Spanish Grand Prix – preview
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
11-13 May 2018
Start time: 15:10hrs local, 14:10hrs BST
Race laps: 66
Tyre choice: White Medium, yellow Soft, red Supersoft
Focus points Gaining a quick understanding of the car and the conditions. The teams had eight days of winter testing at the Circuit de Catalunya, but the weather was unrepresentative. Snow, rain and single-digit temperatures resulted in little meaningful performance testing, which gives the teams little relevant data going into this weekend.
Most demanding section Turns One, Two and Three. Turns One and Two are deceptively fast, taken at 180km/h (112mph), and many drivers hit the inside kerbs to help rotate the car and aid direction change. Turn Three is a breathtakingly fast right-hander, through which the cars accelerate to 285km/h (177mph) at the exit.
Unique difficulty Barcelona has an eclectic mix of corners, and that is the circuit’s unique difficulty. Sectors One and Two are high-speed, through which aerodynamic efficiency is crucial; Sector Three is all about slow-speed mechanical grip. To be fast, a car needs to work in every type of corner.
Braking There are eight braking events around the lap, but only two significant stops – into Turns One and 10. Turn One is the most severe corner for the brakes, with the cars scrubbing off 215km/h (134mph) in just 100m/0.0621 miles, which subjects the drivers to 5.6g.
Power The cars use 1.7kg of fuel per lap, which is average for the season. It’s quite a demanding race for the ERS as well because there are two long periods of full deployment.
Aero After running a low downforce configuration in Baku, it’s back to maximum downforce in Barcelona. The eclectic mix of corners, particularly the slow-speed chicanes in Sector Three, mean the best lap times are achieved by maximising cornering performance.
“It’s great to be back in Europe, in Spain, and at home! You can never beat the feeling of racing in front of your home fans. I’m very lucky that we get to race in my country of birth as not all drivers get that opportunity, and every year the support from the Spanish fans gets bigger and better.
“The Spanish Grand Prix represents the start of a very busy few months leading up to the summer break – both for McLaren and for me with my other racing commitments. I’m more than ready for the challenge and I’m really excited to see what the next few races bring us.
“I know we have some developments in the pipeline, but we also know there is no magic bullet that will propel us to the front of the grid overnight. There has been a lot of work happening at the factory and there is still a lot of work to do – so in Barcelona it’s a chance to evaluate some new things, see where we are, and determine the direction that we take with car development as we progress through the season. As always, and especially after the battle we fought in Baku, I’m really looking forward to pushing hard on track again this weekend in front of my home fans.”
“Heading back to European races always feels very satisfyingly familiar, especially in Barcelona. We all know the track very well and spend a lot of time there – in fact, it doesn’t feel that long ago that we were there during pre-season testing!
“Thankfully, the weather should be a little bit more reliable this time around. Although we do a lot of testing there and we have a lot of data about the circuit, we weren’t able to do a lot of representative running pre-season due to the weather conditions and the issues we had. However, I’ve spent time back at the factory in the simulator since Baku, so the key will be to translate that information to the track and get a read on our package as soon as possible on Friday.
“That package will include a few new components that we’ll be working hard to learn about and evaluate on Friday. There’ll be a lot to assess and for sure other teams will be planning the same thing, so as always we’ll need to race hard, ensure good reliability, and optimise our strategy to be able to come home with more points.”
“The whole team is looking forward to heading back to Barcelona. It’s a great circuit – one of the classics on the calendar – and it always feels good to start the second chapter of the season as we start racing again in Europe.
“This also means the return of our much-loved Brand Centre, and having all the teams’ hospitality units back in the Paddock brings a real ‘back-to-school’ feeling. For us, being Fernando’s home race, the support we receive is nothing short of spectacular, and the fans always bring another level of enthusiasm.
“Like most teams, we’re planning to bring some new parts to the car to test on Friday and decide which of these to take forward into the rest of the weekend, and the coming races. While for logistical reasons Barcelona was the most logical time to implement these, it’s part of a season-long plan to develop the car as we always do until the final race.
“We’re taking each grand prix weekend step-by-step, and hope we can begin to address the challenges we know we face with our package. We’re all gunning for a positive weekend for both cars in front of Fernando’s home crowd.”