PRIXVIEW – Spanish Grand Prix

Features Prixview

Round five of the 2020 season sees F1 return to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix. Usually marking the start of the European Season, the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya has been home to F1 since it opened in 1992.

The circuit is one which the drivers and teams know well, the team return to Barcelona for the third time this season following six days of pre-season testing in February. It is an ideal circuit for drivers with long straights and fast flowing corners, however, straight-line speed makes it difficult for overtaking. This means that it looks again very difficult to see Mercedes being beaten.

The region of Catalonia is the only region in the world which has hosted Grand Prix’s on three different circuits over its history. Between 1969 and 1975 the race alternated between Circuito del Jarama and the street circuit Montjuïc circuit. Montjuic was a street circuit around the Montjuïc Mountain. Like its predecessors, the modern circuit maintains its speed and challenge for drivers.

The modern circuit is one which challenges the driver with understeer on one part of the circuit in the morning, but suffer oversteer at the same part of the circuit in the afternoon. A given tyre compound can work well when tested, but not so well a couple of months later.

The circuit also requires good downforce and straight-line speed, as these are key in getting the tow into the corners, which are good for overtaking. Williams took victory in the first race held in 1992, as the city geared up to host that summers Olympic and Paralympic Games. Williams took victory in the first two races at the circuit.

Michael Schumacher took his first of six wins in Barcelona in 1995, the following season he took his first win for Ferrari in wet conditions in 1996. Since Fernando Alonso arrived in the sport he has scored six podiums including one win from pole. The Spaniard other home win came in Valencia in 2012.

Traditionally the opening race of the European Season, the race is usually held in early spring or autumn on the region, air temperatures are around seven degrees higher and double the ones seen in pre-season testing. These predicted temperatures could be one of the biggest challenges for the teams.

Mercedes have been unbeaten in Barcelona every season, expect in 2016, in the turbo-hybrid era. The circuit appears to be one which suits the design of the car and needs high downforce and speed. Going into that now-famous 2016 race, they had dominated both practice and qualifying.

But on the opening lap of the race, as they entered turn four both Hamilton and Rosberg crashed into each other which allowed Max Verstappen later in the race to chase down teammate Daniel Ricciardo and pass him. Verstappen then managed to hold the position and take his maiden win despite his teammate’s pressure.

This race is the only race to remain in its original slot being the sixth round of the season on both the pre-covid/post-covid calendar so it remains an important weekend where we can compare progress year on year. You still need to believe that this race should see teams bring a raft of upgrades, as they have a direct comparison.

While Mercedes have won the four races so far this season it’s very difficult to see them being beaten in Barcelona with their dominance since 2014 and pace looks very strong and will be looking to continue their run of race wins this season. But, it’s behind where most of the action will be…

However, at Sunday’s Anniversary Grand Prix, a weakness was found as Mercedes looked to struggle in the heat with getting the tyres to stay intact. Red Bull will look to capitalise on that as the team appear to be Mercedes closest challengers. They will be looking to learn those lessons, can they continue their dominance in Barcelona?

Facts and figures

Round 06
Race Formula 1 Aramco Gran Premio de España 2020
Venue Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya, Montmeló, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Circuit Length 4.655km (2.892 mi)
Laps 66
Race Distance 307.104 km (190.825 mi)
Lap Record 01:18.441 (Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull – Tag Heuer, 2018)
Most wins drivers Michael Schumacher (6)
Most wins manufacture Ferrari (12)

Fast facts

  • All but three of the last eighteen Spanish Grands Prix have been won from pole position. Those three were all in the last seven years.
  • Only 11 podium finishes at this circuit have come from lower than fifth on the grid. Only three races at the track have not been won from the front row of the grid.
  • The circuit is renowned as a true test of a car’s aerodynamic efficiency due to its mixture of corners. With a massive pit straight, long, high-speed corners such as Turn 3 and plenty of medium-speed turns, there is plenty for the drivers to sink their teeth into in Spain
  • Kimi Raikkonen is one DNF away from equalling Rubens Barrichello’s record of 7 non-finishes at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
  • In 2017, Catalonia declared it would become independent, however, this did not receive recognition from the international community.

