Reports

Spanish F1 Grand Prix

Spanish Grand Prix - Preview

Circuit stats
2015 winner Nico Rosberg, 66 laps, 1:41:12.555s
2015 pole position Nico Rosberg, 1m24.681s
2015 fastest lap Lewis Hamilton, 1m28.270s, (lap 54)
Name Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
First race 1991
Circuit length 4.655km/2.892 miles (14th longest track of the year)
Distance to Turn One 730m/0.454 miles (longest of the season)
Longest straight 1.047km/0.651 miles, on the approach to Turn One (the longest of the season: China, 1.17km/0.727 miles)
Top speed 345km/h/214mph, on the approach to Turn One (fastest of season: Monza, 360km/h/224mph)
Pitlane length 330m/0.206 miles, estimated time loss 22s (longest of season: Silverstone, 457m/0.283 miles)
Full throttle 63 per cent (highest of season: Monza, 75 per cent)
DRS zones Two, on the approaches to Turns One and 10
Key corner Turn Three, an uphill right-hander, through which the cars accelerate from 180km/h (112mph) to 260km/h (162mph). To be fast through here, a car needs a good high-speed balance
Fastest corner 265km/h (165mph), Turn Nine
Slowest corner 75km/h (47mph), Turn 10
Major changes for 2016 No major changes
Fuel consumption 1.7kg per lap, making it fairly average
ERS demands Medium
Brake wear Medium. There are eight braking events around the lap, but only two big stops, into Turns One and 10
Gear changes 44 per lap/2904 per race
Circuit facts
History lesson The Circuit de Catalunya has been a permanent fixture on the F1 calendar since 1991. Such is the track’s eclectic mix of corners, it has become F1’s preferred testing venue, but it hasn’t always hosted motorised events. It was one of the many building projects ahead of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, during which the track hosted the time-trial cycling events.
What makes the track unique The number of medium and high-speed corners. Only three of the circuit’s 16 turns are taken at less than 100km/h (62mph) and the result is an average speed of 200km/h (124mph).
Grip levels High. The asphalt is old and abrasive, which means grip levels are good. So good, in fact, that the front-left tyre gets worked really hard through the fast right-hander, Turn Three.
Run-off Medium. The track was built in 1991, so it cannot be described as old, but it precedes the modern obsession with asphalt run-off areas. For that reason, there is still a lot of gravel and, in a few places, not huge amounts of run-off.
Watch out for… Turn Nine. This is a very fast right-hander, taken in sixth gear at 165km/h. Drivers need to be extremely accurate with their steering inputs and throttle applications, or, at best, they risk losing a lot of time down the ensuing straight.

The drivers on: the circuit

#14 Fernando Alonso

“It’s notoriously difficult to overtake in Barcelona, so it’s important to get a good start and stay out of trouble on the first lap. After that, it’s a case of getting the strategy right, managing the tyre wear and maximising performance at the right times.

“It’s a fast circuit, so it’s certainly demanding for both the car and driver. The power unit, too, has to work very hard with such high average speeds. As always, reliability is a priority first and foremost, but I hope that the chassis upgrades we’ll test on Friday will see us continue to push race by race, and allow us to keep fighting towards the front alongside our rivals in the midfield.”

#22 Jenson Button

“The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is not a circuit that would traditionally suit us, since it’s fairly hard on both the chassis and the power units, but I feel I have a solid car underneath me, and we’re putting in pretty consistent performances on a variety of circuits, even if our results don’t necessarily reflect all the work that’s going on back at base.  

“In Barcelona it’s a long run down to Turn One, so I hope I can get a better start than I did in Sochi and avoid any tangles. For the race, the track surface is very abrasive and tyre wear is high, so it’ll be interesting to see how strategies play out with the softer tyre compounds we’re taking there, and learn to manage them effectively as the weekend progresses.”

