F1 2011 Round 05 – Spanish GP Preview

Welcome to Round 05 of the 2011 Formula 1 World Championship, at Barcelona, Spain. The Santander Spanish Grand Prix signals the return of Formula 1 to its traditional European venues, most of which have several decades of racing history. The Circuit de Catalunya has hosted the race since 1991, before which the Spanish GP was held at four other venues – Pedralbes (1951, 1954), Jarama (nine times between 1968 and 1981), Montjuich (four times between 1969 and 1975), and Jerez (1986-90). Since the Catalunya is also a heavily favoured test track, and most of the pre season testing takes place here, it is usually upgraded and maintained quite well.

For all that, the circuit is nowhere as well suited to ‘racing’ as it is to ‘testing’. Think about this. In the last 20 years, 16 races have been won by the driver on pole position, 3 by the driver alongside him, and 1 by a driver starting third. In 2000, pole sitter Michael Schumacher had a major problem in one of his pitstops and subsequently had to replace a punctured tyre which lost him the race (Mika Hakkinen won). In 1996, the weather conditions were truly atrocious, which lead to pole man Damon Hill retiring after going off the track (Schumacher won from third on the grid). In 1994, Schumacher took pole, but had gearbox problems which gifted the win to Damon Hill, who started in second. And finally, in 1991, Gerhard Berger, on pole, messed up the start and lost the lead, and Nigel Mansell duly won from second.

So in simple terms, the worst thing a driver can do in Barcelona is make a mistake in qualifying and start at the back of the grid. For this isn’t the track where one can just carve their way through the pack. The problem is that Catalunya has several high-speed corners and no heavy braking point of note. The ideal conditions for overtaking are a chicane, a long straight, and a slow speed corner at the end. You see the point? Overtaking and the design of this circuit are incompatible in every way. The main straight is long enough, but the cars enter this section through the fast sweeping Turn 16, where the modern aerodynamic design makes it impossible for the car behind to follow the one ahead closely. And the first corner is quite narrow and reasonably quick – it is almost impossible for two cars to go through the corner side by side or outbrake each other.

The problem is compounded by the fact that the teams test for several days here, which means they have enough data to set the car up optimally in every way for this circuit. Therefore the cars are quite closely matched here than any other circuit in the world, making it difficult to overtake each other. But this year, we have the Pirelli tyres, the DRS and KERS to enliven the proceedings. And this circuit is the ultimate test of the aforementioned changes for 2011 – if they succeed here, then F1 can pat itself on the back for a job well done. The previous four races this year have been scintillating – the Spanish race organisers have acknowledged the fact that if their race is processional as usual, they will have to make some changes in the track layout. It has taken them 20 years to realise this, but better late than never.

One of the things about Catalunya is that it inevitably shows us the true pace of each car of that year, especially during qualifying. With a huge downforce advantage, the Red Bull is ideally suited to Barcelona’s blend of straights and fast corners. Last year, the fight was for third place onwards, as the mighty Red Bull RB6 claimed a 1-2 in Q3 with effortless ease. It makes it all the more significant that Ferrari and McLaren were able to sustain the championship battle till the end.  This year, the situation is slightly different.

For one thing, this is the first time in many years that the teams have sampled the near-European conditions before coming to Spain. After experiencing diverse weather and track conditions in the flyaway races, the last race in Istanbul gave a fair idea of the tyre behaviour in warm climates. Armed with this data, a three-week break to frantically develop new parts and close the gap to Red Bull is exactly what the teams wanted. Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes are bringing massive upgrades to Catalunya, while Red Bull haven’t brought anything. And despite the enormous lead that the Austrian team has taken in both championships, it’s reasonably obvious that they don’t have the same performance advantage on Sunday afternoons that they enjoyed last year.

Fernando Alonso fired a warning shot of what he is capable of doing when the car is sorted out, in Turkey three weeks ago. Ferrari seem to have resolved their wind tunnel woes, and are confident that their development program will allow them to fight for the championship. What they really need, right now, apart from a few extra tenths in performance, is a consistent Felipe Massa. When the car is quick, the team needs both drivers to deliver strong results so that they can take away maximum points from their rivals. Instead, the team are gifting valuable points to Mercedes and McLaren, which will put Fernando’s title bid at an immense disadvantage. Felipe really needs to raise his game, quickly.

McLaren looked off the pace in Istanbul, but that was only because they weren’t able to get all their updates onto the car. Unless they have problems with their new parts this weekend also, they will be quite competitive here. They have a strong baseline car, and possibly the only driver pairing in the paddock that is maximising their machinery. On the other hand, Mercedes has one car punching above its weight and one that is not really very competitive – no prizes for guessing which one is Rosberg and which one is Schumacher. The team are firmly defending Michael’s abilities despite a deeply underwhelming comeback, but it remains to be seen how long they will wait.

