Reports

Spanish F1 Grand Prix

2017 SPANISH GRAND PRIX – SET UP

The Spanish Grand Prix has been a Formula 1 staple for almost as long as the world championship itself. The race has been on the calendar since 1951 and it has kicked off the European leg of the season since 1993.

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is also a popular testing venue, due to its eclectic mix of slow, 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)

NEED TO KNOW

Race title Formula 1 Gran Premio de España Pirelli 2017
Circuit name Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
First race 1951

TRAVEL

City Barcelona
Time zone BST +1
Population 3 million
Surprising fact Montjuic Park, situated in the hills above Barcelona, is the former home of the Spanish Grand Prix (last race: 1975); at 203 hectares, it’s the largest park in Spain
Weather Spring is a wonderful time to visit Barcelona. The temperature is usually in the mid-20s and the forecast for the race is good

Track

Track length 4.655km / 2.892 miles
2016 pole position Lewis Hamilton - 1:22.000s
2016 winner Max Verstappen, 66 laps - 1:41:40.017s
2016 fastest lap Daniil Kvyat - 1:26.948s (lap 53)
Lap record 1:21.670s (Kimi Räikkönen, 2008)
Tyre choice Yellow Soft | White Medium | Orange Hard (the first time this combination has been used in 2017)
Distance to Turn One 730m/0.454 miles (longest of season)
Longest straight 1.047km/0.651 miles
Top speed 335 kmh / 208 mph (on the approach to Turn One)
Full throttle 65 percent
Brake wear Medium. There are eight braking events around the lap, but only two big stops, into Turns One and 10
Fuel consumption 1.7kg per lap, which is average.
ERS demands Medium
Gear changes 44 per lap / 2904 per race

RACE

Laps 66 laps
Start time 14:00hrs local / 13:00hrs BST / 14:00hrs CET
Grid advantage Pole position is located on the left side of the track, on the racing line. There is more grip available there, but it’s the longest run to Turn One of the season and a lot can change during that initial 730-metre sprint
DRS There are two DRS zones, on the approaches to Turns One and 10
Don't put the kettle on... Last year’s race was won using a two-stop strategy (laps 12 and 34), while Sebastian Vettel was the first three-stopper home in third place. How will this year’s more durable tyre compounds affect strategy? If it’s another one-stop race, expect cars to pit from lap 25 onwards
Pitlane length/Pitstops 330m / 0.206 miles. Estimated time loss for a pitstop is 21s, which is relatively short
Safety Car 37 per cent, which is low. If there is a Safety Car, it usually comes on lap one when drivers are jostling for position – as was the case last year, when both Mercedes collided
Watch out for... Turn Nine. This 210km/h (130mph) right-hander rises over a crest, meaning the car becomes light just as the drivers are re-applying the power ahead of the long straight down to Turn 10. There were several high-speed spins at this corner during winter testing; expect more drama this weekend

THE DRIVERS

FERNANDO ALONSO

“I’m really excited about returning to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix. It’s my home race, I’ve had some great times there, and the atmosphere is always crazy. We spend a lot of time there in pre-season testing, but there’s nothing quite like the emotion of racing there in front of your home fans. It’s a very special feeling. 

“After a run of difficult races for us, I’m not sure what we can expect from this weekend. We’re expecting some various new parts – which we bring to every race – but we can’t really focus too much on performance until we have solved our reliability issues. That’s always our focus. 

“I know the team is working extremely hard to get to the bottom of our recent problems, and I am hopeful we can have a smooth race and a weekend with very few issues. For me, qualifying has been an exciting session in the past few races and I hope we can repeat that in Barcelona, but the most important thing will be to maximise whatever grid slot we achieve on Saturday, on race day.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

“Although we weren’t proud of our performance at the Russian Grand Prix, we could still take some positives from the weekend and I’m pleased I was able to finish the race, after a few tough weekends. It was important for me to get some more mileage under my belt, and we managed to gather a lot of valuable information, which is helping to shape the development of both the chassis and the power unit as we continue through the season. 

“I’m looking forward to starting the European season at the Spanish Grand Prix. I know the circuit well from previous races I’ve done there and of course from pre-season testing, and we have a lot of useful data about the track and the way the car behaves there. Hopefully this will mean we can start the weekend on a positive note and have a smooth weekend. 