Event stats
Start time 14:00hrs local/13:00hrs BST
Race distance 66 laps (full world championship points will be awarded after 75 per cent distance/49.5 laps)
Safety Car likelihood 35 per cent. If there is a Safety Car, the history of this race would suggest that it’ll come on the opening lap
When to press record Lap One. Overtaking is difficult around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, even with two DRS zones, so drivers tend to be aggressive on the opening lap. That sometimes results in contact and the emergence of the Safety Car
Don’t put the kettle on on or around laps 15 and 25. Last year’s race was won with a two-stop strategy, but that could turn out to be different in 2016 because Pirelli are taking their soft-compound tyres to the race for the first time, which could force more pitstops
Weather conditions now 17 degrees and cloudy
Race forecast 20 degrees
Tyre choices Soft/Medium/Hard, the first time this year that this combination has been used
Event facts
First Spanish Grand Prix 1951
Slogan There’s no official slogan for the race, but the official song of the 1992 Olympic Games was “Amigos Para Siempre” (Friends Forever), composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Spain’s F1 heritage This race is one of the most established on the F1 calendar, but it was only when Fernando Alonso started to win races that the sport became engrained in the national psyche. Barcelona is the sixth Spanish venue to host a world championship grand prix, after Pedralbes, Montjuic Park, Jarama, Jerez and Valencia.
Smallest winning margin 0.014s, at Jerez in 1986. A late pitstop for fresh tyres saw Nigel Mansell fall 20s behind race leader Ayrton Senna with nine laps to go. Mansell drove some electrifying laps, but he was just beaten by Senna – the second smallest winning margin in F1 history.
Sporting legacy: Motorbike racing was the most popular form of motorsport in Spain, until Fernando Alonso made his F1 debut in 2001. Such was his popularity when he started to win races that there were two races in Spain for four years, one in Barcelona and the other in Valencia, but the country could only financially sustain one race, which left Barcelona.
Did you know? Until 2005 only world champions had won around Barcelona. The sequence was broken by Kimi Räikkönen, who went on to become world champion in ’07.
Don’t forget Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button have both won races in Spain. Fernando took victories in 2006 and ’13 at Barcelona and ’12 in Valencia; Jenson won at Barcelona in 2009.
Fan zone: Steve, aged 28, from Ontario, asks: “Does the use of motorhomes at the European races make your lives easier than at the long haul races?” McLaren’s answer: “The motorhomes themselves don’t make life easier because we have everything that we need at the long distance races. What’s easier in Europe is the proximity of the MTC; we can transport new parts and spares to the track overnight, if necessary, without having to worry about air freight. This is one of the reasons why the teams tend to bring performance upgrades to this race.”

The drivers on: the event

#14 Fernando Alonso

“After an eventful few races, and after a good result for us in Russia, I’m looking forward to going ‘home’ to Barcelona and race in my country in front of my home fans. The atmosphere there is always incredible for any Spanish driver, and I have some very special memories from my wins there in 2012 and 2013. 

“We’re still learning a lot about our package as we visit each track, so it’s useful that we already have a lot of data from testing there that we can use to understand its characteristics and how our car will react to them. Our performance in qualifying is something we’re working on all the time, to give us the best chance in the race. Getting into Q3 will certainly be difficult at this track, but, with the Spanish fans behind me, that’s got to be our aim.”

#22 Jenson Button

“It’s exciting to start the European season off the back of a positive race for the whole team in Sochi. There’s definitely a feeling in the camp that we’re making progress, so I’m hopeful that we can continue this momentum in Barcelona.  

“It’s always exciting to come back to Europe for the first race in Spain. The fans are always incredibly enthusiastic, and there’s a very familiar feel at this circuit as we spend so much more time there than in other places. We have some more new parts to test on the car again for this race, so I hope we can see another positive step in our performance over the weekend.” 

Hear from the management

Eric Boullier

“Our double points finish in Sochi was certainly a motivating factor for the whole team back in Woking, Sakura and Milton Keynes, but it’s only just the start of an upward curve that we hope to continue riding for the rest of the season.  

“In Russia, there’s no doubt we gained from others’ misfortune in some ways, but both our drivers report positively about the balance of the car, which reassures us that we’ve created a solid foundation, and that we can have faith in the direction in which we’re going.

“We’re always impatient for more, but I’m pleased that the hard work consistently being undertaken behind the scenes was finally rewarded with some valuable points, and we head into the European season hopeful of scoring some more positive results at circuits on which our car should theoretically be slightly stronger. That, coupled with an unrelenting development programme, is exciting and gives us optimism for the next few races ahead.  

“It certainly won’t be easy – while we’ll be evaluating upgrades to the car in Barcelona, so will many other teams – but the loyal Spanish fans will be behind Fernando and the team, and we hope to put on a good show for them and carry some positive momentum into the European season.”

Yusuke Hasegawa

“The Spanish Grand Prix marks the beginning of a busy European summer season for Formula One, and after the eventful first four flyaway races and a double points finish in Russia, it is good to see everyone in such high spirits and enjoying the camaraderie within the team.  

“The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a technical circuit that is less strenuous on the power unit compared to the first four races, but much more stressful on the balance of the car. From a power unit perspective, it is important to have the correct amount of deployment, harvesting and throttle response, so our focus will be to deliver the best balance to suit the needs of our drivers. Our power unit development is ongoing and we have not yet confirmed which races we will bring token updates, but hopefully we can fight for more points during Sunday’s race."

Spanish Grand Prix - Practice Report

“Our long-run pace doesn’t look too bad”

A busy day spent fitting and evaluating new components while also tuning MP4-31 into the demands of this demanding Catalan circuit. Jenson worked hard to overcome a sensitive rear-end handling imbalance, which he eventually dialed out at the end of afternoon; Fernando had fewer issues, but required a plank change after running onto some Astroturf at the beginning of FP2.

#14 Fernando Alonso, MP4-31-04
FP1: 1m26.243s (+2.292s) 18 laps 10th
FP2: 1m25.342s (+1.420s) 31 laps 7th

“The feeling with the car today has been pretty good. We need to improve a few things for tomorrow – especially with the grip at the rear. I’m not totally comfortable with the car yet, so we’ll try a few more things. 

“This evening, we’ll go through the data from Jenson and myself and pull together a better solution for tomorrow. 

“Looking ahead to qualifying, I think we’re in the same situation as we were in Russia: the practice times suggest that we can get into the top 10, but you tend to need an extra push to get into Q3, and we don’t have that step quite yet. 

“Still, power unit performance is not as critical here as it was in Russia, so maybe we’ll be able to crack it. Let’s see…”

#22 Jenson Button, MP4-31-03
FP1: 1m27.610s (+3.659s) 19 laps 19th
FP2: 1m25.893s (+1.971s) 20 laps 12th

“I had a pretty average day: FP1 was tough, then we couldn’t get the car out of the garage for the opening part of FP2. 

“Eventually, however, I got some running under my belt – and our long-run pace didn’t look too bad. The balance came together when we ran the Soft tyre at the end of the day, which was encouraging because I had a big issue with the rear-end feeling like it was ‘floating’. We’re getting there. 

“We have upgrades arriving for each race, which is fantastic – but we have to spend a lot of time on Fridays working out whether they work or not. Today was a busy day, but we’ll really be able to focus on performance and qualifying tomorrow. 

“This won’t be the easiest race at which to score points, but we’ll do our best.”

Eric Boullier

“Given the amount of testing we’ve already done at this circuit, people often assume that it’s simply a case of turning up and running here at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. In reality, that’s often far from the case: the temperatures in which we test during the winter months, and the amount of chassis and power unit development undertaken between February and May, means that it often can be difficult to find an ideal balance around here. 

“We struggled a little bit to find the cars’ sweet-spot today, but ended up feeling positive about our progress. In addition, we’ve introduce a fairly comprehensive upgrade package at this race, and we need to go away and measure its effectiveness in order to understand which elements of that suite of parts we take forward into the remainder of the weekend. 

“I must also pay tribute to the hard work of our mechanics – both last night and today. They had plenty on their plate in terms of fixing repairs, fitting upgrades and managing the cars throughout both sessions, but they did a brilliant job. 

“There’s a lot of work left to do, but we’ve already made plenty of progress.”

Yusuke Hasegawa

"Today’s FP1 and FP2 running was focused on understanding the new chassis components that were brought to Spain. I believe that both the drivers and the team understood the characteristics of the new parts as they accumulated laps, but we know that there is more work to be done tomorrow. Therefore, it was encouraging to see that the result today placed us solidly in mid-field, amidst the uncertainty. 

