PRIXVIEW – Spanish Grand Prix

Features Testing & Race Reports

Round four takes F1 across the Iberian Peninsula and to the region of Catalonia for the Spanish Grand Prix just outside the capital Barcelona. This weekend marks the thirty anniversary of the race being held at the circuit and the circuit has been slightly changed with La Casa becoming a long hairpin.

Barcelona became home to the race in 1992, as part of the development for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Catalonia region is the only region of any country which has hosted Grands Prix at three different circuits over its history. Between 1969 and 1975 the race alternated between Circuito del Jarama and the street circuit Montjuïc circuit.

Montjuïc was a street circuit around Montjuïc Mountain. Like its predecessors, the modern circuit maintains its speed and challenge for drivers. The modern circuit was built in the late 1980s and early 1990s and this year marks its thirtieth anniversary of the race being held in the municipality of Montmeló.

The 2.9 mile circuit is one the drivers know well, but for the first time in recent memory the teams go into this weekend having not tested here in February and March, plus they will be relying on two-year-old data as last years race was postponed to August when the weather and a slightly altered circuit means more variables are going into this weekend.

These slight changes have been prompted by both safety following the death of Lis Salom in the 2016 Catalan Moto 2 race as well as slowing down the cars through the final sector to increase overtaking through twelve and EuroCar. This also will be the end of the DRS Zone and could become one of the key overtaking opportunities through the S-shaped sequences from ten to twelve before the hard braking zone at EuroCar.

The circuit requires high downforce and a bit of straight-line speed along the main straight into the braking zone at Turn One. One of the important factors is the slip stream through the final corner making aerodynamic balance important as equally as speed.

The changing wind direction also makes set up very difficult cars can have massive aerodynamic drag and understeer on one part of the circuit in the morning, but suffer oversteer at the same part of the circuit in the afternoon. This can make qualifying and the race more difficult if teams overreact to the changing conditions, making it possible to win and lose on strategy.

Barcelona became the permanent home in 1991 with the race being won for the next four years by Williams, Nigel Mansell being the first winner ahead of Alain Prost who took the lead from Berger on lap twenty. The race was red-flagged on the penultimate lap with Ayrton Senna in fifth, it meant Mansell was still in mathematical contention for the title.

The 1992 race, marketed as the ‘Olympic Grand Prix,’ as the city was hosting the Olympic & Paralympic Games saw the race move to its traditional May slot. Mansell took pole position ahead of Michael Schumacher he continued to dominant the race as he had done all season. The Williams driver took the victory, his fourth win of the season from Schumacher, Alesi, Berger, Alboreto and Pierluigi Martini, but for the first time in the season, his Williams team did not score a 1-2 finish.

Prost took victory again for Williams in 1993 winning from Senna and Schumacher, marking the only time Prost, Senna and Schumacher shared the podium together. Both Senna and Schumacher’s races were slightly hindered by mistakes, McLaren messing up a pit stop and Schumacher getting ahead, before going off at EuroCar.

The following year, Senna died at Imola and Prost had retired, Schumacher had a difficult race losing out to Senna’s teammate Damon Hill Williams first victory of 1994.  The Englishman winning by twenty-four seconds, in an emotional weekend for the team and Roland Ratezberger’s replacement.

Schumacher took victory the following two years, including his first of Ferrari in 1996. The German’s victory in torrential rain is regarded as one of his finest. In the torrential rain, he produced a stunning drive, despite his early and unforced crash at a wet Monaco Grand Prix two weeks earlier. Admit a chaotic race that only saw six finishers, after Jos Verstappen was the final retirement after crashing with twelve laps to go.

Schumacher would again take four more victories in Barcelona between 2001 and 2004. Mika Häkkinen also had a run of three wins 1998 – 2000, the Finn won his first race in Barcelona from pole after getting seven-tenths ahead of his teammate David Coulthard

Sir Lewis Hamilton took his first victory in Barcelona after beating teammate Nico Rosberg after leading from pole position allowing him to take the lead of the driver’s championship, Mercedes have dominated ever since apart from 2016. The circuit suits high speed and can be difficult for overtaking, although there is hope that Casa could increase overtaking through

Jos’s son Max twenty years later would go on to have a stunning debut for Red Bull twenty years later. On his debut he qualified fourth behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo, however, the rivalry between Hamilton and Rosberg reached its climax. On the opening lap into Respol they collided taking each other out.

Verstappen then inherited the lead from Sebastian Vettel when he made his first stop, building the gap to 2.1 seconds ahead of Kimi Raikkonen when he pitted. In the closing stages Verstappen was unchallenged taking a maiden win, he became the youngest ever winner, race leader and podium finisher in Formula One.