Renault were disappointing in Turkey and will be keen to make up for it here. All the midfield teams are bringing updates to Spain – and now Lotus, with an ambitious target of gaining a full second in performance, may finally make it to ‘midfield’ status. In what is already a chaotic fight for the last points paying positions, the Norfolk team may make it a ten-car battle. Hispania are looking racy ahead of their home grand prix, and have brought some new parts as well.

As usual, expect to see a Red Bull on pole – and on current form, I can’t imagine anyone other than Sebastian Vettel being on pole, honestly. But Mark Webber will be itching to get his season back on track, and this is where he began his golden run last year. If he can stop the Vettel qualifying express, it will be one important psychological hurdle cleared for the Aussie. But for once, the race is too close to predict. Ferrari, with their car being kindest of all, to the tyres, will be a strong contender, since this circuit is very harsh on the rubber. McLaren will be in the reckoning too. And expect to see Rosberg mixing it with the McLarens and Ferraris as usual. If the DRS, KERS and Pirellis work, then this may be the best Spanish GP in over a decade.

Here are some of the circuit and event details :

Session Timings

Race Local Time :

Friday, 20th May

Practice 1 – 10:00 to 11:30

Practice 2 – 14:00 to 15:30

Saturday, 21st May

Practice 3 – 11:00 to 12:00

Qualifying – 14:00

Sunday, 22nd May

Race – 14:00

Indian Standard Time :

Friday, 20th May

Practice 1 – 13:30 to 15:00

Practice 2 – 17:30 to 19:00

Saturday, 21st May

Practice 3 – 14:30 to 15:30

Qualifying – 17:30

Sunday, 22nd May

Race – 17:30

Weather Forecast

Source : BBC Weather

Circuit Details

Race Date : 22 May 2011

Circuit Name : Circuit de Catalunya

Orientation : Clockwise

Number of Turns : 16 (9 Right, 7 Left)

Number of Laps : 66

Circuit Length : 2.875 miles (4.655 km)

Race Distance : 307.104 km

Lap Record : 1:21.670 – Kimi Raikkonen (2008)

Circuit Map

A lap of Circuit de Catalunya with Alexander Wurz & Rubens Barrichello

With Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya a regular testing haunt for the Formula One teams, most drivers are very familiar with all its twist, turns and technical intricacies. That doesn’t, however, mean it’s easy. Ex-Honda reserve Alexander Wurz talks us round a flying lap of the Spanish venue ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix …

“Over the years, the Circuit de Catalunya has lost some of its edge because it’s no longer the high-speed challenge that it once was. All of the fast corners have gone, except Turn Three, which is still big G-force, very fast and very demanding.

Of course, the track still remains an interesting place to drive. The key to a quick lap is to find a good rhythm and to make sure that your car works well in slow-speed corners, which is most of sector three. In days gone by, Barcelona required a high-speed car set-up, whereas now it needs a slow-speed set up, and I think that’s disappointing.

You approach Turn One at about 310km/h (193mph). You stamp on the brakes and shift down to second gear for Turn One, before taking Turn Two in third gear. Next comes one of the best corners on the lap, Turn Three, before you’re again braking hard for the hairpin at Turn Four. Another hairpin follows, where it’s easy to lock up a wheel on the downhill approach, and you then have two very interesting corners.

Turn Six is medium speed and requires you to use a lot of kerb on the exit, and Turn Seven is a right-hander taken at about 215km/h (133mph). It’s important to carry a lot of speed through Turn Seven because it leads you onto the back straight, where you’re back up to 300km/h (186mph). The last part of the lap is slow and it includes the new chicane before the final corner. Again, it’s very important to have a good exit because you carry that speed all the way down the pit straight.”

Here’s what Rubens Barrichello experiences on a single lap of this circuit :

“It’s downhill towards turn one where you brake hard down to second gear from 310km/h, throwing the car hard right, then left and straight into turn two. Then you accelerate hard into the long right-hand turn three which can be taken at full throttle with the grip of new tyres.

For the short drag down to turn four, you are back up to 300km/h, then into the slow right-hander taken in second gear from where the track falls downhill into the hairpin left of turn five. Here you have to be careful not to lock your wheels on the undulating track.

Accelerating hard once again towards the medium-speed left-hand turn six, running hard over the kerb as you push uphill to the fast right-hander turn seven which leads on to the back straight. Again you are again at over 300km/h approaching turn eight, braking hard down to second gear and negotiating the slippery new track surface through the right-hander. Then it’s into the long right-hand turn nine which is taken in second gear.

After a short straight, there is now a complex of right-left-right turns, which in contrast to the old fast right-hander that it replaces, seems so slow. Exiting the last of this series, being careful not to hit the high kerbs, you accelerate hard to get back on to the pit straight to enjoy those amazing grandstand acoustics once again.”

