The Big Preview: Spanish Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya

Circuit de Catalunya
Circuit de Catalunya

Round five of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship sees the teams journey to the Circuit de Catalunya for the Spanish Grand Prix. After beginning the year with four long haul races, the European season starts here – with a return to the circuit that hosted two-thirds of this year’s pre-season testing.

The track itself is famed for offering a broad examination of Formula One machinery with its mix of medium and high-speed corners, a low-speed complex and a long straight. As a venue it hasn’t, however, proved to be particularly conducive to overtaking: the corner combinations tending to make following and attacking very difficult – even with DRS.

Barcelona in May is a very different proposition to Barcelona in February. Temperatures are on average some 15°C higher, and this changes the challenge completely. What doesn’t change is the abrasive nature of the asphalt.

Fans in Barcelona
Fans in Barcelona

Given the evidence of the first four races in 2013, Pirelli have decided to move away from the Hard/Soft allocation favoured in Spain for the past two years, and instead will bring the Hard and Medium compounds. The Hard, however, is not the tyre that saw use in Malaysia and Bahrain. Pirelli have tweaked their offering, making it closer to that used in 2012.

Coming to Spain, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing lead their respective championships – but this does little to disguise the fact that it has been another weird and wonderful beginning to the year, with more questions asked than answered in March and April. The Circuit de Catalunya is regarded as the first ‘normal’ track of the season, and has frequently provided a solid indication of overall car performance – on 16 occasions from 22 runnings the team winning in Barcelona has collected the Constructors’ Championship trophy at the end of the year.

Spanish grid senhoritas
Spanish grid senhoritas

Circuit de Catalunya Data

  • Length of lap: 4.655km
  • Lap record: 1:21.670 (Kimi Räikkönen, Ferrari, 2008)
  • Start line/finish line offset: 0.126km
  • Total number of race laps: 66
  • Total race distance: 307.104km
  • Pitlane speed limits: 60km/h in practice and qualifying. 100km/h during the race
2012 Spanish GP podium
2012 Spanish GP podium

Spanish GP Fast Facts

  • The Circuit de Catalunya became the home of the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix in 1991, taking over from Jerez de la Frontera (1986-90). The race has also been held at the Jarama circuit in Madrid (1967-8, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976-80), Montjuïc (1969, 1971, 1973, 1975) and Pedralbes (1951, 1954). Only five circuits on the current F1 calendar have a longer continuous run (Interlagos, Silverstone, the Hungaroring, Monza and Monaco).
  • The Circuit de Catalunya is one of three Spanish Grand Prix venues located in the vicinity of Barcelona. The others – Pedralbes and Montjuïc – were within the boundaries of the modern city. This track, despite frequently being referred to simply as ‘Barcelona’, is not.
  • Pastor Maldonado’s Spanish Grand Prix victory last year saw a number of ‘firsts’ recorded. It was his first start from pole position, his first victory, and the first win for a Venezuelan in Formula One. Maldonado is the only driver to win a grand prix at the Circuit de Catalunya and for that to be his solitary victory of the season.
  • Maldonado’s win, however, should not be regarded as surprising. Taking pole position (after Lewis Hamilton was excluded from the qualifying result) made him a favourite. Starting from pole at this circuit has historically been the key to victory: 18 times from the 22 races, the driver starting P1 has won the race. Of the four drivers to buck the trend, Mika Häkkinen, Nigel Mansell, and Sebastian Vettel were all front-row starters.
  • …leaving Michael Schumacher the distinction of being the only driver to win the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya having started without a clear track in front of him. In 1996 he qualified third. With the race affected by torrential rain, he made light work of the terrible conditions to record his first victory for Ferrari. Another 71 would follow.
  • Ferrari is the constructor with the best record at the circuit. The Scuderia has won here seven times, Williams has six victories, McLaren four, Red Bull two, Benetton/Renault two and Brawn one.
  • Regarding drivers, Schumacher (1995, 1996, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004) is out in front with six victories at this circuit. Häkkinen (1998, 1999, 2000) has three wins, Kimi Räikkönen (2005, 2008) and Nigel Mansell (1991, 1992) two each. The race has also been won by Alain Prost (1993), Damon Hill (1994), Jacques Villeneuve (1997), Fernando Alonso (2006), Felipe Massa (2007), Jenson Button (2009), Mark Webber (2010) and Vettel (2011). Mansell and Prost also won at Jerez.
  • The Circuit de Catalunya is a preferred testing venue for F1 teams. The driver with the most testing mileage at this circuit is McLaren’s Jenson Button. The 2009 World Champion has completed a staggering 34,706 testing kilometres at this circuit.
  • Changes to the circuit since 2012: The leading edges of the combination kerbs on the apices of turns 13, 14 and 15 have been chamfered to remove a step..
  • Two DRS zones will be utilised at the Circuit de Catalunya. The first operates between turns nine (Campsa) and 10 (La Caixa). The second on the start-finish straight.They will have individual detection points.
Fernando Alonso has most F1 wins of the current generation of drivers
Fernando Alonso has most F1 wins of the current generation of drivers

