Spanish Grand Prix: McLaren preview Barcelona weekend

Kevin Magnussen

Kevin Magnussen

After four long-haul races to kick-start the season, the European leg of the 2014 Formula 1 World Championship begins this weekend. The Spanish Grand Prix takes place at the Circuit de Catalunya, near the vibrant coastal city of Barcelona, where an eclectic mix of fast and medium-speed corners awaits.

Circuit de Catalunya facts & stats

  • The track was one of Barcelona’s many building projects ahead of the 1992 Olympic Games. It staged the time trial cycling events during the Games, but it’s now far better known as the permanent home of the Spanish Grand Prix.
  • The circuit was completed in September 1991 and it has been a fixture on the Formula 1 calendar ever since. This is the 24th consecutive year that the track has staged a grand prix and it’s been a popular testing venue throughout that period, thanks to its flowing layout and long, aerodynamically critical corners.
  • Only three of the 16 turns are taken at speeds below 100km/h; the rest are medium- and high-speed corners that reward efficient levels of aerodynamic downforce. There are also two long straights, so a car that performs well around the Circuit de Catalunya usually works well at most racetracks on the calendar.
  • There have been several alterations to the layout over the years, the most recent coming in 2007 when a chicane was added in the final sector, increasing the length of the track by 28 metres and reducing the average lap speed by 12km/h.
  • The run from pole position to the apex of Turn One is 730 metres – the longest of the entire season. As a result, a good start is vital because a lot can be won and lost during the opening 10 seconds of the race, before the cars hit the brakes for Turn One.
  • The combination of old, abrasive asphalt and high-speed, high-energy corners makes this a demanding race for tyres – the left-front in particular. To cope with these stresses, Pirelli are taking the two hardest compounds in their range to the race: Hard (Prime) and Medium (Option).
  • McLaren has an excellent record at the Circuit de Catalunya. The team has won at the track eight times, its most recent victory coming in 2005. Jenson Button has taken the spoils once – during his championship season in 2009. Kevin Magnussen has never driven an F1 car at Barcelona, but he has plenty of experience at the circuit from the junior categories.

Jenson Button: “Formula 1’s springtime return to Europe is always one of my favourite times of the year. The paddock is filled with familiar faces, the travel shortens, and the team motorhomes – where we’ll live and work for much of the next five months – return to the scene.

“It always signals a bit of a fresh start to the season, and it’ll be an important one for us.

“The Circuit de Catalunya is a demanding racetrack for any car – its combination of long, sweeping corners places the emphasis on aerodynamic performance, which is an area where we’re lacking at the moment. It’s always been a place where a competitive car will shine and a less-competitive one will struggle.

“For us, it’s not simply about bringing new parts to the circuit: it’s about understanding and unlocking the car’s secrets, and using that understanding to take bigger steps with performance. We’re still at the early stages with our car, and, for us, it’s less about the components that we fit to it, and more about the bigger picture – finding a useful direction, gaining trust in our measurements and pushing ahead.

“We all know that this team has the capacity to develop a car through a season, so I hope and trust that we’ll start to push forwards again soon.”

Kevin Magnussen: “As a team, we’ve had a difficult couple of races, so I think we all head to Spain hopeful of better fortunes. I think the problems we encountered in China have definitely given us the data and the impetus we need to make some changes, so I’m keen to get back in the car on Friday and see if we’ve made a step forward.

“The Circuit de Catalunya is a great track, and a place I really enjoy – I won both races in the World Series there last October – and I’m looking forward to driving a Formula 1 car for the first time.

“I also think the post-race test will be useful – Barcelona is one of the most critical circuits on the calendar for aerodynamics, so we couldn’t ask for a better venue at which to evaluate and refine our car.”

Eric Boullier, Racing director, McLaren Mercedes: “For us, the weekend will be about learning, and hopefully moving on from our disappointing performance in China last month. The root of our under-performance has been comprehensively analysed; we know the areas where our package falls short, and we’ve taken steps – both short- and long-term – to address those. While not all of those will be in evidence in Barcelona this weekend, they mark the start of a fresh push and spirit within the whole organisation.

“One thing we can be sure of is that Jenson and Kevin will both be pushing to the limit. In China, it was difficult to watch two hard-pressing drives go unrewarded, but both drivers performed fantastically in Shanghai, and only lost out on points due to the inefficiency of our car.

“The McLaren Technology Centre has been bustling with intense focus and activity since our return from China, and I’m hopeful that we are on the right track to steadily start pushing ourselves back towards the front.”