Event timetable

Session

Local

BST

Friday

P1 11:00-12:30 10:00-11:30
P2 15:00-16:30 14:00-15:30

Saturday

P3 12:00-13:00 11:00-12:00
Qualifying 15:00-16:00 14:00-15:00

Sunday

Race 15:10 14:10

What happened in 2019?

Barcelona marked the start of the European season, the main question was could Ferrari start coming to fight Mercedes with their strong form in winter testing? Or would Mercedes stay ahead with their own upgrades? There were so many questions, so would qualifying provide answers.

Valtteri Bottas again took pole ahead of Lewis Hamilton in an impressive gap of six tenths, as the champion struggled to beat his teammate following a number of errors which left the champion unable to improve on his final lap. The Mercedes was looking comfortable faster with Ferrari unable to mount a challenge.

Carlos Sainz would start his home race thirteenth, a mistake saw him go wide on his final lap after missing his braking point and running wide.

Hamilton got past Bottas on the long run to the first corner, before out braking him. But at Ferrari, there was another sign that things where not as they seemed, in testing the team had dominated in Barcelona. But the team used team orders, with Vettel and Charles Leclerc twice told to trade position.

That allowed Verstappen up into third place, a collision between the McLaren of Lando Norris and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll triggered a safety car. That proved key to the unravelling of Ferrari’s race, Leclerc was placed onto hard tyres for the restart as Ferrari decided not to stop his teammate Vettel, that decision saw him drop from third to fifth.

Haas’s race saw the team score their first points of the season, thanks to a costly pit stop for the Toro Rosso’s which dropped Kvyat to tenth and Albon to eleventh.

Race Result – 1) L. Hamilton, Mercedes, 01:35:50.443 2) V. Bottas, Mercedes, +4.074 3) M. Verstappen, Red Bull – Honda, +7.679

What to watch for?

The circuit is one the teams know well, and this race is also an important one to assess where teams are following the first five races. In testing Mercedes were the top of the times on most of the days, but we are around double the air and track temperatures which will affect the tyres and aerodynamics. They have won every race except the 2016 race when they crashed out.

Max Verstappen is the only driver who has beaten Red Bull this year, but was that just a one-off at Silverstone? Friday should be interesting in trying to understand the performance in the heat, although we are not expecting many more hot races. Valtteri Bottas needs to start taking the fight to Lewis Hamilton if he is going to be a genuine championship challenger this season.

Ferrari I think will again be in a fight with the midfield, it was here in February where it became clear that the team didn’t have the pace to fight for the championship. For all the teams, and especially Ferrari, it’s a chance to compare how much progress they have made.

This is normally the race where we see the first round of upgrades, I think we will see some upgrades but we haven’t heard anything about teams bringing new parts but it’s expected, we won’t know until Friday.

The midfield will still be close and you have to say that McLaren and Racing Point are leading that group, they are even challenging Ferrari. The battle here is one on the track as off it with the row about brake ducts.

2018 vs 2019 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap

2019

01:17.951 01:17.284 01:16.568 01:17.425 01:16.667 01:15.406 01:35:50.443 01:18.492

Diff

-2.817 -0.975 -0.463 -0.394 -0.404 -0.764 -21.531  

2018

01:18.148 01:18.259 01:17.281 01:17.031 01:17.071 01:16.173 01:35:29.972 01:18.441

A lap of Barcelona

Lewis Hamilton comes out of Catalunya goes to the outside of the track getting one side of the car onto the kerb before lining up to run along the outside of the track. Carries the speed all the way down to Turn One, breaks at the 100m board. Turns in hitting the apex of One, setting him up for Two where he takes it around the apex setting himself up for the long Turn Three. Goes to the outside, before breaking into the long Repsol corner.

On exit, he goes to the outside of the circuit before crossing to lining himself up for Five, round the apex before going to the outside hitting the kerb as he opens up the car. Speeds through Six, before going to inside approaching TV3. Breaks into the corner, speeds on exit and through eight where he goes to the outside. Slows slightly through Nine, runs to the outside.

Build speed before breaking a 100M before La Casa, turns in before hitting the apex and runs to the inside. Breaks slightly through Eleven and goes to the apex for Twelve, before running along the kerb breaks slightly into Europcar weaves his way down to Fourteen. Hits kerb then on the exit of fifteen opens the car up before going back through Catalunya and across the line with a 01:16.173

Tyres

White Hard (C1)

Yellow Medium (C2)

Red Soft (C3)

Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.