The “Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya” is one of the few old tracks still present on the F1 calendar. It was built in 1991, but before the construction of the track, the Spanish GP was held at various locations, with the first race dating back to 1913.
At the very beginning of the F1 calendar, drivers raced in Pedralbes, Barcelona. Then, the GP moved to Madrid, to the Jarama Circuit, and Montjuïc in Barcelona. It was agreed that the race would alternate between the tight, slow and twisty Jarama and the fast, wide and sweeping Montjuïc. Due to the dangerous track in Montjuïc, the GP was confined to Jarama. Finally, in 1986, Jerez circuit, a new circuit, held the Spanish GP until 1991.
With the circuit offering plenty of long straights and a variety of corners, it is the favourite destination among rulemakers for pre-season and mid-season testing. Length of the circuit is 4.655 km and drivers will complete a total of 66 laps for a race distance of 307.104 km.
The situation in the championship is very interesting. Meanwhile Rosberg is first with plenty of points ahead of his teammate, there is a tight battle for the following positions. Kimi Raikkonen, driving for the Scuderia, is third in the tables 14 points behind Hamilton and 57 behind Rosberg. We find Daniel Ricciardo in the fourth position with 36 points, just three more than his former teammate Sebastian Vettel. The first of the Williams is Felipe Massa, who has earned 32 points so far, followed by an impressive Romain Grosjean with 22. Daniil Kvyat, the “new” Toro Rosso driver, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen, now driving for Red Bull, complete the top 10 with 21, 19 and 13 points respectively.
With very few overtaking opportunities available, claiming pole position is very important in Montmeló. For instance, in 1999, only one overtaking move was made in the whole race.
Numbers in Montmeló
Michael Schumacher has been the most successful driver at the circuit, with a total of six victories. Among the current drivers, Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso have won twice here. Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Felipe Massa have all won once at the Catalan circuit. As a curiosity, Pastor Maldonado won his first (and only) race in Montmeló.
Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen holds the lap record since 2008. He recorded a 1.21:670s.
The first sector starts with the main straight, which is very long and ends in quite a heavy braking point; the first corner, a close right hander where there is a very good overtaking opportunity as the DRS use is allowed during the straight. Speed at the straight is about 335 km/h. They need to get a good grip at the exit of that corner because right after there is turn 2, forming a kind of medium speed chicane. Drivers should get the inside for turn number two in order to gain speed and grip at the exit as turn 3 is a flat-out and a very long corner to the right; drivers go for almost 4 seconds at more than 200 km/h. This corner puts tires under a lot of stress, specially the front left one. This sector is very demanding on the aerodynamics, since it has long radius corners. It is important to control the understeer.
Cars will reach 235 km/h there, just before the Repsol corner number 4, where sector 2 starts, a long opening corner to the right. They should brake early, entering in the corner at about 140 km/h, and then keep accelerating to carry out a lot of speed at the exit. Right after, there it is turn 5, a slow left-hander taken in second gear and downhill. It is easy to lock the front tyres and the kerbs should be maximized here. Next corner is very soft and open and it is followed by a medium speed left-right chicane formed by turns 7 and 8. At this point the track starts to go uphill again. Drivers find now a medium length straight where they go up to 225 km/h and where DRS detection point is located, before braking for corner number 9, a blind (since it starts uphill and finishes downhill) very fast corner to the right. It is easy to run wide here. In this sector, the equilibrium between traction, downforce and power is the key.
It follows a long straight, where the DRS use is allowed. Sector 3 starts here. The straight ends in a left hairpin, taken in second gear and at 70km/h. It can be a good overtaking opportunity, but drivers need to be careful because the wind is a problem here. Turn number 11 is a fast and open corner to the left, linked to the very rounded, long and slow turn 12 to the right. Here, the track drops down again. The last section of the track has been redesigned by Hermann Tilke in 2007. In the name of safety, the speed at the pit straight had to be decreased. It was also supposed to help overtaking opportunities but it hasn’t made much of a difference.
Corner number 13 is a technical and tight one, almost 90º to the right, taken at fourth gear and at about 150 km/h. After it, drivers should change quickly the position of the car to take the racing line of the slow chicane formed by turns 14 and 15. It is a left-right chicane taken in second gear. Good traction and speed at the exit are vital to take the last corner before the main straight, a fast one to the right. The braking stability and traction are the most important features for this last sector.
In general, the circuit is quite demanding on the tyres as the asphalt is quite bumpy and the wind is usually heavy. There are also a lot of curves which demand lateral forces. The brake wear is low because there are not many slow corners.
Pirelli will bring to Montmeló the soft, medium and hard compounds. Drivers have chosen medium and soft tyres and just one or two sets of hard ones.
Paul Hembery says: “Spain always provides a very big test for the tyres due to the high energy loads that the circuit generates, and this year that will especially be the case with most teams having favoured the softer compounds in their selections. Of course they will be able to rely on the data accumulated during pre-season testing, but at this time of year we expect conditions to be much warmer. As a result we should see high wear and degradation leading to several pit stops, which of course opens up a very large number of strategic variables for the Grand Prix.”
The big news this weekend in the F1 circus is the seat swap between Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen. We don’t know the official reasons for that change but rumours say that Red Bull could be worried about the driverss market since they don’t want to lose the young driver. Max commented: “I’m very excited for the opportunity to drive for Red Bull Racing and I can’t wait to jump in the car in Barcelona. I have a lot of work to do ahead of the race, lots of data to study but luckily it’s a track I know well because we have driven there so much.
The main straight is quite a long one, so you need a good top speed. For me the best parts of the track are Turn 3 and Turn 9, as they are both high-speed ones. The last sector is also interesting, as it’s very technical and hard on tyres.
The crowd is also one you always notice, with many Spanish fans showing their support and enjoying the racing!”
Race local times
FP1 Friday 13 10.00h
FP2 Friday 13 14.00h
FP3 Saturday 14 11.00h
Qualifying Saturday 14 14.00h
Race Sunday 15 14.00h
By Cristina DeLarge