Lewis Hamilton gets the chance to make up for his disappointing race in Russia at the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend, scene of the opening lap collision that ended the races of both Hamilton and eventual 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg last year. Mercedes were the dominant force last year and the race was theirs to throw away, but they are not having it all their own way in 2017, and whisper it, last time out it was Ferrari who let a race they should have won slip through their fingers when Valtteri Bottas got the jump on the red cars at the start in Russia and stormed to his first ever Grand Prix win. Sebastian Vettel did extend his championship lead though, as both he and Kimi Raikkonen finished ahead of Hamilton – so, will Sunday see Lewis bounce back or will it be Sebastian singing in Spain? Both will have to get the better of a confident Bottas, while Red Bull fans will hope the introduction of their B-Spec car breathes life into their 2017 challenge, and provides both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo with the chance to complicate life for the championship leaders.
Last year’s race saw Mercedes implode on the opening lap as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton collided – ultimately casualties of the ban on driver instructions as a fast starting Nico found himself suddenly in the wrong power mode allowing Lewis to close and look to overtake – with Rosberg shutting the door and Lewis taking to the grass and losing control, spinning into his team-mate. Despite looking to have the superior race pace Ferrari failed to capitalize, with Max Verstappen announcing his arrival at Red Bull following Daniil Kvyat’s demotion with a wonderful victory. Verstappen’s drive was a faultless performance, looking after his tyres while keeping the faster Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen at bay. Daniel Ricciardo had led the race from Verstappen earlier on but lost out on strategy as he made an additional stop to cover Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari looking to push an aggressive strategy to get ahead of the Bulls, but only managing to sink the chances of Ricciardo, with Vettel managing to get the jump on Ricciardo but only coming home third after seeing Verstappen and Raikkonen stay comfortably ahead on two stop strategies. The dropped Kvyat got some consolation by grabbing fastest lap on his return to Toro Rosso after a late stop for fresh tyres, but he was eclipsed by team mate Carlos Sainz, who had a great day, nipping ahead of the Ferrari’s on the opening lap and keeping them behind him early on before eventually bringing home the Toro Rosso powered by year old Ferrari engines in sixth place.
Michael Schumacher holds the record for the most Spanish Grand Prix victories with six wins, while of the current drivers only Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso have won the race more than once, both with two victories to their name, while Felipe Massa, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have all tasted victory here on one occasion.
The home of the Spanish Grand Prix is the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and as the site of winter testing the teams are intimately familiar with the track. The Spanish Grand Prix has been held here every year since 1991, but it wasn’t always the home of Formula One in Spain, with 7 other circuits hosting the Spanish Grand Prix in the years before the race settled there.
The first race to take the title Spanish Grand Prix dates back as far as 1913, with three laps of just over 100km of public road close to Madrid being used to stage the race, with the honour of victory going to Carlos de Salamanca driving a Rolls-Royce.
The next event to take the title Spanish Grand Prix would not be staged until ten years later, when a majestic 2km oval featuring 60 degree banking was built in Stiges. Looking at the track one can only imagine what Fernando Alonso would make of an opportunity to drive a modern car around such a daunting track!
The oval would stage the Spanish Grand Prix in in 1923, but unfortunately the track was in financial problems from the get go, and would not stage another international race as a result.
The next track to take on the mantle of the Spanish Grand Prix was the 17.7 km long Circuito Lasarte that was already used for the San Sebastian Grand Prix. The Spanish Grand Prix would be staged here from 1926-1929, and again from 1933-1935.
After the war the Spanish Grand Prix returned in 1951, its first appearance on the modern Formula One calendar, finding a new home on the streets of Barcelona. The race was held on what was known as the Pedralbes circuit, a fast 6.3 km section of roads which had held a non-championship round in the inaugural season of the Formula One championship under the banner of the Penya Rhin Grand Prix. The Spanish Grand Prix of 1951 was the final round of the season, and saw Juan Manual Fangio seal the first of his five world drivers’ championship in style with a victory for Alfa Romeo. Another F1 race would be staged at Pedralbes in 1954, but after the Le Mans disaster of 1955 a greater focus on spectator safety would see the demise of the street race, and the Spanish Grand Prix would disappear until 1967.
