Even if the European part of the season has shrunk in recent years – although well done Red Bull for getting Austria back on the calendar – returning to the Old Continent is always one of the high points of the year.
The honour of welcoming the teams back to Europe has fallen to the Circuit of Catalunya for many years now and this will be the 24th time that the Spanish race has been held here. The circuit layout is challenging technically, with a very long pit straight and some long, fast corners, but it usually takes something like rain or massive tyre degradation to throw up a truly exciting race.
With this year’s rule changes, it’s hard to know what to expect. The race comes after the longest break in the calendar – official summer shutdown excluded – which means that all the teams will have targeted it for some technical upgrades and depending on who has done the best job, it either means the situation seen in the first four races is maintained or another team emerges from the pack.
Jean Eric Vergne: This race marks the start of the European season and it’s very important from one point of view – no more jet lag and a lot less flying! It’s also a circuit that all the drivers know very well, having raced there many times in the junior categories and so usually the gaps between the teams are a bit smaller than at other tracks. I like it and have good memories from winning races there in the past. It’s the sort of track where the global picture of the car makes the difference, in terms of its balance and aero package, as it’s not particularly demanding on the brakes or engine. I like the city of Barcelona, it’s got a good vibe to it and, on top of that, it’s not so far from France, so quite a few fans make the trip for this first race in Europe.
Daniil Kvyat: Like all the drivers, I have spent a lot of time at this circuit, racing and testing. I’ve had some good results there, I particularly remember a Eurocup race in 2011, when I started from twentieth and finished third. There were also some painful memories, when I lost the Eurocup there one year later, but overall, I have learned many valuable lessons at the Catalunya circuit. I’m looking forward to being back in Europe and having some shorter flights. It will all feel more familiar to me. Here at this track, you need to find the right compromise between the high speed and slow sections, so finding the right balance in the set-up is the key to a quick lap. I have no idea how the track will suit the STR9, except that so far this year, we have been okay in the high speed corners. We won’t know until Friday.
Subbed by AJN.