Catalunya – the track all drivers claim to know like the back...

Catalunya – the track all drivers claim to know like the back of their hand


Because of its location, characteristics and climate, the Catalunya Circuit is today the traditional training ground for Formula 1. For the past three years, it has been the sole venue for winter testing and it will host two more days of in-season testing on the Tuesday and Wednesday following this weekend’s Grand Prix.

For some time now, it is also the venue that kicks off the European season, characterised by the arrival of the mobile hospitality units, still erroneously referred to as “motorhomes” and the fact that cars and equipment all travel by land. The Ferrari trucks, for example, leave Maranello on the Tuesday evening before the race and take around 12 hours to reach the track to the north of Barcelona. In contrast to the races outside Europe, the SF71Hs travel virtually fully assembled, having been rebuilt at the factory rather than the track.

All the drivers claim to know the Montmelo track like the back of their hand

However, not everything can be taken for granted this time. The winter testing took place in extremely cold conditions. Now, in May, the weather will be very different. Furthermore, the track has a completely new surface. It has lost some of the roughness for which it was famous. Therefore, there will be much to learn about the 2018 Medium, Soft and Super Soft compounds in the hotter weather. At the moment, there are no expectations for a 2017-style heatwave. But air temperature, especially on Friday, should comfortably exceed the 20-degree mark.

The Catalan track provides a veritable “workout” for chassis, aerodynamics and indeed the drivers, given that turns like 3 and 9 are now taken flat-out or almost. It’s a track that has everything but offers few passing opportunities. For those who have the time, Barcelona is around 20 kilometres away with all the attractions of a Mediterranean city. The F1 workers can console themselves with the robust and tasty food, with literary references to Montalban, the writer who inspired the most famous of Andrea Camilleri’s characters…

Located in Montmeló, the Catalunya circuit was inaugurated on September 10, 1991, and 19 days later it hosted its first Formula 1 Grand Prix

Just recently, in February and March, the track was the stage to eight days of testing during which the single-seaters drove for a total of more than 34,000 km. It was the perfect bench test for the state-of-the-art Brembo braking systems.

The strong winds, which forced Fernando Alonso off track during testing in 2015, combined with the 1,074 meters main straightaway and other smaller straights allow for efficient thermal dissipation between one braking section and another.

According to Brembo technicians, who classified the 20 tracks in the World Championship, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya falls into the category of circuits presenting medium difficulty for the brakes.

The demand on the brakes during the Grand prix

Although the lap time is 13 seconds less than the track in Sochi, the difference in the use of the brakes comes to merely half a second: the cars brake for 13 seconds every lap of the Russian GP, while at the Spanish GP they brake for 12,5 seconds. The overall time spent braking on this circuit totals 16%, the same percentage recorded at the Bahrain GP.

The average peak deceleration is 4.5 G; last year it was 4.2 G, which proves that the current single-seaters have a greater amount of brake torque. During the entire GP, each single-seater is expected to dissipate 178 kWh. That is equivalent to the hourly consumption of three dance clubs in Ibiza.

From the starting line to the checkered flag, the Brembo technicians forecast that each driver will face about 530 braking sections, exerting a total force on the pedal of approximately 69 tons.

In other words, each driver will apply a load of more than 700 kg every minute, which is little less than the weight of a single-seater, pilot included.