The next venue to take over the reins of the Spanish Grand Prix was the Circuit del Jarama, a tight 3.4 km track north of Madrid. A non-championship Grand Prix was staged in there in 1967 (won by Jim Clark in a Lotus) before Jarama would hold a round of the world championship in 1968 (which Graham Hill would win for Lotus). The Spanish Grand Prix would then alternate between Jarama and a circuit in Barcelona, Montjuic Park, another street race but this time set in the hills above Barcelona. Montjuic Park was a wonderfully fast 3.79 km track that would stage the race every two years between 1969 (with Jackie Stewart winning in a Matra) and 1975. Montjuic Park was one of those gloriously unsafe venues that provided a thrilling challenge but was simply not safe for Formula One. Prior to the 1975 race there was trouble as GPDA were unhappy with the state of the barriers around the track, and a strike was threatened. The race did go ahead (without Emerson Fittipaldi, who refused to participate), but would end in tragedy, with 5 spectators killed when Rolf Stommelen’s car went into the crowd after its rear wing failed while leading the race. Jochen Mass would take his sole Grand Prix victory in a McLaren in the shortened race that also saw Lella Lombardi score half a point for finishing sixth, but the accident would spell the end of the track. Jarama would continue to hold the Spanish Grand Prix then up until 1981, in a race that saw Gilles Villeneuve take his last ever victory, famously leading a train of cars home across the line (just 1.2 seconds separated Villeneuve from Elio De Angelis Lotus in fifth position!), Gilles taking of advantage of his Ferrari’s power to hang on to the lead on Jarama’s short straight and placing his Ferrari where it needed to be in the corners to hang on for the win.
Villeneuves great win in 1981 however underlined that the tight Jarama was just not suitable for Formula One, and when the Spanish Grand Prix returned in 1986, it would be in a new venue, Jerez. The first Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez would be won by Ayrton Senna for Lotus…barely holding off a charging Nigel Mansell by just 0.014 seconds, with both cars weaving across the track coming out of the final corner, Senna taking the win by the finest of margins.
Jerez would host the Spanish Grand Prix from 1986 through to 1990 (a Ferrari 1-2 with Prost leading home Mansell), before the race was switched to its current home in Barcelona in 1991
That 1991 race was an instant classic, Nigel Mansell winning with a storming drive for Williams in a wet/dry race that will always be remembered for the image of Mansell and Ayrton Senna going wheel to wheel down the main straight, sparks flying as neither driver ceded an inch. Since then the track has produced some a mixture of memorable races and more sedate affairs with overtaking difficult on the circuit and a premium placed on qualifying – but the has witnessed some classic races – from Michael Schumacher’s dramatic first victory for Ferrari as he sailed serenely past his opposition in atrocious conditions in 1996 through to more recent races including Pastor Maldonado’s shock win for Williams in 2012 and Max Verstappen’s debut win for Red Bull last year after the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg took each other out of contention on the opening lap. While the track does not always produce the most memorable races, it has in spite of its use in off season testing refused to be dominated by a single team or driver in recent years, with Max Verstappen being amazingly the 10th different winner in the last 10 races, so there’s hope for the likes of Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas who have yet to take a win there that this might be their year!!
The track at Barcelona is regarded as a good test venue for the teams due to the nature of the circuit, if a car is good here then it should be good everywhere. The 4.655 km long track features 16 turns and some 29.6 m in elevation change.
