Preview: Spanish Grand Prix

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Spain, Circuit de Catalunyaes

The Circuit de Catalunya plays host to the Spanish Grand Prix for the 23rd time this weekend, but for the first time in years, the current cars have not yet tested on the circuit.

The circuit close to Barcelona is often seen as a perfect benchmark for true car performance with strong results here likely to continue later on in the season. As it is the first race of the season in Europe, close to most team's bases, it is likely that we will see more Friday running in Barcelona due to the raft of upgrades teams have scheduled for this race.

Cooling meanwhile is not expected to be a major issue in Spain. Temperatures can be hot and occasionally humid but having been subject to hotter temperatures in Bahrain and Malaysia the teams have learned how to control the rising internal pressures.


Car setup

Front wing
Sufficient front wing is needed to eliminate understeer through the first and final turns. Long right hand turn 3. Too much understeer here will kill the left front tyre.

Rear wing
Similar levels of downforce are required to Bahrain, which itself runs a little bit higher than Shanghai. A 1km long pit straight means an effective DRS system helps, despite the straight not being nearly as long as that seen in China. There are two DRS zones at this track. One on main straight and the other between T9 and T10.

Suspension
There is no particular major kerb usage meaning the car can run low. Turn 16 is one of the essential corners. From a vehicle dynamics point of view the track is not massively demanding.

Brakes
There are no real issues at all with braking here. The demands are not particularly heavy and we know what to expect.. There are no particular concerns over wear. The biggest braking zones on the track are in to Turn 1 and Turn 10.

Tyres
Pirelli’s P Zero white medium and orange hard tyres have been nominated. These are the two hardest in the range and the same combination that were used in Sepang this year. With an abrasive surface and some long constant radius corners, particularly at Turn 3, Barcelona can be tough on tyres, particularly the lefthandside rubber. Ambient temperatures can be high at Barcelona. The last wet race here was in 1996 and only three of the 23 held at Circuit De Catalunya have featured rain (1991, 1992 and ’96).

Engine set-up
The circuit itself is one of the medium demand tracks. Despite not visiting the track this year in testing it is primarily straightforward to prepare and teams should not expect any surprises. It is relatively easy to recover energy in Barcelona, thanks to the tight corners such as Turn 10 and the chicane where the driver will brake heavily. Both will give the MGU-K a chance to recharge while the long pit straight allows the MGU-H not to drain the battery too much. With a variety of different speed corners fuel consumption isn’t expected to be a major problem here. The key areas to performance are instead good PU response in the quick corners such as Turn 3 and Turn 8 while retaining good rear stability under braking and the downshifts in the slower corners such as Turn 10.

Quick facts

Number of corners: 16 (7 left, 9 right)
Distance from pole to Turn 1 apex: 730 m
Braking events: 8 (1 heavy)
Pit lane length under speed limit control: 331 m
Pit lane time at 80 km/h: 14.9 s
Tyre energy: medium
Brake energy: low


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