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Battling Barcelona - The Circuit de Catalunya Track Guide

by Team ZigWheels Posted on 10 May 2012 224 Views

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Round 5 of the Formula 1 World Championship brings us to Barcelona, Spain for the first European round of the season. Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane talks us through the challenges of the Circuit de Catalunya

 

Barcelona

 

 

The Venue

The Circuit de Catalunya is highly familiar to the teams, with a significant portion of pre-season testing undertaken here in addition to the race. 2012 will mark the 22nd time that the Spanish Grand Prix has been held at the circuit, and the 54th time that the country has hosted a Formula 1 Grand Prix overall.
The track itself contains a mix of high and low speed corners, with an abrasive track surface and varying temperature providing a good setup challenge to the engineers. Michael Schumacher is the most successful driver here with 6 victories, although Lotus F1 Team driver Kimi Räikkönen has also taken 2 wins at the 4.655km circuit, and currently holds the lap record with a 1:21.670 set in 2008.

 

 

Circuit de Catalunya

 

 

The Circuit

Turns 1 & 2 form a quick part of the circuit with a swift change of direction in between the first two bends. Turn 1 is one of the few corners on the track where overtaking is possible. Carrying high speed from the exit of turn 2, combined with a good line heading into the very fast turn 3 is crucial to a good lap time.
The high speed nature of turn 3 itself puts a lot of stress through the tyres, especially the front left. Similarly, turn 4 is another which places heavy demands on the tyres (again predominantly the front left), with the car turning and braking from high speed into the tight bend.

With downhill braking into turn 5 corner it’s very easy to lock the front tyres – as the driver brakes and turns inwards the road falls away from the car, so the inside front tyre can easily lock.

The slowest corner on the track, turn 10 is a good test of the car’s traction. With high fuel loads this will be taken in first or second gear, followed by a wide exit into turn 11 which is taken flat out.

Turns 14 & 15 provide a more technical part of the track, with some large kerbs which drivers are advised to avoid as the car is not set-up to handle them. It’s essential to have a good car through Turn 16 to maximise the run down the long straight. In qualifying it’s taken pretty much flat out, but with high fuel and a bit of tyre degradation it becomes trickier.

The track surface is quite abrasive, meaning the tyres get a double whammy as the circuit layout puts them through their paces too.

 

 

Lotus F1 Team E20

 

 


The Car


Similar levels of downforce are required to those seen in Bahrain, which are a little bit higher than Shanghai. A reasonably long straight here means an effective DRS systems helps, even though the straight isn’t as long as that seen in China. Sufficient front wing is required to eliminate understeer through the first and final turns.

In terms of suspension, there is no particular kerb usage so the car can run lower than otherwise. Turn 16 is the essential corner; if you have a good car through here it maximises the run down the long straight. In qualifying it’s pretty much a flat out corner, but with high fuel and a bit of tyre degradation it becomes a bit trickier.
There are no real issues with braking at all here. The demands are not great and testing here means we know what to expect. It will be a case of tuning our front and rear ducts to achieve the correct temperatures for best braking performance, with no particular concerns over wear.

Pirelli’s P Zero Yellow Soft and P Zero Silver hard tyres will be nominated for this race. Barcelona can be tough on tyres due to the circuit layout and track surface abrasion. The long, fast turn 3 puts a particularly heavy load on the left front tyre. Turn 5 can also present locking of the front tyres caused by braking and turning into the corner as the road falls away from the car.

This is a track we know well from testing, but the main difference with the race is that the track temperatures will be much higher, meaning the tyres will work differently. Set-ups used in winter testing to make the tyres warm-up quicker will not be needed.
Regarding the engine, good all-round driveability is needed, particularly during the lower speed corners in the second half of the lap.

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