Since 2017, Hamilton has been the dominant force in Barcelona taking pole position and victory in the last four years, underlining the importance of downforce and speed. The lack of ability to overtake has also been an issue and means rewards can be a huge advantage, strategy is more important than at most other circuits.

Facts and figures

Round 04 of 24
Race Formula 1 Aramco Gran Premio de Espana 2021
Venue Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Montmeló, Catalonia, Spain
Configuration 2021 Grand Prix
Circuit Length 4.675km (2.905mi)
Laps 66
Race Distance 308.424 km (191.687 mi)
Lap Record 01:35.797 (Roman Rusinov, G-Drive Racing, 2021)
Most wins drivers Michael Schumacher (6)
Most wins manufacture Ferrari (13)

Fast facts

  • Only four of the 19 races at this track between 2001 and 2019 have not been won from pole position.
  • Only twelve 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.
  • Between 2007 and 2016 ten different drivers, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Kimi Räikkönen, Jenson Button, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Sir Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and Max Verstappen took

Event timetable

Session

Local

BST

Friday

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

Saturday

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

Sunday

Race 15:00 14:00

What happened in 2020?

Sir Lewis Hamilton beat Valtteri Bottas by five-hundredths of a second to take his fourth pole of the season, while Mercedes looked to have a seven-tenths advantage in qualifying ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. However, they did not manage to improve on their second run in qualifying.

McLaren was again best of the rest, Carlos Sainz starting his final Spanish Grand Prix for the team, in seventh after going four hundredths faster than his teammate Lando Norris. Charles Leclerc was the only Ferrari through to Q3 but was a second and a half off in ninth.

Hamilton took a dominating victory leading every race from Verstappen, after the dutchman got past Bottas at the start, following his poor start. As the Red Bull and Mercedes fought for second place the Englishman managed to build half a second lead early on. It was another milestone victory for Hamilton who surpassed Michael Schumacher’s podium record.

The predicted Red Bull threat following Verstappen’s win at Silverstone never materialised, with the top three managing to lap the rest of the field.  Racing Point finished the race with Sergio Perez fourth a second and a half ahead of his teammate Lance Stroll. But Perez was awarded a five-second penalty for ignoring blue flags, meaning they switch positions in the final classification.

Sainz finished his home race in sixth a second behind Stroll.

Race Result – 1) L. Hamilton, Mercedes, 01:31:45.279, 2) M. Verstappen, Red Bull – Honda, +24.177, 3) V. Bottas, Mercedes, +44.752

What to watch for?

Similar to Portimao and the final sector is normally a great indicator for performance for both Monaco and Baku because of the stop-start nature of the corners. This race is about speed but also downforce we know that overtaking can be more difficult, Mercedes have been very strong here in the hybrid era.

Red Bull following Portimao needs to be more careful with strategy that was curricle in Mercedes victory on Sunday. This could again be a two-stop race because of the circuit isn’t easy for overtaking.

In qualifying last year the teams didn’t improve on a second run in Q3, we have also seen that pattern develop this season. But teams need to be careful not to trip over each other in the final corner because the tow along the main straight is powerful, but how will the teams play it? As in Q3, you can’t have both drivers attempting a tow lap at the same time.

Going to a similar circuit to Portimao, it appears that Mercedes has the faster car in the race, but Red Bull can fight back in qualifying. We saw in Sunday’s race that Mercedes was able to get ahead at the pit stop, strategy is going to be an important factor as overtaking can be difficult in Barcelona, but things like DRS has

Most of the overtaking opportunities have historically been more difficult but there is hopes that the changes in the final sector allow for more overtaking through the long La Casa corner. It will be interesting to see if there is more opportunities for closer racing along the back straight and into the final sector of the circuit.

Upgrades are traditionally brought to Barcelona as it’s where testing and the opening race of the European/Western Asia season begins. Teams will have less data this season because testing took place in Bahrain, and last years race was held in very different conditions due to the pandemic. This could lead to three very busy practice sessions to gather data on the cars to compare to the historical data they have.

The midfield battle will be close as we have seen in the opening races has swung, I feel towards McLaren who are third as well as signs of a Ferrari recovery. This battle we know also features the likes of Alpha Tauri, Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin we saw them be slightly weaker than their immediate rivals.

2019 vs 2020 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap

2020

01:16.785 01:16.883 01:17.222 01:16.872 01:16.013 01:15.584 01:31:45.279 01:18.183

Diff

-1.166 -0.401 +0.654 -0.553 -0.654 -0.178 -04:05.236  

2019

01:17.951 01:17.284 01:16.568 01:17.425 01:16.667 01:15.406 01:35:50.443 00:00.000

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.