Off the grid there is a very long drag down to Turn 1, so there is always a chance for a lightning starter to make up for a poor qualifying session (or for the polesitter to blow Saturday’s good work). Given the lack of overtaking opportunities around the track the race can well be decided at the start or in the pits, so expect sparks to fly here on the opening lap, and also around the pit window, as the pit exit feeds into Turn 1. The track dips down to its lowest position on the entry to the right hander Turn 1, the fastest point of the circuit during the race with the cars having travelled a kilometre along the start finish straight before braking hard and flicking right, DRS available on the straight to give an opportunity to pass.
The exit of Turn 1 feeds straight into Turn 2, a left handed curve as the track starts to wind uphill with the cars running wide right and immediately thrown into the long winding right hander Turn 3, the track rising continuously as the cars are eventually spun out to the right onto a short straight into Turn 4 (where Carlos Sainz ran around the outside of Sebastian Vettel last year as the two Mercedes span into the grave on the opening lap last year), another long winding right handed corner that sees the cars run wide out on the kerbs on exit and immediately thread their way back across the track as they are quickly braking hard as the track starts to dip down into the left hander Turn 5, running wide over the kerbs on exit and launching down a short straight flat out through a slight kink left at Turn 6, with the track starting to rise again as the cars are back on the brakes into the 90 degree left hander Turn 7, riding the kerbs on the exit immediately through the right hander Turn 8 , the cars opening out onto a short straight with the first DRS detection point, into a fast right hander Turn 9, with the track starting to fall back downhill as the cars burst down a straight with the first DRS activation zone and a chance to overtake under hard braking into a tricky left hander hairpin at Turn 10 (Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel pulled a nice move down the inside under braking on his current Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen here back in 2014, before repeating the feat on Valtteri Bottas Williams). Turn 10 is a slow corner that sees the cars climbing back uphill on exit, stabbing the throttle for the quick flick left of Turn 11 before braking again into the long winding right hander Turn 12. The cars have a short stab of acceleration uphill to the highest point on the track before braking into the 90 degree right hander Turn 13 as the track falls steeply away through the turn, quickly into the left/right of the chicane at Turn 14/15, with the exit critical as the cars burst past the 2nd DRS detection point and pit entry into Turn 16, the final bend, a right hander that propels the cars onto the start/finish straight, with the best chance to overtake with the use of DRS into Turn 1.
TYRES WITH PIRELLI:
Pirelli brings the three hardest compounds in the Formula 1 range for the first time this year: P Zero Orange hard, P Zero White medium, and P Zero Yellow soft. This is to cope with the notoriously high demands put on the tyres at the Circuit de Catalunya: caused not only by the famous long and fast corners, but also by the abrasive surface and likelihood of warm weather. As a regular testing venue, including two sessions earlier this year, Barcelona is the track that the teams probably know best – but a lot has changed since the last visit, just over two months ago…
THE THREE NOMINATED COMPOUNDS
1/ Yellow SOFT
2/ White MEDIUM
3/ Orange – HARD
THE CIRCUIT FROM A TYRE POINT OF VIEW
- Teams bring latest evolutions, which might alter tyre behaviour compared to testing.
- There was gap of more than 1.5 seconds between medium and soft in testing: this is expected to possibly come down.
- Front-left works hardest: front-limited track.
- More than one pit stop is likely due to traditionally high wear and degradation.
- Teams run high downforce, adding vertical as well as lateral loads to the tyres.
- After the race, Pirelli’s 2018 test programme continues, with Renault and Toro Rosso driving on Tuesday and Wednesday.
MARIO ISOLA – HEAD OF CAR RACING
“This is the last race where allocations are fixed for every team: as of Monaco, drivers are making their own choices about the quantities of each compound they would like to nominate. While Barcelona is a well-known venue, aerodynamic evolution of the cars, enhanced by the latest upgrade packages brought to Spain, mean that performance is increased but degradation levels could also be higher compared to testing. We can additionally expect weather conditions considerably warmer than February.”
- Hard tyre appears for the first time in a 2017 grand prix.
