The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has played host to the Spanish Grand Prix annually since its construction in 1991. At 4.66km long with 16 turns, it offers a well-balanced mix of low to high speed complexes, rapid changes in direction and several different straights. It is frequently used by Formula 1 teams for testing and development.
Located in Montmelo on the outskirts of Barcelona, the circuit hosts a race that is one of the most hotly-anticipated on the calendar. The beginning of the European season ordinarily marks the introduction of a raft of upgrades and new parts on the cars. After such a seismic change in the regulations for 2014, this race may well be more important than ever for making a step forwards. Failing to do so could result in being swallowed up by the rest of the field.
At the end of a long start/finish straight, turn 1 often provides the most overtaking possibilities. The first sector in Barcelona will place considerable loads on the left side tyres through high downforce corners. A quick run to turn 5 will see drivers be hard on the brakes and quickly changing direction in this slower corner, before getting right back to full throttle through a small kink (turn 6). This then runs into a challenging uphill chicane (turns 7-8) that changes direction and puts the cars under significant compression for a medium-speed complex.
Approaching turn 9 (Campsa), a high-speed sweeping righthander, drivers often cannot see the exit in setting up this corner. Campsa is critical as it leads onto the second longest straight at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and it is quite often where cars run wide, drop wheels, and punish the delicate undertrays and invisible aerodynamics of the cars.
Beginning with the hairpin of turn 10 on the heels of a long straight, sector 3 progresses frenetically through a kink (turn 11), a rounded, slow right hander (turn 12), a slow and tight right (turn 13), a chicane (turns 14 and 15), and finishes with a sweeping, high-speed right hander (Turn 16) leading onto the start/finish straight.
With such a mix of characteristics and features, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya will reward the team, car, and driver that excel in every area.
CAR SETUP WITH WILLIAM TYSON
A traditional test playground, Spain hosts one of the toughest aerodynamically demanding circuits on the calendar. The first and middle sectors are a series of high and medium speed corners so if there is anywhere that will expose a lack of downforce it’s here. The final sector requires good traction and mechanical grip, particularly out of the last chicane as this will gain you time down the pit straight. All four tyres take a punishing here (as proved last year) although it is yet clear how the 2012 specification Pirelli rubber will behave, especially if they continue to choose conservative compounds.
Track: Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona (4.655km)
Lap Record: Kimi Raikkonen 1:21.670 (2008)
Tyre Compounds: Medium (Option); Hard (Prime)
2013 Winner: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
2013 Pole Position: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:20.718
2013 Fastest Lap: Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) 1:26.217
DRS Zones: Main straight (T16 to T1); T9 to T10
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic.