The Spanish Grand Prix is one of the oldest races in existence. It celebrated its centenary in 2013, but the race itself didn’t make it onto the Formula 1 calendar until 1968. Since then it has become a staple of the calendar and the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalonia has become one of the best-known tracks to teams and drivers thanks to it hosting winter testing as well as the fifth race of the season.
This version of the circuit has been used since 2007, when the final sector was tightened up and the new chicane (turn 14 & 15) was introduced. The track is a flowing ribbon of tarmac with some dramatic elevation changes that test every aspect of car and driver. There are smooth curves, hairpins, slow and tight corners and some flatout corners that test ones bravery. There aren’t a lot of places to overtake around the Catalonia track, but you can create opportunities at a few places.
Spain features one of the longest runs from start/finish line to first corner. This creates a serious slipstream down the pit straight, which is also a DRS zone. The best case scenario here is that you can get past before you reach the braking zone for turn 1, but if you can’t then the early corners create a lot of different angles to make a move. Turn 1 is not slow, it’s a fourth-gear right-hander that opens out into a flatout left-right switch for turn 2 and 3. Diving up the inside into turn 1 if the optimum way to make a pass on this lap, but if they go ultra defensive you can drift around the outside, just be careful on the inside kerb at turn 2 as it can easily spin your car round.
This is a good spot for a dive up the inside if your on fresh tyres or against the AI. Turn 4 can be punishing on the tyres and for a driver that is deep into a stint it is hard to power out of this corner and get a good run to turn 5. This means you can quickly get an overspeed and make good use of fresh tyres by diving into the hairpin and stopping in a hurry. The AI is also relatively weak on entry to this corner, so if you are pushing for an extra place in career mode this is a good spot to gain a place.
The second DRS zone sits between the flatout, blind, turn 9 and the extremely tight left-hander of turn 10. This creates another overtaking spot that can be exploited if you are on fresh tyres. It’s tough to get around the outside here, so if your opponent is closely guarding the inside line then don’t be too hasty to try and drive around the outside of this corner as you’ll quickly find yourself off the track.
Those are the best overtaking places, but there are some corners around this track that can cause errors, giving you an opportunity to get past that you may not have expected.
As we said, turn 9 is flatout, but this does not mean it’s easy. The entry is blind and you have to simply throw it in and hope the car sticks. The gravel trap on the outside of the track on exit creates a real problem if your tyres give up the ghost or you get your entry point wrong. You can take an inch with the front left tyre, but getting a rear tyre wide can throw you across the track into the wall on the right-hand side or simply slow you so much that you can’t defend your place into turn 10.
This new chicane has been a pain for every driver. It is painfully slow, but to try and push through it will only see you compromise your exit onto the pit straight and lose time all the way down to turn 1. The best course of action here is to take it easy though this chicane. Don’t try and throw a move up the inside unless it is on the last lap because it will only cost you a front wing or put you way off line for the exit.
Spain is punishing on tyres, so it is best to be lenient on them with your setup. You will also want a good amount of rear downforce to keep the back planted as you accelerate around turn 3 and turn 9. You can see our setup here, but remember that your own driving style and level of assists could require some tweaks so that it provides the optimum pace.
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