There is a reason Formula 1 teams run winter testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The track has a bit of everything and is a very good test for the balance and pace of a Formula 1 car.
The Spanish Grand Prix is one of the oldest in the world, first being held in 1913 and has an amazing history. In 1991 Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell had their epic battle. It was the venue of Michael Schumacher's incredible drive to a podium in 1994 despite only having 5th gear available.
In F1 games the track often falls into the AI-dominated category thanks to a very technical final sector and some very high tyre wear that can arise if your setup is off even slightly.
Finding the balance between cornering grip, straight line speed, and preserving your rubber is perhaps finer here than anywhere else and with three high-wear right-handers the left-front tyre can melt if you aren't careful.
So how should you set your car up to find success in sunny Spain?
A balanced aerodynamic setup is vital. The final sector of this track is a slow, technical, nightmare that requires good levels of front end grip, but it opens into the long pit straight and the only real overtaking chance, so too much front wing will turn you into a barge.
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Meanwhile, too little rear downforce and you won't be able to carry speed through the prolonged corners and the car will become unpredictable when you turn the wheel.
To find that balance we have used a 4-8 wing setup. This should give you the speed down the straight to defend and attack, but also enough precision and grip in the corners to maintain speed and clock a quality lap.
This part of the setup describes how power is transferred through the rear wheels and into the tarmac. Moving the sliders left allows the rear wheels to rotate more independently, preventing spins when straddling kerbing, while moving it right improves traction.
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If you use the full traction control assist the on-throttle section isn't too vital. This has been set using medium traction control. I find that 65% is an excellent spot for the race as it doesn't stress the rear tyres too much and allows you to get on the power confidently. This can be adjusted in-race though, so you can set it higher in qualifying for better traction.
The off-throttle differential is how the wheels rotate when you are braking or coasting. The benefit of our more locked 90% setting is that it keeps the rears rotating similarly so you can put your foot down more, though it does add a touch of wear to the outside tyres when cornering.
For the Circuit de Cataluyna we don't want to move the values too far from the baseline so we protect the tyres. We have moved the cambers to the right a touch, adding 2 clicks (-2.80) to the fronts and 1 (-1.40) to the rears to help provide more grip when cornering and help us carry more speed through the key corners.
With the toe we have taken a touch away on the front (0.09) to improve straight-line speed a bit, and added some (0.41) on the rears as it helps with stability when on the power.
Suspension is another crucial part of the setup as it establishes the overall stiffness of the car as well as it's height.
We have gone as soft as possible on the suspension with a 1-1 setting. We have enough aerodynamic effect to handle the movement in weight this creates, but it allows us to ride the kerbs more aggressively, something that is vital for the final sector.
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The anti-roll bars are set fairly stiff to prevent body roll when cornering and allow us to change direction quickly. Again this is useful for the final sector but also the two fast chicanes of turn 1-2 and 7-8. The 9-7 setting does add to tyre wear in the prolonged corners, but we can do this because we have protected them with the geometry settings.
Ride height is set to 3-4 so the car is nice and low on the straight. The higher rear also creates a rake which creates additional downforce and more responsiveness into the corners.
There aren't too many big braking spots on this track, but stopping power is still crucial, especially when attempting an overtake. If you have the ABS assist on you can set the brake pressure pretty high, as we have here with an 87% value. If you don't have that assist on then this will create too many lockups so lowering it into the 70s will be necessary.
We have pushed the brake bias rearwards to 54%. This helps keep the front responsive when braking.
Another tyre wear-conscious move is to lower the front tyre pressures a touch. This will help distribute heat better so we have gone down to 22.6 psi on the fronts. To prevent too much rolling resistance we have left the rear tyres at 21.5 psi.
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So that's our Spanish Grand Prix setup. It is a very stable setup that is extremely user-friendly. You aren't having to wrestle the car through the third sector or losing bags of time down the straights. It does very well in the career mode tyre wear practice program and can make the softs actually last as predicted in a race.