“I reckon I’ve done thousands of laps of Barcelona, because it’s the circuit which we have always used the most for testing, in 2.0 litre, 3.5, GP2 before even coming to Formula 1 and over the year, work in the simulator has always focused on Barcelona. So I’ve probably driven the equivalent of several times around the world at this track. Apart from knowing it well, it brings back happy memories, as it’s where I clinched the championship title in Renault 2.0 litre and it’s where I first tested a Formula 1 car with Toro Rosso in 2015, so I get a positive feeling in Barcelona. This year, our winter testing went well there, so I’m impatient to get going and I hope we will be on the pace very quickly and be able to score some points. The usual cliché about the Catalunya track is that, if your car works well here, it works well everywhere…maybe, but this track has certainly a character all of its own. Qualifying is the key, as we know it’s complicated trying to overtake in the race, other than by playing with the strategy. F1 qualifying is always a difficult discipline with the way it’s run in different segments, as you generally only get two shots at it. And if you encounter any problems, like traffic, then you’re down to just one chance to deliver and that’s an exciting moment because you know you have to nail it. I like that aspect of it. As Barcelona’s not far from France, I’ll have some friends and family coming, which will be nice. I don’t find that a distraction because nothing makes me lose concentration and it’s always enjoyable to relax one evening over a dinner with friends. It’s one of the nice things about being back in Europe and getting that extra support.”
Brendon Hartley (Car 28):
“Barcelona is probably the track on the calendar that every single driver knows better than any other, which also makes it extremely challenging when it comes to trying to get any advantage over your team-mate or the others drivers and teams. But that’s all part of the challenge here. It’s not just the actual testing that means we all know it well, because, from my time working in simulators for various teams, I know that the Catalunya track is used a lot in the sim. It’s an enjoyable track to drive and offers a bit of everything. It is also tough physically, especially with the long right hand corners in particular putting a strain on the neck muscles.
“Qualifying is very important at this track, because overtaking is not so easy. So far this year, I’ve been relatively happy with my qualifying performance, especially compared to last year, when I had not yet developed an understanding of how to get the most out of the tyres. Now, I feel like I’m understanding the car and tyres more and more and that’s given me a lot more confidence going into qualifying sessions. It’s one of the most fun parts of the weekend because all the fuel load comes off, the rubber goes down and that’s when these cars really come alive. They’re literally the quickest cars on earth and qualifying really highlights that. It’s not often that you don’t have a smile on your face with the amount of grip that we have and the lap times we’re doing. Tyre management will be very important at this track because, even on a qualifying lap, you have to keep the rears alive for that last sector where you need the traction. You can easily destroy the rear tyres through that first part with all the high-speed corners but it’s one of the challenges of getting the most out of the qualifying lap.”