“The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a fun track to drive, and pretty fast, so it’s quite demanding for both the car and the driver. It’s very tricky to overtake there, and, as it’s a quick track, average speed is quite high, so it’ll be a challenging one for us. It’s traditionally a circuit that’s tough on tyres, but I’m interested to see how the new compounds will change how the race unfolds. As always, though, I’m ready for the challenge and excited to go racing again.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“While the start of the year and the first round of fly-away races have not been easy for McLaren-Honda, we’re looking forward to returning to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the Spanish Grand Prix, marking the start of the European leg of the season. 

“We don’t anticipate a huge change of fortunes at this race, but getting Stoffel to the end of the grand prix in Sochi was a small reward for all the hard work being put in behind the scenes to address our reliability issues, and hopefully a sign of more positive things to come for the team. 

“Like the majority of teams, we’ll be taking this opportunity to introduce some new elements to the car, and, with the enthusiasm of the Spanish fans behind us, I hope we’ll be able to complete some solid running and see an improvement in our reliability. It would be good to kick off the European races with some positive momentum, and what better place than in Spain with the full support of the passionate Spanish crowd.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“After wrapping up the first of this season's fly-away races, we’re now heading to Spain to kick off the European rounds of the championship. 

“The first few races have been challenging for us, with a number of reliability issues plaguing our running. We’re continuing to work hard as a team to improve both the reliability and the performance of our power unit moving forward. 

“The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a technical circuit with a mixture of various types of corners. Its character is different to that of the first four races, which were typically power circuits and it’ll be less strenuous on the power unit. The most important focus for us in Spain will be the total balance of the car, therefore we’ll aim to maximise our time in each practice session to work out the best balance of the car with McLaren. 

“We’re hoping to have a good race here and build some momentum for the coming races. It’s also Fernando’s home race, so we want to give him the best package possible in front of his home crowd.”

2017 SPANISH GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE

"HOPEFULLY TOMORROW WE CAN EXTRACT A LITTLE BIT MORE"

It was a difficult start for Fernando at his home race in FP1, when he suffered an engine problem causing him to stop out on track at Turn Two on his first lap out of the garage. The team elected to change the power unit, and the mechanics worked extremely hard to get Fernando back out on track shortly after the start of FP2. Fernando completed 21 laps but struggled a little to find a rhythm, and could only manage the 20th fastest time. 

On the other side of the garage, Stoffel had a much more productive day. The first practice session was spent evaluating new aero components, and although planned set-up changes split his running in two, he finished the morning with 24 laps under his belt, and set the 13th fastest time. In FP2, the focus switched to longer, higher fuel runs. Despite an interruption due to a red flag to clear debris out on track, Stoffel completed 36 laps without any issues, and once again finished the session in P13.

Both our drivers were able to take advantage of a trouble-free session in FP3, completing their run programmes and conducting important evaluations on our new upgrades and set-up configurations.

Fernando completed 16 laps and set the 10th-fastest time on his Option tyres, and Stoffel, who reported low grip while fine-tuning the balance of the car, drove 15 laps and finished the session in 19th.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-03
FP1 No time set 1 lap 20th
FP2 1:24.077s (+3.275s) 21 laps 20th
FP3 1:22.093 (+1.879s) 16 laps 10th

“Obviously, it’s not an ideal start to the weekend as we completely missed the first practice session because of an engine problem. At least I managed to get some training done – when I heard I had two hours before the next commitment I decided to do just that. I’ve had very little time in the last few weeks to train, and my dedication is still 100 per cent on my fitness and my preparation. 

“The poor show in the afternoon session was due to the fact that first of all, you need to calibrate the engine when you put in a new power unit, so in the first couple of runs the power was a little bit inconsistent. We ran out of time, so we put on a new set of tyres even though not everything was calibrated. Towards the end of the session, when we put in more fuel and we were running in similar conditions to everyone else, we were doing more or less the lap time we were expecting, close to our main competitors for the race. 

“I feel confident that tomorrow, when we’ll put everything together, we’ll be in a more or less competitive position and hopefully we can be close to the others.”

