Circuit: Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona
Location: Montmeló, Spain
Known for: F1, MotoGP, GP2, Endurance Racing
Type: Permanent circuit
The Circuit de Catalunya is one of the world’s busiest race circuits and the most frequently used venue for F1 teams. Alongside the Spanish Grand Prix, which it has held since opening in 1991, the track is a popular testing venue and this year hosted two of the three weeks of winter testing. It has good facilities, decent transport links, doesn’t get too much rain and, thanks to the climate, sits in the goldilocks zone.
It has a long straight and both high and low speed corners, but otherwise it has average tyre and brake wear, average kerbs and average grip. If a car goes well in Barcelona it will go well pretty much anywhere.
The fact that F1 teams are so familiar with the circuit usually means a fairly processional affair – with the cars' setups firmly dialled in there are fewer vagaries in performance. In 21 races the driver in pole has won 16 times, drivers starting second have won four times and there's been just a solitary win from third – the result of a torrential downpour.
The circuit attempted (unsuccessfully) to improve overtaking opportunities in 2007 by installing a chicane before the final corner. The chicane has added about six seconds to F1 lap times. All in all, this makes qualifying more significant. One of the few things to mix things up is when teams misjudge the wind direction and use inappropriate gear ratios.
Despite being referred to as the Circuit de Barcelona, the Circuit de Catalunya isn’t located in Barcelona itself. It sits approximately 25km north of the Catalan capital in Montmeló. Brothers Marc and Jordi Gené come from nearby Sabadell, as does MotoGP’s Dani Pedrosa. Pedro de la Rosa is from up the road in Granollers and Jaime Alguersuari comes from Barcelona. Expect massive crowds to start forming at 5am if Alonso performs well in qualifying.
Formula One isn't the biggest draw at the circuit. That honour goes to the Catalan MotoGP (the Spanish MotoGP is held at Jerez). Valentino Rossi won there in 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2009. Casey Stoner won in 2007 and 2011, but the locals went wild in 2008 when Dani Pedrosa won his home race. The cheers were only slightly less deafening when Jorge Lorenzo did the same in 2010. The circuit is rarely empty and hosts racing of every description, including Spanish GT racing and the Le Mans Series.
Race distance: 66 laps (190.825 miles/307.104km)
Start time: 14:00pm CET
Circuit length: 2.892 miles/4.655km
2011 winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing); 66 laps in 1hr 39m 03.301s (186.020km/h)
2011 pole: Mark Webber (Red Bull Racing); 1m 20.981s (206.937km/h)
Lap record: Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari F2008); 1m 21.670s (205.121km/h)
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