Spanish GP set for “spice up”

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was conceived during the planning for the 1992 Olympic Games and served as the start and finish line for the road team time trials event. The Montmelo based track hosted its first Formula One Spanish GP the previous year replacing the circuit de Jerez deep in the sherry region in the south of the country.

With a long straight and a variety of corners, the Circuit is seen as an all round test of the capabilities of a modern Formula One car and for this reason the teams repeatedly visited the venue over the years performing thousands of miles of testing.



Races at Barcelona circuit often processional

This has often led to the belief that the often processional F1 races at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was due to the extreme familiarity and terabytes of data the teams collected during running there over the years.

However, another factor has been blamed for the lack of overtaking at the Montmelo track and that is the final chicane before the start finish line.

The chicane was not part of the original configuration of the circuit and was introduced for two reasons back in 2007. The final two sweeping corners were replaced by an additional infield add on which served to slow the cars through the final turn.

The circuit at this point is pinched by adjacent land where the railway line runs and so the run off area outside the final corner was eventually deemed insufficient for the F1 cars travelling at high speed. 



Chicane added in 2007

The FIA approved chicane dealt with this issue together with another problem that had developed over the sixteen years since the circuit.

When Formula One began racing in 1991 the cars aerodynamics were relatively simple and the cars could follow closely through th final two corners before the long start/finish straight.

The car behind was able to use the slipstream along the main straight to set up overtaking manoeuvres into turn 1.

Yet by 2007 the aerodynamics of the cars had become much more sophisticated with the by product of creating vortices behind the rear wing which upset the balance of the following car. 

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FIA revise layout for 2023

This increased level of turbulence meant slipstreaming was no longer possible as the cars could not follow closely enough through the final two corners.

The chicane was then also served the purpose of closing the cars up before the launched out of the final corner and along the long straight.

However, the controversial chicane has been repeatedly criticised over the years for failing to deliver better overtaking opportunities and further often causing huge congestion during the qualifying sessions.

The new breed Formula One cars since the revised FIA regulations of 2022 are much more capable of following closely and so for this year’s Spanish GP the chicane infield section of the Barcelona track will be bypassed and the cars will race on the original circuit configuration.



Better F1 racing

This should spice up the racing for the 2023 Spanish GP at a circuit which has a record of 23 wins being taken by the pole sitter in just 32 F1 races. Further, the only drivers to win from other than the front row of the grid are Michael Schumacher (1996 from P3), Fernando Alonso (from 5th I 2013) and Max Verstappen (from P4 in 2016).

Over the years the advance in safety barrier technology has seen the proliferation of the TechPro barriers used on motorsports circuits around the world.

The barriers are made of a polyethylene contact-wall, hollow on the inside, connected blocks are joined together by double nylon straps.

Techpro minimises damage to cars at low impact and cancel a dangerous phenomenon with rigid systems called the boomerang effect.

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These crash systems are also designed with an anti embedding effect to prevent cars getting buried inside them. Techpro have also designed the soft walls to deliver a rapid deceleration on impact which reduces the levels of injuries suffered when compared with coming to a sudden stop.

By fitting a double set of TechPro at the final corner, the FIA is satisfied the circuit can retain its Grade 1 license with the chicane now removed.

Fernando Alonso believes the chicane at the Barcelona circuit has had its day.

“I think it’s going to be okay, probably more fun to drive,” the Spanish driver suggests.



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”It was a corner that I think was too slow for these Formula 1 cars and the size of these cars as well.”

Alonso describes the awkward chicane layout as less enjoyable to drive, though is uncertain whether reverting to the original layout will improve overtaking.

Fernando is the only driver in Formula One who has driven the original circuit layout and his experience leads him to believe the other drivers will find it “more fun to drive and hopefully we put on a good show for everyone.”

Lewis Hamilton has won six times in Barcelona, a record he shares with Michael Schumacher but one he is unlikely to improve on this year.

The only other winners of this race competing this season are Fernando Alonso (2006,2013) and Max Verstappen (2016, 2022) and the Dutch double world champion is one of four F1 drivers to claim their maiden F1 victory in Spain.

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2 responses to “Spanish GP set for “spice up”

  1. I’m happy the dreadful chicane is finally gone, which will definitely improve lap flow.
    Overtaking is another matter, though, as following through high-speed corners is generally harder than slow-speed ones.
    Additionally, the new layout isn’t ‘original’ because the T10 configurations pre-2007 were different from the current version that debuted in 2021.

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