Spanish Grand Prixview

By on Sunday, May 6, 2012

World Copyright: Charles Coates/LAT Photographic

“There was something in the air that night
The stars were bright, Fernando
They were shining there for you and me
For liberty, Fernando”

After all of the controversy surrounding the Bahrain Grand Prix, Formula One can return to focusing on racing as the European season begins at the Circuit de Catalunya, just outside of the North-Eastern city of Barcelona. The track joined the calendar in 1991 and played host to some insipid racing in front of sparse crowds as citizens on the Iberian Peninsula focused most of their support on MotoGP. The arrival Fernando Alonso in Formula One changed everything, meaning that the Spanish Grand Prix is now packed to the brim with enthusiastic fans supporting their man from the Northern coastal town of Oviedo. Spanish fans may have one of the best drivers in the history of motor racing to cheer for, but there will also be home support for Pedro De La Rosa and HRT, who spent the three week gap moving to their new base in Madrid as they bid to move forwards towards becoming a credible grand prix outfit. However, success for Fernando Alonso this weekend appears unlikely while HRT will simply be aiming to see the chequered flag.

Fernando Alonso won at home in 2006

Memorable Moments

The braking zone down into the first corner provided F1 fans with possibly the most iconic five seconds of footage in history as Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna were separated by mere millimetres in the inaugural race in 1991. Michael Schumacher has won in Spain on six occasions, with his most memorable races being 1994 and 1996. Schumacher astonishingly finished second in 1994 despite running for a significant portion of the event stuck in gear, while his extraordinary drive in the wet in 1996 has gone down in F1 folklore as he dominated in an inferior machine to win for the first time in a Ferrari. There was heartbreak for Mika Hakkinen in 2001 as he appeared to be cruising to victory – he was leading Michael Schumacher by a huge margin – until an engine failure half a lap from the chequered flag. Fernando Alonso’s win in 2006 sent his fans into delirium, while his start in the 2011 event will live long in the memory of those who were present to witness it.

It's not the most exciting circuit, but Campsa is an old-school corner

The track

Unfortunately for F1 fans, the Circuit de Catalunya is used extensively throughout winter testing, meaning that the drivers know the track like the back of their hands. Mistakes are rare although they still naturally occur. Turn 3 will provide a good indication of which car has the most downforce, but Campsa – Turn 9 – will be the barometer. Red Bull took this corner flat in 2010 with their amazing RB6 and whoever carries the most speed through Campsa in qualifying should feel pretty comfortable with their package. The final sector is fairly uneventful, especially after modifications in 2007 removed the fast double right hander to finish the lap. The replacement of a torturous chicane hasn’t helped overtaking and has simply removed the spectacle of drivers on the limit. A real shame. For all of you anoraks out there, most of the turns have branded names (Elf, Renault, Campsa, La Caixa, Europcar), which means that under product placement rules, commentators are prohibited from calling the turns by their real names.

Can Hamilton claim his first 2012 win? Or will Vettel emerge victorious again?

What might happen?

McLaren needs a big fight back. But on a track that has been firmly Red Bull territory for the last two seasons, they could be in for a tough challenge. One advantage for the Woking based team will be the long pit straight, although this will inevitably favour Mercedes with their double DRS in qualifying. Neither Ferrari driver can be looking forward to a race that will highlight their problems – remember that Alonso was lapped in the F150, a car nowhere near as atrocious as the F2012 – while Lotus will be hoping that they can build on their double podium in Bahrain. Tyres will once again be crucial, with the Pirelli rubber taking a battering through Elf and Campsa in particular. Alexander Rossi will test for Caterham in FP1, the first American to take part in a session since Scott Speed back in 2007.

Stats and Facts

Race Date: 13 May 2012
Circuit Name: Circuit de Catalunya
Number of Laps: 66
Circuit Length: 4.655 km
Race Distance: 307.104 km
Lap Record: 1:21.670 - K Raikkonen (2008)

Past winners:
2011 - S. Vettel (Red Bull)
2010 - M. Webber (Red Bull)
2009 - J. Button (Brawn GP)
2008 - K. Raikkonen (Ferrari)
2007 - F. Massa (Ferrari)
2006 - F. Alonso (Renault)

Past pole sitters:
2011 - M. Webber (Red Bull)
2010 - M. Webber (Red Bull)
2009 - J. Button (Brawn GP)
2008 - K. Raikkonen (Ferrari)
2007 - F. Massa (Ferrari)
2006 - F. Alonso (Renault)

Timetable (Local Time: GMT+2)

Free Practice 1, Friday 10:00 > 11:30

Free Practice 2, Friday 1400 > 15:30

Free Practice 3, Saturday 11:00 > 12:00

Qualifying, Saturday 14:00

Race, Sunday 14:00


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