Formula One 2017 Track Guide: Spain

Formula One 2017 Track Guide: Spain

The very familiar Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain is the next stop in VAVEL's complete track guide for the 2017 Formula One season.

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James Eagles

Known and loved by both drivers and teams for its well-rounded characteristics, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has become one of the jewels in the Formula One crown since its opening in 1991.

Originally built for the Olympic Games the following year, Catalunya is the home of winter testing and the Spanish Grand Prix. With Russia classed as a Eurasian country, the venue traditionally marks the start of the European season.

Due to its location, wind direction changes throughout the day, making it hard for the teams and drivers to find a consistently quick setup. In addition to its tyre-eating preferences, Barcelona is one of the toughest on the calendar.

The circuit has undergone several changes from its original format. Most drastically, a chicane was added to the final sector in order to help cars follow one another through the last corner and long pit straight

Furthermore, the track has seen some truly iconic moments over the years. Think Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna going wheel-to-wheel in the inaugural 1991 race, Michael Schumacher's valiant display in 1994 to finish second despite his Benetton being stuck in fifth gear and in the soaking wet 1996 edition, he earned his first win for Ferrari by over a minute. Max Verstappen claimed his historic maiden victory on his Red Bull debut last year, becoming the youngest ever winner of a Grand Prix. More agonisingly, remember Mika Hakkinen's last lap engine failure from the lead in 2001.

The ice cool Hakkinen's couldn't cool his McLaren down in 2001. | Photo: Getty Images/Clive Mason
The ice cool Hakkinen's couldn't cool his McLaren down in 2001. | Photo: Getty Images/Clive Mason

Home hero Fernando Alonso is adored in these parts and became the first Spaniard to win his home race in 2006 on his way to a second successive title.

Track layout

We start the 4.6-kilometre lap at full speed, engine singing with the DRS in full effect for good measure. The run down to Turn 1 is one of the longest on the calendar, but the first chicane has a surprisingly late braking point, at just before the 100-metre board. Down into third, flow through the right and carry speed through the left, bringing the car back to the outside to set up the patience-testing right of Turn 3. Feather the throttle before gradually squeezing the pedal more mid-corner. It's all about belief in your car, a more planted article will enable you to get on the power earlier. The first timing sector has been completed.

The long pit straight rises and falls. | Photo: Getty Images/Mark Thompson
The long pit straight rises and falls. | Photo: Getty Images/Mark Thompson

Brake under the bridge and move down to fourth, loop the car around Turn 4 and be careful on the exit, the track falls away from you and drags you right to the edge of the grass. Veer the car back to the right and once you reach the outside kerb, brake for the tricky left of 5. Start out wide, get the car to bite towards the apex before deploying the power up the hill, where the left-right chicane of 7 greets you.

Take as much inside kerb as you dare before flying through the high-speed right of Campsa - not quite flat out - and don't run too wide, a small island of gravel is in close proximity. Open the DRS sharpish and bear down on the slow, clumsy La Caixa hairpin. It's easy to lock a brake or four and overshoot onto the old extended piece of track - you don't race there anymore!

Track modifications were made in order to aid racing. | Photo: Wikipedia
Track modifications were made in order to aid racing. | Photo: Wikipedia

Second gear, fling the car round and feel the rear tyres squabble for grip; a cultured right foot is needed for the best lap time. You're still building velocity, and barely have to twitch the steering wheel to negotiate Turn 11. The right of 12 immediately hits you, brake and wait for the front end to bite, before another short squirt of the loud pedal brings Turn 13. Not the fast right it once was thanks to the track altercations, down to third gear and don't take too much inside kerb. Down another gear for the chicane of 14 and 15, taken at a snail's pace before the flat last corner - although you'll be fighting those rear tyres again. 1,000 metres of straight lies ahead before you reach Turn 1 again.

Statistics

Most wins for a driver: Michael Schumacher - 6

Most wins for a constructor: Ferrari - 8

Lap Record: 1:21.670 - Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 2008

Did you know?

The track operated as the start and finish line for the road time trial event at the 1992 Olympic Games.

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