Spanish GP Preview: European leg of the season begins here
The “Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya” is one of the few old tracks still present in the calendar. It was built in 1991, hence the 2015 edition of the race marks the 25th running of the event. 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 5766 laps for a race distance of 307.104 km.
The wind direction at the circuit can heavily change during the day. Despite lesser importance of aerodynamics these days, drivers still need to adjust their braking points accordingly. It is then hard to find a good setup since cars can have understeer in one part of the circuit in the morning, and suffer oversteer at the same part of the circuit in the afternoon.
A look back at some of the classic races
Michael Schumacher has been the most successful driver at the circuit, with a total of six victories. Among the current drivers, Kimi Räikkönen, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa have all won here. 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.
In 1994, the Kaiser managed to finish in second place, although driving more than half the race with only fifth gear. In 1996, he took his first win for Ferrari, after a dominant performance in treacherous conditions. A decade later, Fernando Alonso became the first Spanish driver to win his home race.
Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen holds the lap record since 2008. He recorded a 1.21:670s.
The main straight is very long and it ends in quite a heavy braking point for 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 very long corner to the right. This corner puts tires under a lot of stress, specially the front left one.
Cars will get 235 km/h there, just before the short straight which leads to corner number 4, where sector 2 starts, a kind of parabolica 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 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.
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. 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, finally, it hasn’t made the 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.
In general, the circuit is quite demanding on the tyres as the asphalt is quite bumpy and the wind is usually heavy. The brake wear is low because there are not many slow corners.
Pirelli will bring to Montmeló the medium and hard compounds, since the degradation is high due to the above factors as well as the hot weather.
Race local times
FP1 Friday 8 10.00h
FP2 Friday 8 14.00h
FP3 Saturday 9 11.00h
Qualifying Saturday 9 14.00h
Race Sunday 10 14.00h