"Both power units have been carried over from Sochi, so we will gather and analyse today’s running data, whilst supporting the team with more running and set-up of the car tomorrow. I think it will be a busy night, but I am looking forward to what our engineers can do for tomorrow’s qualifying."

Spanish Grand Prix - Qualifying Report

“There’s still a long way to go, but this is a good step”

 

Fernando Alonso will start his home grand prix in Spain from 10th position on the grid. Jenson Button will start 12th. 

Fernando’s position is the team’s best qualifying result since the reformation of the McLaren-Honda partnership at the beginning of last year, and, while P10 is hardly cause for celebration, it underlines the measured progress both organisations are making together as they push closer to the front of the grid. 

The team’s aim for tomorrow is to get both cars home in the points.

#14 Fernando Alonso, MP4-31-04
FP3 10th 1m24.555s (+1.477s) , 13 laps
Q1 11th 1m24.578s (on Options)
Q2 10th 1m24.192s (on Options)
Q3 10th 1m23.981s (on Options)

“Today is the first time in a long while that I haven’t watched Q3 on television! 

“And it’s nice to be part of the show. This is new-shape McLaren-Honda’s first time in Q3 – but, in truth, we probably deserved this result a couple of races ago. 

“But never mind that now: let’s just enjoy it before we turn our attention to tomorrow and look at how we can convert it into world championship points. That’ll require some thought because, for the first time this year, we’ll be starting on used Q2 tyres – we don’t have a free choice, which is a slight handicap that we’ll look to recover somehow. 

“Nonetheless, we should be thinking about moving forwards tomorrow – and doing that here is usually all about the start and the pit-stops. Put it this way: I don’t think we’ll see too much overtaking tomorrow. That means we really need to focus on the start, and then look after our tyres because degradation is likely to be a factor. 

“There’s still a long way to go, but this is a good step.”

#22 Jenson Button, MP4-31-03
FP3 15th 1m25.051s (+1.973s), 13 laps
Q1 12th 1m24.583s (on Options)
Q2 12th 1m24.348s (on Options)

“This result has been a long time coming for the McLaren-Honda team. Fair play to Fernando – he’s been very quick all weekend, and this afternoon’s Q3 success is great for the team. 

“Having said that, merely getting into Q3 isn’t where we want to be as a team, but we did a good job today. And I hope it’s put a smile on everyone’s faces. 

“However, it’s been a tough weekend for me. My car has been suffering from a loose-feeling rear end, which isn’t how I like it to feel because it means I can’t fully commit into corners. I tried my best, but driving around that handling characteristic has never been my strong point. 

“Still, I adapted reasonably well to it this weekend, and, to end up just-one-and-a-half tenths off Fernando’s time is the best it’s been all weekend. 

“I’ll start tomorrow’s race on new tyres too, so I’m not too upset.”

Eric Boullier

“Today’s qualifying session was the 24th we’ve entered since we renewed our partnership with Honda – and the result, our first appearance in Q3, is a welcome relief even though it’s taken a long time coming.   

“In truth, however, although Fernando’s having bagged a top-10 grid slot for his home Grand Prix will cheer the local fans, and rightly so, the reason it pleases us is that it’s firm evidence of our slow but sure progress from past lows to future highs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we’re on a journey, a difficult journey, but it’s clear that we’re going in the right direction.   

“Moreover, although Jenson narrowly failed to get through to Q3, he too is very well positioned to launch an aggressive yet canny offensive towards a points-scoring position tomorrow afternoon.   

“We got both cars into the points in Sochi two weeks ago, and a repeat performance has to be our goal here in Barcelona tomorrow.”

Yusuke Hasegawa

“It was a great feeling to reach our first Q3 session as McLaren-Honda with Fernando’s P10 finish today. Jenson also finished a good P12, with only a 0.2 second difference to Fernando, and he has the benefit of selecting his starting tyre. 

"Though still not fully up to their satisfaction, both drivers saw an improvement to the feeling of the car, thanks to the team’s hard work last night. We know that the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a difficult circuit at which to overtake, so hopefully we can use this good starting position to finish with both car in the points."