Source : Honda F1 Team

On-board lap of Circuit de Catalunya

Technical Requirements

The Spanish Grand Prix circuit near Barcelona is one that every Formula One team knows well from the hundreds of kilometres of testing carried out there over the winter. Few venues offer such a variety of medium and high-speed corners and it is widely acknowledged as the definitive aero circuit that provides a stern test of a car. With few big braking zones and so many high-speed corners, overtaking usually is extremely difficult and a good qualifying performance and sensible strategy are paramount for a successful weekend.

Aerodynamic efficiency is always a key factor at Barcelona, although the introduction of the chicane at the end of the lap in recent years has replaced on of the most critical high-speed parts of the lap and means the track is not as demanding as it once was. Even so, the circuit remains the ultimate test of a car’s aero package and teams will run with high downforce levels to ensure competitiveness over the whole lap.

Fernando Alonso explains: “There are lots of high-speed corners where good aero performance is critical. A good example is Turn Nine, a fast right hand corner taken in fifth gear at about 230km/h. You have to be very precise with the car as there is there is no room for error on the exit and it’s important to carry good speed onto the back straight.”

With the suspension we have to find the best compromise to give the drivers a well balanced and responsive car. This means we will use relatively stiff settings at the front of the car to get a good change of direction, while the rear will be slightly softer in order to get the best possible traction out of the slower corners, such as Turns 14 and 15.

Nelson Piquet explains: “The end of the lap used to be fast and flowing, but the introduction of the chicane a couple of years ago means it is now a low-speed section where you need good mechanical grip and traction. Getting a good exit out of Turn 15 is especially important as it leads immediately into the final corner and onto the kilometre long straight. Lose speed in 15 and you will be under pressure and vulnerable to attack down the front straight.”

Ride height is also an important parameter to consider as generally we can run the car quite low in order to gain maximum aerodynamic performance.

Engine Performance:
Barcelona is not generally thought of as an ‘engine circuit’ as the engine is not under particular stress as any point and only 61 percent of the lap is spent on full throttle. There are relatively few hard acceleration zones from low revs as the engine spends most of the lap accelerating from the middle of the rev range. As such, the priority is for the power delivery to be progressive and driveable in order to maintain the best handling balance, and limit tyre wear.

Barcelona is well known for being demanding on tyre wear because it includes so many long, high-speed corners and has a fairly abrasive track surface. The most demanding corner is perhaps Turn Three, as Alonso explains:

“Turn 3 is a very demanding corner: we spend two or three seconds at 250kph, and it’s hard work for the neck muscles. The key to getting the corner right is finding the correct line as there is no margin for error on corner entry. If you get it right, then you can get all the way through this long corner with a good level of grip in the car, and it’s not too difficult. But if you miss the entry by even just a little bit, you will be fighting understeer then oversteer, hurting the tyres and losing time all the way round the corner.”

The tyres are therefore under high loadings, particularly the front left which has to work hard through Turn Three as well as Turn Nine. As a result Pirelli will supply the hard and soft compounds this weekend, and the team will need to pay close attention to the wear and degradation during free practice to determine which compound to use for the majority of the race.

Source : Renault F1 Team

Spanish GP – Facts & Figures

With the arrival of the European Grand Prix to Spanish shores in 2008, Spain now hosts two races every year. Before the Valencia street circuit makes headlines later this year, however, there is this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya to look forward to. The race may have been a fixture on the calendar for almost 40 years, but how much do you really know about the event?

This year’s race will be the 41st Spanish Grand Prix counting towards the FIA Formula One World Championship. The Circuit de Catalunya is the latest in a string of tracks that have at one time hosted the Spanish race, which originally dates back to 1913 when Carlos de Salamanca won at Guadarrama, driving a Rolls Royce. Alberto Divo won in 1923 in a Sunbeam, at Sitges, but from 1926 (won by Meo Constantini in a Bugatti) until 1935 (winner Rudolf Caracciola in a Mercedes), the race was held on the Lasarte circuit on the outskirts of San Sebastian.

Five different circuits have been used for world championship races – Pedralbes (1951, 1954); Jarama (nine times between 1968 and 1981); Montjuich (four times between 1969 and 1975); Jerez (1986-90); and Montmelo-Catalunya (since 1991).

The first world championship event was held in 1951 on the Pedralbes street circuit near Barcelona. Montjuich Park, in the centre of the city, then followed, interspersed with races at Jarama just outside of Madrid. Finally in 1991, Jerez succumbed to the new purpose-built circuit of Montmelo-Catalunya, 20 kilometres north east of Barcelona. Due to its status as one of Formula One racing’s premiere testing venues, the track is constantly upgraded. In 2006 it was resurfaced, and a new chicane was added at the end of the lap the following year.

