

The 4.65km ribbon of tarmac has played host to the Spanish Grand Prix for the last 26 years, however it is someone who will be on the starting grid on Sunday who holds the current record.

Ferrari-man Kimi Raikkonen set a blistering lap of 1:21.670 back in 2008, 5.278 seconds faster than the fastest lap of last year’s race set by Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso.

The Spanish Grand Prix in general has been a happy hunting ground for Ferrari throughout its 104-year history, with the Italian Racehorse taking 12 wins – their most recent coming from Fernando Alonso in 2013 before the Silver Arrows’ hybrid dominance thereafter.

However, Mercedes have only been victorious six times in Spain, with two coming at Barcelona, a number that could have been three if it were not for their first-lap disaster last year.

Hamilton and Rosberg’s antics paved the way for a historic moment on Spain’s east coast, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen securing his first ever win in Formula 1 during his team debut – making him the youngest winner in the sport’s history.

What to expect from the 2017 Spanish Grand Prix.

This season has started out a very much two-horse manufacturer’s race, with Ferrari finally showing the race-pace practice and qualifying sessions promised last year.

With three different winners in the opening weeks of the campaign already, it would come as no surprise if Sunday gave us the fourth.

Ferrari’s testing pace pre-season looked promising, and Maurizio Arrivabene will be hoping they can emulate that success. Toto Wolff and the Mercedes garage on the other hand will be keen to secure their first back-to-back win of this term in a season they were expected to walk away with again.

By Joe Owens 10/05/17

Picture courtesy of Simon Tassie
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