Circuit de Catalunya Track Guide

Circuit de Catalunya Track Guide



The Circuit de Catalunya, located just north of Barcelona in Montmeló, has played host to the Spanish Grand Prix annually since its construction in 1991.  At 4.66km (2.89mi) long with 16 turns, Circuit de Catalunya offers a well-balanced mix of low to higher speed complexes, rapid directional changes, and several different straights.  It is frequently used by Formula 1 teams for testing and development.  Pirelli will be supplying teams with the medium and hard compounds for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, which are ideally suited to the broad range of demands presented in Barcelona.

At the end of a long start/finish straight, Turn 1 often sees the most overtaking possibilities.  The first sector in Barcelona will place considerable loads on the left side tires through high downforce corners.  A quick run to Turn 5 will see drivers hard on the brakes and quickly changing direction in this slower corner and then right back to full throttle through a small kink (Turn 6) running 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 higher-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 Circuit de 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 (Turn 14), and finishes with a sweeping, high-speed right hander (Turn 16) leading onto the start/finish straight.


Although the Circuit de Catalunya is notorious for a lack of passing opportunities, the FIA has responded with two DRS activation zones this weekend.  The first DRS activation zone begins at pit entry on the start/finish straight, and the second will be located on the back straight heading into Turn 10

Changing wind directions have often wreaked confusion on teams struggling to zero-in on a reliable setup in cars that are unbelievably aero-sensitive.  With over 50% of a lap spent on full throttle, nearly 40 gear changes per lap, and speeds topping out at nearly 330.1 kph (205.115 mph) this weekend, mechanical reliability will remain critical especially as teams bring upgrades.  With such a mix of characteristics and features, the Circuit de Catalunya will reward the team, car, and driver that excel along a broad spectrum.

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Mike is a long-time Formula One fan whose favorite drivers of the modern era include Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. He also believes in racing cars with fenders and fields his own car in SCCA’s Spec Miata class in the United States. He most admires racers like Dan Gurney, Bruce McLaren, John Surtees, Jack Brabham, Mark Donohue and Jim Hall–the rarest breed who could build, race, and win in their own machines. Mike is confident the world will not end in 2012.