Spanish GP 2014: 10 Facts About the Circuit De Catalunya
The Circuit de Catalunya, home of the Spanish Grand Prix, hosts the fifth race weekend of the 2014 Formula One season.
Since replacing Jerez as the venue for the Spanish round of the calendar in 1991, the track has grown to play an influential role in F1, acting as a testing circuit as well as a grand prix venue.
Nico Rosberg will enter the weekend nursing a four-point lead over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, who completed the first hat-trick of his F1 career at last month's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.
Although the season has been dominated by the Silver Arrows drivers thus far, the Spanish Grand Prix—the first European event of the season—offers a chance for Mercedes' rivals to catch up with the introduction of potentially season-defining car updates.
As the weekend approaches, here are 10 facts on the characteristics and history of the Circuit de Catalunya.
The Circuit de Catalunya is located in Montmelo, a small town in north-eastern Barcelona.
The track is easily accessible, with only 32 kilometres separating the circuit and the city centre of Barcelona, and 18 km between the facility and the Costa de Barcelona.
The Spanish track lies only a 30-minute walk away from Montmelo station. But for the lazier race fan, a shuttle bus is available throughout the weekend and is free of charge for those with tickets.
In previous years, the Spanish circuit has been affectionately known as the Circuit de Catalunya, a name that—we're sure you'll agree—rolls off the tongue.
Last September, however, the facility was renamed "Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya" after the signing of a sponsorship agreement between the track and Barcelona City Council.
The circuit's official website cited a need to "bind the tourist attractions of the city with the activities of the racetrack" as the motive behind the new label.
Vinec Aguilera, the president of something called the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya Consortium, attempted to justify the move by stating:
The city of Barcelona has a lot of strength and a great international projection, and therefore we believe that the new name, Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, will help us to boost the facilities much stronger, just as we have been doing in recent years with the promotion of the F1 and MotoGP Grands Prix
We'll continue to refer to it as the Circuit de Catalunya, if that's alright...
The Spanish Grand Prix lasts a grand total of 66 laps, which can often seem much longer due to the sheer lack of overtaking action.
A lap of the track will see the cars travel 2.892 miles, while the race distance itself sees them cover almost 191 miles in one hour and 39 minutes of action.
The Ultimate Aero Test
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.
Such a diverse range of challenges usually makes the Circuit de Catalunya an ideal spot for testing—but F1 chose to flock to Bahrain in pre-season this year, meaning the early stages of the race weekend will be crucial rather than mere opportunities to fine-tune setups.
Also, because the Spanish Grand Prix is the first race of 2014 to take place in Europe—where each team is based—a raft of aerodynamic upgrades are set to be introduced, so watch out for some flo-vis paint on the cars' wings and winglets.
Predictably Unpredictable Weather
Although the interference of rain over a Spanish Grand Prix weekend is a rarity, the elements find alternative ways to influence proceedings.
Temperatures can fluctuate, but it is the wind that poses the biggest problems for cars, drivers and engineers.
The strength and direction of gusts can be highly changeable, causing unpredictability in terms of setup and inconsistencies in performance.
Clues for Monaco
Since the sweeping complex of Turns 13 and 14 was moulded into a chicane in 2007, the final sector of the lap has become an area where the driver can make the difference.
Its slow speed nature in comparison to the rest of the lap can provide clues over which car-driver combinations will thrive at the Monaco Grand Prix, the next race on the calendar.
Cars need to be nimble and have good traction to be fast in this section, while drivers need to find a balance between patience and aggression as the lap reaches its end and the desperation for that decisive 10th of a second rises.
If you like to gamble on your F1, a quick glance at the Sector Three times ahead of the Monaco weekend will do no harm to your chances.
Race for Pole
In the 23 races held at the Circuit de Catalunya since 1991, there have been 17 winners from pole position.
A lack of overtaking opportunities at the track, due to an absence of long, heavy braking zones, means the importance of securing pole in Spain cannot be stressed enough.
Only one driver, in fact, has ever won at the track after failing to qualify on the front row: Fernando Alonso in 2013.
Track Surface Only Adds to Tyre Wear
One thing that allowed Fernando Alonso to become the first driver to win the Spanish Grand Prix off the front row in 2013 was the subject of tyre wear.
The Circuit de Catalunya's abrasive track surface, the high loads around the fast and medium-speed corners and the presence of only one long straight makes the Spain race one of the most crucial of the year in terms of tyre conservation.
And although Pirelli has strengthened its compounds for this season, the Italian manufacturer's motorsport director, Paul Hembery, has indicated to the firm's official website that three pitstops should be the norm for each car in Barcelona.
Expect the front-left tyres to take a lot of pain.
World Champions Reign in Spain
Just as the Circuit de Catalunya is a good indicator of the best chassis, it is also an accurate reflection of the best drivers.
Of the 23 grands prix held at the track so far, 20 have been won by world champions.
The only non-champions to win in Barcelona thus far are Felipe Massa (2008), Mark Webber (2010) and Pastor Maldonado (2012).
The two-year gaps between those victories could bode well for the likes of Nico Rosberg and Daniel Ricciardo, who are arguably the best-placed non-champion drivers to continue the trend heading into the 2014 event.
It will come as no surprise to learn that Michael Schumacher is the most successful of those world champions at the Circuit de Catalunya.
The seven-time title winner tasted victory on six occasions in Spain, including a four-year winning streak at the height of his dominance between 2001 and 2004, as well as his breakthrough victory for Ferrari in 1996.
Of the current drivers, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen have won two races apiece, while Felipe Massa, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Pastor Maldonado have also reigned in Spain.
Despite heading into the 2014 event on the back of three consecutive wins, Lewis Hamilton has never won at the Circuit de Catalunya.