Spanish Grand Prix - Race Report

“A bittersweet end to an eventful race”

Jenson Button finished ninth in a Spanish Grand Prix that was dominated by thrill and incident. 

Starting 12th, Jenson made a perfect getaway to dive ahead of two cars into the first corner. When the two leaders collided at Turn Four, he finished the first lap in eighth position. From there, he managed his tyres through the race, resisted the pressure from his chasing team-mate Fernando Alonso, pulled off a feisty overtake on Esteban Gutierrez at Turn 10 on lap 61, and maintained his pace ahead of a fast-closing Daniil Kvyat, who was gaining fast on far fresher rubber. 

By his own admission, Fernando didn’t make a good start, but shadowed Jenson, and ran inside the top 10, for much of the race. Unfortunately, he retired on lap 45, when sitting in 12th, preparing to charge for a top-10 finishing position in the final laps.

#14 Fernando Alonso, MP4-31-04
Started 10th
Finished DNF – 45 laps
Fastest lap 1m29.750s on lap 41 (+2.802s, 13th)
Pit-stops Two: lap 11 (2.41s) and 40 (3.40s) [Option/Prime/Prime]

“My car felt okay this afternoon, but I didn’t manage to make a good start and lost everything – so my race was effectively over by the first corner. 

“After that, I followed Jenson for 50 laps and had traffic all race long, so I wasn’t able to do too many laps in free air or show my true pace. 

"At the end, I lost power somehow – we don’t know the exact cause. 

“We weren’t able to capitalise on our reasonable level of competitiveness. With both Mercedes out, we had a good opportunity to score some points today, but we didn’t manage it, so we need to keep improving.”

#22 Jenson Button , MP4-31-03
Started 12th
Finished 9th
Fastest lap 1m30.260s on lap 39 (+3.312s, 18th)
Pit-stops Two: lap 10 (2.63s) and 37 (3.13s) [Option/Prime/Prime]

“It’s a shame that Fernando retired, because we were having a good battle out there.” 

“I had a great start – it must’ve been the best getaway out there! 

“But it wasn’t a very easy race for me. There was no grip at all out there – and, whatever we did, we struggled. But, equally, the leaders weren’t very quick at the end, which made it really difficult for me to manage the situation because Dany [Kvyat] was right behind Seb [Vettel] and Ricci Bobby [Daniel Ricciardo], and he was on fresh rubber. Fortunately, I was just quick enough to stay ahead of those cars, and he couldn’t jump me. 

“We knew it was going to be difficult to score points here, so this result wasn’t too bad.”

Eric Boullier

“Such was the drama of today’s Spanish Grand Prix that few spectators or TV viewers will probably have paid much attention to Jenson’s calm and well-judged run to ninth place – another points-scoring result following immediately after our double-points-scoring success in Sochi two weeks ago.   

“Disappointingly for the local fans, Fernando was unable to score points today, owing to a software command issue that stopped the ICE. Until that moment he’d been driving hard and well, and, but for the problem that ended his race, may well have also finished inside the top 10.

“However, as I’ve said before, mere points aren’t what we at McLaren-Honda are all about – podiums, wins and championships are what float our boat, and undoubtedly they’ll come. I’ll make no predictions about the next race, the unique challenge that is the Monaco Grand Prix, but you may rest assured that we’ll be gunning for a decent result on the notoriously unforgiving streets of the famous Principality.   

“Last but not least, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate young Max [Verstappen], who today became the youngest Grand Prix winner in Formula 1 history, a record held for the past eight years by Sebastian, for the five years before that by Fernando, and for no fewer than 44 years before that by the founder of our company, the great Bruce McLaren.”

Yusuke Hasegawa

“It was a bittersweet end to an eventful Spanish Grand Prix. Fernando’s retirement was caused by a software command issue that stopped the ICE. We think that the power unit as a whole is not damaged from this incident, but we will continue to investigate the effects of this stop. Obviously we will work with the team to see how this kind of situation can be avoided in the races going forward. 

“Jenson started brilliantly, but, on the whole, it was a long and difficult race for him, trying to save tyres while fending off the competition and maintaining position. Therefore, it was a pleasure to see him finish in the points after a difficult weekend.”