Juan Manuel Fangio claimed his first world championship (at the age of 40) when he won the title decider in Spain in 1951, beating Alberto Ascari by six points and giving Alfa Romeo their final Grand Prix victory.

– The Spanish Grand Prix has produced amongst the largest and shortest winning margins in a world championship Formula One race – Jackie Stewart (Matra-Ford) finishing over two laps clear of Bruce McLaren (McLaren-Ford) at Montjuich Park in 1969, and Ayrton Senna (Lotus-Renault) beating Nigel Mansell (Williams-Honda) by just 0.014sec at Jerez in 1986.

The closest five-car finish in a Spanish Grand Prix – and a spectacular sight – occurred at Jarama in 1981, when Gilles Villeneuve (Ferrari) led home Jacques Laffite (Ligier-Matra at 0.22 sec), John Watson (McLaren-Ford at 0.58sec), Carlos Reutemann (Williams-Ford at 1.01sec) and Elio de Angelis (Lotus-Ford at 1.24sec).

Father-and-son victories have been achieved twice at the Spanish Grand Prix – by Graham and Damon Hill (1968 and 1994) and Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve (1981 and 1997). The two sons also contributed to milestone wins in Spain, Hill recording Goodyear’s 300th Grand Prix victory in 1994 and Villeneuve the 350th in 1997.

Pole position milestones recorded at the Spanish Grand Prix have included the 50th by Lotus (at Montjuich in 1973), the 50th by Ferrari (at Jarama in 1974), the 100th by Lotus (at Jerez in 1986), and both the 40th and 50th by Ayrton Senna (at Jerez in 1989 and ’90).

– Amongst the firsts recorded at Spanish Grands Prix, the Lancia team made their race debut in 1954; Frank Williams became a Formula One entrant for the first time (with a Brabham for Piers Courage) in 1969; 1970 brought the first win for March (by Jackie Stewart in a Tyrrell-entered car); 1971 saw the first win by Tyrrell as a constructor (Stewart again); 1974 was the first Grand Prix victory for Niki Lauda; 1975 witnessed the only Grand Prix victory for Jochen Mass in a McLaren, the Grand Prix debut of Alan Jones in a privately-entered Hesketh, and the only time a female driver has claimed a points score – Lella Lombardi finished sixth in a March.

Michael Schumacher is the most successful driver in Spain, with six wins, including the four successive victories from 2001-04 and seven pole positions. Mika Hakkinen, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and Jacky Stewart have all won the race three times. Ferrari lead the table of team wins in Spain on 11, followed by McLaren (8) and Williams (6).

Eight Spanish drivers have taken part in their home Grand Prix – Paco Godia (1951, 1954), Alex Solar Roig (1971-1972), Emilio de Villota (1976-78), Adrian Campos (1987), Luis Perez Sala (1988-89), Marc Gene (1999-2000), Pedro de la Rosa (1999-2002,2006) and, of course, Fernando Alonso (2001, 2003-10).

Source : Formula1.com

2010 Flashback : Yawn…. Well done, Mark Webber.

The 2010 Spanish Grand Prix was more or less identical to the last 10 races at this circuit. Pole man wins, while the other cars follow him around the track for some time. Mark Webber did exactly what the winners of the previous nine Spanish GPs did. Put the car on pole, make a good start, avoid accidents or reliability problems, and lead the procession across the finish line less than a couple of hours later. The circuit at Barcelona may be a great test track in that it tests all aspects of the car severely – aerodynamics, engine, suspension and tyres, but when it comes to motor ‘racing’, it’s quite hopeless as you can see.

The only action in the 2010 edition was when Lewis Hamilton suffered a spectacular blowout with 2 laps to go, handing the final podium place to Sebastian Vettel who had car problems throughout the race. The long main straight provides a lot of scope for cars to get side-by-side before braking for the first corner, hence a couple of bumps and damaged bodywork wasn’t much of a surprise at the start. But if you were looking for a spectacular wheel-to-wheel battle across the field for a couple of hours that Sunday afternoon, you were always bound to be disappointed.

But this time around, things may be quite different. The DRS, KERS and Pirelli tyres face their sternest test at the Circuit de Catalunya. This is where these rule changes really have to prove their worth. And somehow, I get the feeling that they will not let us down this weekend.


2 Responses to “F1 2011 Round 05 – Spanish GP Preview”

  1. Saiprasaad Ganapathy Says:

    One second a very big thanks to Sundar Shankar! Absolutely this was a vast information about Spain Grand Prix and Barcelona. This time you done it very clearly, brilliantly and gave lots of information about the place of held, the circuit and Technical information. Might be a useful one for most of the fans for their knowledge. A very good review and clean overall picture of Spain. Thanks!!

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