Stoffel Vandoorne

#SV2 MCL32-01
FP1 1:24.400s (+2.879s) 24 laps 13th
FP2 1:22.693s (+1.891s) 36 laps 13th
FP3 1:22.853s (+2.639s) 15 laps 19th

“I’ve definitely had one of my best Fridays so far. It’s the first time that I’ve had a Friday this season without any big problems – we ran through our programme without any big issues, so that was good.

“Everything ran smoothly on my side, however, we saw that on Fernando’s side it was a bit more complex. Unfortunately, he missed FP1 and didn’t do so many laps in FP2, so it still shows that reliability is one of the key issues we have to work on for the next few races.  

“We’ve brought quite a few upgrades to this race, but at the moment it’s different to judge any of them individually. At the moment, everything is working pretty much as expected, and tonight there’s a lot to analyse to see exactly how the day ran. Hopefully tomorrow we can fine-tune everything a bit, and extract a little bit more.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“Today wasn’t a great day, obviously, especially for the local hero, Fernando, whose running was truncated by an oil leak whose causation we’re still in the process of trying to determine. 

“However, Stoffel had a trouble-free day, and consequently put in a decent number of laps in both FP1 and FP2, ending up 13th-quickest in both sessions. 

“Friday lap-times are rarely a reliable barometer of actual relative performance, of course; but, even so, we’re pleased that we now have data sufficient to do the necessary number-crunching prior to FP3 tomorrow morning and quali tomorrow afternoon.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“Today was unfortunately a tough day for Fernando at his home grand prix. Shortly after exiting the garage in FP1 a mechanical issue caused an oil leak forcing him to stop out on track. We opted to change the PU before the start of FP2, and we are still investigating the root cause of the problem. The team worked incredibly hard to get him back out on track and maximise data collection for tomorrow’s FP3 and qualifying.

“On the other side of the garage, Stoffel completed 60 laps, and we were able to run through his programme without any problems, which included confirming the effectiveness of the small update installed this weekend, and I think it worked well to improve his performance. 

"Despite having a disappointing day today, we still think we have chance to recover the situation in the coming qualifying and race. Our team will have to make another hard effort tonight to send our drivers back on track for tomorrow’s sessions with the best settings, and we hope to have a better day.”

2017 SPANISH GRAND PRIX – QUALIFYING

"AN UTTERLY COMMITTED YET MILLIMETRE-PERFECT LAP TO END UP P7"

In qualifying, Stoffel Vandoorne was unable to find the sweet spot in the performance of the car after a solid day of running yesterday, and fell foul of the highly competitive nature of the midfield, in which the cars were separated by just a few tenths. That meant he was unable to progress through to Q2; he finished the session in P19.

Fernando had a much more positive qualifying session, reporting that the balance following yesterday’s power unit change felt much improved. He made it through to Q2 in 12th position. In Q2, a spirited final lap allowed him to squeeze into Q3 with P10 – the first time for McLaren-Honda this season. In Q3, he had only one run in which to post a lap, and in typical Fernando fashion in front of his adoring home crowd he put in a sterling effort to extract the maximum out of the package, qualifying in P7.

Fernando Alonso

#FA14 MCL32-03
Q1 1:22.015s (12th) Option tyre
Q2 1:21.251s (10th) Option tyre
Q3 1:21.048s (7th) Option tyre

“Today is one of those days where everything goes right and everything is meeting and exceeding expectations. I’m definitely happy, surprisingly happy, after how our weekend started yesterday, and our qualifying results so far this season. P7 was not something we were even thinking about.

“Even if yesterday we didn’t do much running, the car performed quite well and the upgrades were working fine. Today we put everything together, I felt confident in the car – in spite of quite windy and tricky conditions – and I need that confidence to push and gain those couple of tenths in quali.

“All the support I get from the people here in Spain always gives me extra motivation, so the extra tenths today were because of them.

“I’m so happy for the team because these guys work so hard. Being on the grid tomorrow among the cars that we should always be fighting with to get to the top positions will be a boost for all the guys.

“But, the race is tomorrow, and that’s when the points will be given out. We need to try to maintain this position as much as possible with a good strategy executed well, and a good start of course.”

