Spanish Grand Prix – Preview

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Spain, Circuit de Catalunyaes

Formula One teams and drivers head to the Spanish Grand Prix, Round Five of the 2019 FIA F1 Championship. After four flyaway races, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya kicks off the European leg of the season.

The track located in Montmelo is arguably the most regularly visited venue on the current calendar. For many years, the 4.655km-long track has played host to the pre-season testing as it lies near to the headquarters of the teams and the late Spanish winter usually offers good weather conditions, making this track the most popular test circuit in recent year's.

The first Spanish Grand Prix in 1913 was not actually run to the Grand Prix formula of the day, but to touring car rules, taking place on a 300-kilometre road circuit at Guadarrama, near Madrid, on the road to Valladolid. Spain joined Formula One in 1951 when the first Spanish GP was held at Pedralbes. Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio won the event for Alfa Romeo.

The field did not return to Spain in the following two years, but it made its second and last visit to Pedralbes in 1954. Ferrari’s Mike Hawthorn claimed the victory. The sport did not return to Spain until 1967 when Jarama played host to the Spanish GP. Until 1981, the event was a fixture on the calendar with Jarama and Montjuic sharing the role of the hosting country.

In 1986, the Spanish GP appeared again on the calendar and the race has been held continuosly since. The following years saw Jerez hosting the race until 1991 when Barcelona took over the rights of holding the Spanish Grand Prix.

Most successful drivers and teams

Michael Schumacher holds the highest number of race wins in history of the Spanish Grand Prix. The German won on six occasions of which one for Benetton and five for Ferrari. Among the three-time winners are Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Mika Häkkinen and Lewis Hamilton. Emerson Fittipaldi, Kimi Räikkönen, Fernando Alonso, Mario Andretti and Ayrton Senna all have two Spanish GP victories.

Ferrari is the most successful constructor by far with 12 triumphs. McLaren is second in this list with eight wins while Williams is the third most successful outfit with seven wins.

Track layout

The total race distance on the 4.655km-long track is 307.104km. The lap recored is held by Daniel Ricciardo who recorded a 1m18.441 during the 2018 Spanish Grand Prix with his Red Bull. The start line lies 126m ahead of the finish line. Drivers can drive at a maximum speed of 80km/h in the pit lane in all practice sessions and the race.

Ahead of the pre-season testing, a few changes were implemented to the track. The grass verge on the drivers’ left between the exit kerbs of turns 15 and 16 has been replaced by concrete. The kerbs on the apex of Turns 5 and 7 have been lowered and new conrete verges installed behind them. Additional kerb elements have been installed behind the initial kerbs.

As in the previous years, two DRS zones will be in use. The first has a detection point 86m before Turn 9 and an activation point 40m after. The second detection point is at the Safety Car line, with activation 57m after Turn 16.

The track is known for its high- and medium-speed bends. Following the relatively long start-finish straight, drivers arrive to the the combinition of Turn 1 and 2. As this features a quick change of direction, a car with a reliable balance is important to get a good response from the car. Turn 3 is taken flat-out.

With Turn 4, drivers approach the second sector. The following two corners are taken at medium speed where a strong front-end is required. Turn 9 is one of the most exciting bend of the circuit. Drivers are desperate to take it at full speed in qualifying, but they have to be precise both at the entry and the exit because even the slightest mistake or touch on the grass can end in a nasty crash.

The back straight between Turn 9 and 10 features one of the DRS zones. Overtaking is quite difficult here even with the help of the adjustable rear wing as the straight is quite short. Braking into Turn 10, drivers arrive to the last section of the circuit. This brings a total change to the rhythm of the track. After the modifications to the track in 2007, the last sector is made up of slow corners. The chinace formed by Turn 14 and 15 is another tricky point of the track. Drivers have to conquer the high kerbs and get a good exit out of it to have a good speed through Turn 16 onto the start-finish straight.