BARCELONA — Round five of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship sees the teams journey to the Circuit de Catalunya for the Spanish Grand Prix. After beginning the year with four long haul races, the European season starts here – with a return to the circuit that hosted two-thirds of this year’s preseason testing.
The track itself is famed for offering a broad examination of Formula One machinery with its mix of medium and high-speed corners, a low-speed complex and a long straight. As a venue it hasn’t, however, proved to be particularly conducive to overtaking: the corner combinations tending to make following and attacking very difficult – even with DRS.
Barcelona in May is a very different proposition to Barcelona in February. Temperatures are on average some 15°C higher, and this changes the challenge completely. What doesn’t change is the abrasive nature of the asphalt.
Given the evidence of the first four races in 2013, Pirelli have decided to move away from the Hard/Soft allocation favored in Spain for the past two years, and instead will bring the Hard and Medium compounds. The Hard, however, is not the tire that saw use in Malaysia and Bahrain. Pirelli have tweaked their offering, making it closer to that used in 2012.
Coming to Spain, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing lead their respective championships – but this does little to disguise the fact that it has been another weird and wonderful beginning to the year, with more questions asked than answered in March and April. The Circuit de Catalunya is regarded as the first ‘normal’ track of the season, and has frequently provided a solid indication of overall car performance — on 16 occasions from 22 runnings the team winning in Barcelona has collected the Constructors’ Championship trophy at the end of the year.
►The Circuit de Catalunya became the home of the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix in 1991, taking over from Jerez de la Frontera (1986-90). The race has also been held at the Jarama circuit in Madrid (1967-8, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976-80), Montjuïc (1969, 1971, 1973, 1975) and Pedralbes (1951, 1954). Only five circuits on the current F1 calendar have a longer continuous run (Interlagos, Silverstone, the Hungaroring, Monza and Monaco).
►The Circuit de Catalunya is one of three Spanish Grand Prix venues located in the vicinity of Barcelona. The others – Pedralbes and Montjuïc – were within the boundaries of the modern city. This track, despite frequently being referred to simply as ‘Barcelona’, is not.
► Pastor Maldonado’s Spanish Grand Prix victory last year saw a number of ‘firsts’ recorded. It was his first start from pole position, his first victory, and the first win for a Venezuelan in Formula One.
► Maldonado is the only driver to win a grand prix at the Circuit de Catalunya and for that to be his solitary victory of the season.
► Maldonado’s win, however, should not be regarded as surprising. Taking pole position (after Lewis Hamilton was excluded from the qualifying result) made him a favourite. Starting from pole at this circuit has historically been the key to victory: 18 times from the 22 races, the driver starting P1 has won the race. Of the four drivers to buck the trend, Mika Häkkinen, Nigel Mansell, and Sebastian Vettel were all front-row starters.
► Ferrari is the constructor with the best record at the circuit. The Scuderia has won here seven times, Williams has six victories, McLaren four, Red Bull two, Benetton/Renault two and Brawn one.
► Regarding drivers, Schumacher (1995, 1996, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004) is out in front with six victories at this circuit. Häkkinen (1998, 1999, 2000) has three wins, Kimi Räikkönen (2005, 2008) and Nigel Mansell (1991, 1992) two each. The race has also been won by Alain Prost (1993), Damon Hill (1994), Jacques Villeneuve (1997), Fernando Alonso (2006), Felipe Massa (2007), Jenson Button (2009), Mark Webber (2010) and Vettel (2011). Mansell and Prost also won at Jerez.