Reuters F1 Statistics

  • Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso has 31 career wins, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel 28, Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton 21, Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen 20 and McLaren’s Jenson Button 15.
  • One more win for Raikkonen would make him the most successful Finnish driver in terms of race wins.
  • Ferrari have won 220 races since the championship started in 1950, McLaren 182, Williams 114 and Red Bull 36.
  • Vettel’s win in Bahrain meant Red Bull passed Brabham and Renault in the all-time lists and are now fifth. Vettel is the only driver to have won twice so far this year.
  • Vettel has 38 poles to his credit, putting him third in the all-time list (Schumacher had 68 and Ayrton Senna 65). Hamilton has 27 and Alonso 22.
  • Mercedes have been on pole for the last two races. They last had three poles in a row as a works team in 1955 with Stirling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio.
  • Caterham and Marussia have yet to score a point after three seasons in Formula One.
  • None of the five rookies have scored points so far.
  • Kimi Raikkonen has now finished 21 successive races in the points for Lotus, three short of Schumacher’s 2001/02/03 record with Ferrari.
  • Former champions Williams, last year’s winner in Barcelona, have yet to score a point this season and for five races in a row.
  • Seven different drivers have won in Spain over the past seven years.
  • Ten of the last 11 Spanish Grands Prix have been won from pole position, and 18 of the last 22, making it the most predictable race on the calendar even if last year’s winner Pastor Maldonado was a surprise.
  • The only driver to win in Barcelona without starting on the front row was Michael Schumacher who triumphed from third place on the grid in 1996.
  • Red Bull’s Mark Webber has been on pole twice in the last three years in Barcelona.
  • Double world champion Alonso is the only Spaniard to have won a Formula One grand prix. He won his home race in 2006 with Renault.
  • Michael Schumacher won the Spanish Grand Prix more than anyone else, six times in total.
  • Ferrari are the most successful team at the Circuit de Catalunya with seven wins in 21 years.
  • Raikkonen can become only the second driver to win in Spain with three different teams, having won previously with McLaren and Ferrari. The Finn would be the first to do so in Barcelona. Alain Prost won with McLaren, Ferrari and Williams in Spain but two of those were at Jerez.
  • This year’s race in Barcelona is the only round of the championship in Spain. For the past five years, Valencia has also been on the calendar.
Early race action from the first Spanish GP to be held at Circuit de Catalunya in 1991
Early race action from the first Spanish GP to be held at Circuit de Catalunya in 1991

Spanish GP Race Stewards Biographies

  • Paul Gutjahr started racing in the late 1960s with Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Lotus and Porsche, then March in Formula 3. In the early ‘70s he became President of the Automobile Club Berne and organised numerous events. He acted as President of the organising committee of the Swiss GP at Dijon between 1980-82. Between 1980-2005 he acted as President of the Commission Sportive Nationale de l’Automobile Club de Suisse and in 2005 he became President and board member of the Auto Sport Suisse motor sports club. Gutjahr is President of the Alliance of European Hill Climb Organisers and has been steward at various high-level international competitions. He was the Formula 3000 Sporting Commissioner and has been a Formula One steward since 1995.
  • Roger Peart is a civil engineer by training and designed the Gilles Villeneuve circuit, Home of the Canadian Grand Prix since 1978. In the years 1949-1953 he gained his first experience of motor sport, working as a racing mechanic while still at school in the UK. By 1960 he had become a competitor. Until 1963 he drove in the Canadian National Rally Championship, before switching to racing from 1964 to 1976. In 1967 Peart became involved in the organisation of Canadian motor sport and was instrumental in getting the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve onto the F1 calendar. Since 1991 Peart has been President of ASN Canada FIA and, since 1999, President of the FIA Circuits Commission.
  • Alan Jones makes his fourth appearance in the stewards’ room, having made his debut at the 2010 Korean Grand Prix, and returned in 2011 to adjudicate at Suzuka and in 2012 for the Indian Grand Prix. Best known as the 1980 Formula One World Champion, the Australian raced far and wide, competing everywhere from Can-Am and Formula 5000 to Le Mans and Australian Touring Cars. In his F1 career Jones won 12 grands prix, took six pole positions and set 13 fastest laps. While usually associated with the Williams team, Jones’ first grand prix victory came at the 1977 Austrian Grand Prix while racing for Shadow.