Stoffel Vandoorne

#SV2 MCL32-01
Q1 1:22.532s (19th overall) Option tyre

“I don’t really know what happened today. Yesterday I was feeling quite comfortable and confident in the car, happy with the performance, and everything was moving in the right direction to do a bit better today. It’s a shame we weren’t able to translate that in qualifying, because I think the potential was definitely there to get into Q2. It seems like we lost a bit of performance compared to yesterday, and at the moment there’s no real explanation why. But it’s been a difficult start to the season altogether, so hopefully tomorrow we can do something better.

“Today I struggled a bit in both sessions – everything felt a little bit more difficult – and I don’t really know why as I say. We need to analyse the data tonight and see what happened and what we can do for tomorrow. It’s not been an easy start to the weekend for the team again and the most important thing is that we get on top of those issues and have some smooth running for the rest of the weekend. I don’t have any targets for tomorrow – just to run a smooth race without any issues. I think strategy will be quite important and we’ll see what’s possible.

“Fernando getting through to Q3 shows that the car is going in the right direction. We just need to makes sure we put it all together. Everyone is keeping their head down and trying to push as much as they can to improve this situation, so hopefully we can see some improvements over the next few races.” 

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“In qualifying for his home grand prix here in Barcelona this afternoon, Fernando carved an utterly committed yet millimetre-perfect lap to end up P7 for tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix. Bravo amigo!

“However, although Stoffel wasn’t that far behind Fernando in Q1 – just a few tenths – it was enough to prevent him from going through to Q2. Stoffel says he wasn’t perfectly comfortable with the balance of his car today, and we’ll look at that, but the truth is that the midfield is now super-competitive and that was the factor that prevented him from being able to progress past Q1. But we know how good he is, and his engineers will work hard with him this evening to try to optimise his set-up for tomorrow’s race.

“Finally, well done to Honda for a small but useful update, which undoubtedly contributed to our improved form today.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“First of all, I want to say what a superb job Fernando did today in qualifying in front of his enthusiastic home crowd. He had a difficult start to the weekend, but both Fernando and the team worked incredibly hard to overcome this and find the optimal setting for qualifying. P7 was an encouraging result that saw us reach Q3 for the first time this season.

“Adding to Fernando’s great work, we were also able to ensure the improvement in our PU with a small update we brought here. However, there’s still some distance between us and the top runners and we have to keep pushing hard and improving.

“It was a challenging day for Stoffel who struggled to find the best balance of the car, and it’s unfortunate that he’ll start the race from P19 on the grid tomorrow. The midfield times were extremely close today, and it will be a tough race for him, but I’m confident he’ll bounce back and put up a good fight.

“We’ll continue our hard work and try to show the fans a great race tomorrow.“

2017 SPANISH GRAND PRIX – RACE

“IT’S CLEAR THAT THE MCL32 IS A CHASSIS THAT OUR DRIVERS CAN REALLY LEAN ON”

The McLaren-Honda team was unable to capitalise on the upgrades brought to the first European race of the season at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. 

Stoffel made a good start from the final slot on the grid, moving up to 15th by the end of the first lap. Despite a fierce battle and a strong passing manoeuvre on Jolyon Palmer, Stoffel – like Fernando – struggled to maintain his place within the pack during the first round of pit-stops, and settled into 16th place until lap 32. At Turn One, Felipe Massa was unsighted as he closed in along the pit straight, and he and Stoffel made contact, the resultant suspension damage to Stoffel’s car forcing him to retire from the race. Stoffel will take a three-place grid penalty in Monaco for the incident. 

Despite his strongest grid slot of the year, Fernando lost his seventh position on the opening lap, after being pushed wide by Massa into Turn Two and taking a trip across the gravel. He lost ground and dropped down the order, ending the first lap in 11th place. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya being a relatively high speed track, the MCL32 wasn’t able to progress through the field, and Fernando lost positions through the first and second round of pit-stops, after which he spent much of the afternoon in 15th place. A spirited drive and an unplanned final pit stop on lap 51 allowed him to find better pace in the closing stages, and he moved back up to finish his home race in 12th position. 