- Last round of identical tyre allocations: seven sets of the softest compound available, four sets of the middle compound, and two of the hardest compound.
- Many teams will bring a ‘B’ spec car to Barcelona, ranging from a few tweaks to almost a complete redesign – depending on the team.
SPAIN MINIMUM STARTING PRESSURES (SLICKS) 22.5 psi (front) | 20 psi (rear)
EOS CAMBER LIMIT -3.50 (front) | -2 (rear)
If we took three things away from the Russian Grand Prix they would be as follows:
1/Ferrari are the real deal!
2/ Starts are really important!
3/ Being faster doesn’t always mean winning!
Coming into Spain Ferrari will be slight favourites from Mercedes, but while Mercedes pulled a rabbit out of the hat in the form of Bottas scorching start and first stint on the ultrasofts, Ferrari will surely be rueing the loss of a race they will feel they should have won. Overtaking is no easy feat around Barcelona, and Ferrari will have the painful memory of last years race as another reminder of one that got away – make no mistake, Ferrari (read Vettel) will be under immense pressure to capitalize while they have an edge, as a Mercedes fightback is inevitable. Kimi Raikkonen looked a bit more like his old self in Russia, in qualifying anyway, but was unable to match Vettel in the race. Still, he took points off Lewis Hamilton, so Ferrari will be mighty pleased with their driver situation. At Mercedes, Bottas has been steadily improving, and his victory in Russia coupled with Hamilton’s mysterious lack of pace provides Mercedes with a concern that they could well allow Vettel steal the title as they take points off each other. Lewis will certainly be hoping for a return to form around the Barcelona track, but on a track where he could only match Nico Rosberg 50/50 in qualifying in their time together at Mercedes he will face a tough battle with Bottas confidence boosted from his first win. Of course, there is a third team with genuine hopes to challenge for victory – at some stage over the season. All eyes will be on Red Bull to see if their latest chassis can improve their pace relative to the top two, but they will have to be concerned at their reliability rate to date this year. Either way as Verstappen excellently showed last year, if they get ahead of you on track they will prove very hard to get by, so expect the Bulls to play a major role in the outcome of the race on Sunday.
2012 – Pastor Maldonado delivers a flawless race to take victory for Williams, their first win since 2004. Read more
2001 – It ain’t over till it’s over – McLaren’s Mika Hakkinen losing the race as his car broke down after having been over 40 seconds up starting the last lap, Michael Schumacher nipping past in his Ferrari to steal the win
1996 – Smooth sailing for Michael Schumacher gives him his first Ferrari win as he leaves the field in his wake, surging clear as the rest of the field slip and slide in the soaking conditions
1991 – Mansell vs Senna – the two greats going wheel to wheel on the start finish straight, Mansell coming out on top and going on to win after a wonderful drive
1981 – Gilles Vileneuve makes a rocket start and delivers a masterclass of defensive driving as he leads a train of cars across the line in his last F1 victory
F2 returns for round 2 while GP3 makes its first appearance of the season.
In F2, Ferrari Academy driver Charles LeClerc made amends for his Bahrain feature race disappointment with a stunning sprint race victory, and leads the way in the championship from feature race winner Artem Markelov, with Renault Sport Academy driver Oliver Rowland lying in third place. All eyes will be on GP3 champion LeClerc to see if he can continue to show the kind of progress that could see him transition to F1 next year.
In GP3 it’s a fresh slate for the hopefuls hoping to make an impression. This year the field includes the likes Renault Sport Academy driver Jack Aitkin, Mercedes junior driver George Russel, Honda backed driver Nirei Fukuzumi (all driving for at ART), Ferrari driver Academy Giuliano Alesi (Trident), Sauber development driver Tatiana Calderon and Haas development driver Santonio Ferucci (both DAMS).
|2016||Max Verstappen||Red Bull-Tag Heuer|
|2011||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2010||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault|