2015 fastest lap: Lewis Hamilton, 1m28.270s, (lap 54)
Name: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
First race: 1991
Circuit length: 4.655km/2.892 miles (14th longest track of the year)
Distance to Turn One: 4730m/0.454 miles (longest of the season)
Longest straight: 1.047km/0.651 miles, on the approach to Turn One (the longest of the season: China, 1.17km/0.727 miles)
Top speed: 345km/h/214mph, on the approach to Turn One (fastest of season: Monza, 360km/h/224mph)
Pitlane length: 330m/0.206 miles, estimated time loss 22s (longest of season: Silverstone, 457m/0.283 miles)
Full throttle: 63 per cent (highest of season: Monza, 75 per cent)
DRS zones: Two, on the approaches to Turns One and 10
Key corner: Turn Three, an uphill right-hander, through which the cars accelerate from 180km/h (112mph) to 260km/h (162mph). To be fast through here, a car needs a good high-speed balance
Fastest corner: 265km/h (165mph), Turn Nine
Slowest corner: 75km/h (47mph), Turn 10
Major changes for 2016: No major changes
Fuel consumption: 1.7kg per lap, making it fairly average
ERS demands: Medium
Brake wear: Medium. There are eight braking events around the lap, but only two big stops, into Turns One and 10
Gear changes: 44 per lap/2904 per race
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has been a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar since 1991. Such is the track’s eclectic mix of corners, it has become F1’s preferred testing venue, but it hasn’t always hosted motorised events. It was one of the many building projects ahead of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, during which the track hosted the time-trial cycling events.
What makes the track unique
The number of medium and high-speed corners. Only three of the circuit’s 16 turns are taken at less than 100km/h (62mph) and the result is an average speed of 200km/h (124mph).
High. The asphalt is old and abrasive, which means grip levels are good. So good, in fact, that the front-left tyre gets worked really hard through the fast right-hander, Turn Three.
Medium. The track was built in 1991, so it cannot be described as old, but it precedes the modern obsession with asphalt run-off areas. For that reason, there is still a lot of gravel and, in a few places, not huge amounts of run-off.
Watch out for…
Turn Nine. This is a very fast right-hander, taken in sixth gear at 165km/h (103mph). Drivers need to be extremely accurate with their steering inputs and throttle applications, or, at best, they risk losing a lot of time down the ensuing straight.
The drivers on: the circuit
#14 Fernando Alonso
“It’s notoriously difficult to overtake in Barcelona, so it’s important to get a good start and stay out of trouble on the first lap. After that, it’s a case of getting the strategy right, managing the tyre wear and maximising performance at the right times.
“It’s a fast circuit, so it’s certainly demanding for both the car and driver. The power unit, too, has to work very hard with such high average speeds. As always, reliability is a priority first and foremost, but I hope that the upgrades we’ll test on Friday will see us continue to push race by race, and allow us to keep fighting towards the front alongside our rivals in the midfield.”
#22 Jenson Button
“The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is not a circuit that would traditionally suit us, since it’s fairly hard on both the chassis and the power units, but I feel I have a solid car underneath me, and we’re putting in pretty consistent performances on a variety of circuits, even if our results don’t necessarily reflect all the work that’s going on back at base.
“In Barcelona it’s a long run down to Turn One, so I hope I can get a better start than I did in Sochi and avoid any tangles. For the race, the track surface is very abrasive and tyre wear is high, so it’ll be interesting to see how strategies play out with the softer tyre compounds we’re taking there, and learn to manage them effectively as the weekend progresses.”
Start time: 14:00hrs local/13:00hrs BST
Race distance: 66 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/49.5 laps)
Safety Car likelihood: 35 per cent. If there is a Safety Car, the history of this race would suggest that it’ll come on the opening lap
When to press record: Lap One. Overtaking is difficult around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, even with two DRS zones, so drivers tend to be aggressive on the opening lap. That sometimes results in contact and the emergence of the Safety Car
Don’t put the kettle on… on or around laps 15 and 25. Last year’s race was won with a two-stop strategy, but that could turn out to be different in 2016 because Pirelli are taking their soft-compound tyres to the race for the first time, which could force more pitstops
Weather conditions now: 17 degrees and cloudy
Race forecast: 20 degrees
Tyre choices: Soft/Medium/Hard, the first time this year that this combination has been used
First Spanish Grand Prix
There’s no official slogan for the race, but the official song of the 1992 Olympic Games was “Amigos Para Siempre” (Friends Forever), composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Spain’s F1 heritage
This race is one of the most established on the F1 calendar, but it was only when Fernando Alonso started to win races that the sport became engrained in the national psyche. Barcelona is the sixth Spanish venue to host a world championship grand prix, after Pedralbes, Montjuic Park, Jarama, Jerez and Valencia.
Smallest winning margin
0.014s, at Jerez in 1986. A late pitstop for fresh tyres saw Nigel Mansell fall 20s behind race leader Ayrton Senna with nine laps to go. Mansell drove some electrifying laps, but he was just beaten by Senna – the second smallest winning margin in F1 history.
Motorbike racing was the most popular form of motorsport in Spain, until Fernando Alonso made his F1 debut in 2001. Such was his popularity when he started to win races that there were two races in Spain for four years, one in Barcelona and the other in Valencia, but the country could only financially sustain one race, which left Barcelona.
Did you know?
Until 2005 only world champions had won around Barcelona. The sequence was broken by Kimi Räikkönen, who went on to become world champion in ’07.
Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button have both won races in Spain. Fernando took victories in 2006 and ’13 at Barcelona and ’12 in Valencia; Jenson won at Barcelona in 2009.
Steve, aged 28, from Ontario, asks: “Does the use of motorhomes at the European races make your life easier than at the long haul races?”
McLaren’s answer: “The motorhomes themselves don’t make life easier because we have everything that we need at the long distance races. What’s easier in Europe is the proximity of the MTC; we can transport new parts and spares to the track overnight, if necessary, without having to worry about air freight. This is one of the reasons why the teams tend to bring performance upgrades to this race.”
The drivers on: the event
#14 Fernando Alonso
“After an eventful few races, and after a good result for us in Russia, I’m looking forward to going ‘home’ to Barcelona and race in my country in front of my home fans. The atmosphere there is always incredible for any Spanish driver, and I have some very special memories from my wins there in 2012 and 2013.
“We’re still learning a lot about our package as we visit each track, so it’s useful that we already have a lot of data from testing there that we can use to understand its characteristics and how our car will react to them. Our performance in qualifying is something we’re working on all the time, to give us the best chance in the race. Getting into Q3 will certainly be difficult at this track, but, with the Spanish fans behind me, that’s got to be our aim.”
#22 Jenson Button
“It’s exciting to start the European season off the back of a positive race for the whole team in Sochi. There’s definitely a feeling in the camp that we’re making progress, so I’m hopeful that we can continue this momentum in Barcelona.
“It’s always exciting to come back to Europe for the first race in Spain. The fans are always incredibly enthusiastic, and there’s a very familiar feel at this circuit as we spend so much more time there than in other places. We have some more new parts to test on the car again for this race, so I hope we can see another positive step in our performance over the weekend.”
Hear from the management
McLaren-Honda Racing Director
“Our double points finish in Sochi was certainly a motivating factor for the whole team back in Woking, Sakura and Milton Keynes, but it’s only just the start of an upward curve that we hope to continue riding for the rest of the season.
“In Russia, there’s no doubt we gained from others’ misfortune in some ways, but both our drivers report positively about the balance of the car, which reassures us that we’ve created a solid foundation, and that we can have faith in the direction in which we’re going.
“We’re always impatient for more, but I’m pleased that the hard work consistently being undertaken behind the scenes was finally rewarded with some valuable points, and we head into the European season hopeful of scoring some more positive results at circuits on which our car should theoretically be slightly stronger. That, coupled with an unrelenting development programme, is exciting and gives us optimism for the next few races ahead.
“It certainly won’t be easy – while we’ll be evaluating upgrades to the car in Barcelona, so will many other teams – but the loyal Spanish fans will be behind Fernando and the team, and we hope to put on a good show for them and carry some positive momentum into the European season.”
Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“The Spanish Grand Prix marks the beginning of a busy European summer season for Formula 1, and after the eventful first four flyaway races and a double points finish in Russia, it’s good to see everyone in such high spirits and enjoying the camaraderie within the team.
“The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a technical circuit that is less strenuous on the power unit compared to the first four races, but much more stressful on the balance of the car. From a power unit perspective, it is important to have the correct amount of deployment, harvesting and throttle response, so our focus will be to deliver the best balance to suit the needs of our drivers.
“Our power unit development is ongoing and we have not yet confirmed to which races we will bring token updates, but hopefully we can fight for more points during Sunday’s race.”