Fernando will tonight fly to Indianapolis for the first practice session tomorrow morning ahead of his Indy 500 debut. Meanwhile, Jenson Button will visit the McLaren Technology Centre this week to drive the simulator again, before deputising for Fernando in the Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

FERNANDO ALONSO

#FA14 MCL32-03
Started 7th
Finished 12th
Fastest lap 1:23.894s (lap 64) +0.301 (4th)
Pit stops Three - lap 12 (3.22s), lap 31 (4.49s) & lap 51 (3.49s) Option > Option > Prime > Option

“The race didn’t go as we’d planned. We were a little bit unlucky with the contact in Turn Two with Felipe [Massa] and then we were behind Daniil [Kvyat] for too many laps in the mid part of the race, but even without that I think we didn’t have the race pace to be in the points today to be honest.

“I’m a little disappointed, but at least we finished the race, and hopefully this is the first sign of a step forward in reliability. We now need to prepare better the next Grand Prix. 

“Tomorrow at 9.00am I need to be at the Brickyard, and at 12.00pm noon I’ll be in the car for first practice. So I now have 14 hours to rest, nine of which will be spent on the plane, so we need to switch into Indy mode now, and for the next two weeks my full focus will be on that.”

STOFFEL VANDOORNE

#SV2 MCL32-01
Started 20th (due to penalty for PU component change)
Finished DNF (suspension damage following incident with Massa) 32 laps
Fastest lap 1:27.554s (lap 14) +3.961s (18th)
Pit stops One - lap 12 (3.07s) Prime > Option > Option

“I haven’t seen the [Massa] incident properly on TV yet. I wasn’t really expecting Felipe [Massa] to be there – I think I left enough space for him to be able to pass – but unfortunately we made contact and my front wheel broke, so that was the end of the race for me. 

“I don’t want to blame anyone, and in my personal opinion it was just a racing incident.

“The manoeuvre on Jolyon [Palmer] was my first overtake this season, so at least I got something out of the race. The fact that that move felt so good shows that our package still isn’t strong enough, and we’re still not in a position to fight with the others. But we’ve taken a step forward for this race with the upgrades we brought here, and some areas are definitely improving, but in the race we’re still struggling a bit. Hopefully we can carry some more improvements into the next race. 

“I don’t want to make any predictions for Monaco, but the chassis has been improving, and hopefully we’ll bring a couple more updates that will pay off. We’ll have to wait and see, and try our best; that’s all we can do at the moment.”

THE MANAGEMENT

ERIC BOULLIER

“After our encouraging qualifying pace yesterday, it goes without saying that we’re very disappointed today. 

“Through no fault of his own, Fernando got involved in Felipe’s [Massa] lap-one ‘off’, and immediately dropped half a dozen places as a result. He pushed as hard as he could thereafter, but the gap proved unbridgeable and he ended up driving a lonely race to 12th place. 

“After being awarded a 10-place grid penalty as a result of the team’s decision to replace some elements of his car’s power unit this morning, Stoffel was forced to start the race from 20th and last place. From there he drove the first third of the race very hard and very well, working his way up to P16 by lap 20, the highlight being a strong passing manoeuvre on Jolyon’s [Palmer] Renault. 

“Unfortunately, his good progress came to a halt on lap 33, when contact with Felipe’s Williams damaged his suspension and rendered his car undriveable. 

“So, results-wise, today is a day for us to forget, but there are positives to be taken from the weekend nonetheless, not least our solid qualifying pace. It’s clear that the MCL32 is a chassis that our drivers can really lean on – and that quality augurs well for Monaco, on whose sinuous streets we’ll do battle with our rivals once again in two weeks’ time.”

YUSUKE HASEGAWA

“After yesterday's good qualifying with a great performance by Fernando at his home grand prix, today's result turned out to be disappointing for all of us in the team. 

“Fernando was running well despite having an unfortunate incident on the first lap and finding himself back down the grid. He never gave up and showed encouraging pace while chasing the cars in front. I’m disappointed as I think today his pace was good and we were competitive enough to get some points. 

“It was a tough race for Stoffel. He had to start from the last row and then retired in the middle of the race. I think he’s having a challenging time at the moment but we’ll overcome the situation together with him. 

“Next up is Monaco, and it will be a big opportunity for us. It’s a very technical circuit and a real drivers’ track, so here’s hoping Stoffel and Jenson will run well there.”