T he Formula 1 circus has arrived back in Europe. After the interesting week of testing in Mugello, it's finally back to World Cup points in Barcelona. The first four races whetted the appetite for more. Four different winners in four different cars. Will we see a new face at the top of the podium again on Sunday?
The chances are not that bad. During the test drives in Tuscany, Lotus was regularly at the top of the timesheets. And Kimi Raikkonen's black and gold car was already victorious in Bahrain. Only the clever defense of Sebastian Vettel prevented the Iceman party in the desert. Sauber has already shown this season that it's good for a surprise when the conditions are right.
The last time it happened in the 1983 season was that five different drivers in five different cars were involved At the beginning of a season. Back then, Nelson Piquet (Brabham), John Watson (McLaren), Alain Prost (Renault), Patrick Tambay (Ferrari) and Keke Rosberg (Williams) stood on the top step of the podium.
The track: Circuit de Catalunya
The Formula 1 teams know no other track as well as the 4.655-kilometer circuit at the gates of Barcelona. Before the start of the season, the drivers had already completed eight days of testing. So there is enough data from the 16 curves. The only unknown is the gusty wind on the Mediterranean coast, which often changes direction unexpectedly.
In terms of layout, Barcelona offers a good mix of everything. Fast corners with high centrifugal forces alternate with slow corners. All-rounders are required here. Although there is a straight more than a kilometer long, overtaking is traditionally difficult. In general, the Grand Prix races in Barcelona are not one of the action celebrations on the calendar. The safety car was last deployed in 2009.
Highest lateral acceleration: 3.2 g (for 3 seconds in curve 3)
Longest full throttle passage (home straight): 12.1 seconds
proportion of braking phases in the lap time: 19 percent
proportion of the straight in a lap: 36 percent
number of gear changes per lap: 50
full throttle proportion on one lap: 60.3 percent
Lowest speed: 75 km /h (Turn 10)
Highest cornering speed: 250 km /h (Turn 6)
Distance from the starting line to the first corner: 720 meters
Top speed: 318km /h
fuel consumption: 2.17 kilos /lap
loss of time per 10 kilos of additional weight: 0.39 seconds
tire wear: 3/5
The setup for the GP Spain:
The track doesn't have any big surprises in store for the engineers. The wings are traditionally set very steeply in order to have enough downforce and stability for the fast curve combinations. In the final sector, it's all about traction. Here it is important to find a good compromise in terms of balance. The teams also have to watch out for the grip level, which improves significantly over the course of a weekend. It will also be interesting to see how the teams cope with the higher temperatures - compared to the winter tests.
The biggest tension factor is once again the tires. Pirelli has a surprise in store for Barcelona: For the first time this season, the compounds are spread a little wider. With the soft and hard grades, the rubber specialist has two very different rubbers in its luggage. Pirelli hopes that the measure will allow more strategy variants. Due to the many fast right-hand curves, the left front tire is particularly stressed on the rough Barcelona tarmac. Especially the soft rubber should quickly reach its limit of liability.
They had three weeks Engineers in the technical offices have time to develop new parts. The fans can count on a real update fireworks. Some stages were already ignited during the test drives. We saw some interesting new developments, especially in the exhaust area. It will be exciting to see who can screw the new parts to the car at the Spanish GP.
The situation at Red Bull is particularly exciting. The world championship team decided not to test new parts in Mugello. The new package will only make its debut in free practice. Is designer Adrian Newey unpacking another surprise? Mercedes has also announced something new. In Mugello there were only small retouches on the front wing and the underbody. In addition there is the carbon gear, which is supposed to save weight. Is there more?
The favorites for the GP Spain:
Whenever you thought a team could pull away a little this season, the order was in next race completely mixed up again. It has seldom been as difficult as this season to predict which roulette slot the ball will fall into this time. In terms of paper, the track layout speaks for Mercedes. The rear tires are not particularly stressed in Barcelona. The temperatures should also be similar to the race in Shanghai, where Mercedes was last able to win.
From the form in Bahrain and Mugello, we would guess that Lotus would win. But a bet against Red Bull and McLaren, who together won 39 of the last 46 races, doesn't sound very sensible at first glance. Besides thetechnical updates, it will again depend on who gets the tires into the working window and keeps them alive the longest.
Expert opinion : Mark Smith (Caterham Technical Director)
'The layout in Barcelona is a good test run for the rest of the season. There are fast corners with high centrifugal forces, a long straight and also slower corners that require traction The track is also technically demanding for the drivers. It offers a bit of everything. Turns three and nine are very fast. Finding a good balance for both is not easy. The last sector is also a challenge. The car has to be many Make a change of direction. The mechanical grip is important here.
Barcelona is a very open course. The wind can play a role, especially when it changes direction. The changing air and asphalt temperatures change the conditions n on the track during a Grand Prix weekend and also during the individual days - that can be pretty extreme. We have to keep an eye on the weather and adjust the setup optimally. '
This is how the race went last year (GP Spain 2011):
The GP Spain 2011 once again showed how difficult it is to overtake on the Circuit de Catalunya. Although Lewis Hamilton had the significantly faster car than Sebastian Vettel, the McLaren driver simply couldn't get past the eventual world champion. Even when the KERS went on strike at the Red Bull in the closing stages, Hamilton could not start an attack. On the finish line, the two separated only six tenths.
Fernando Alonso also played a leading role last year, when the local hero moved into the lead from fourth place at the start to the thunderous cheers in the stands After the first lap of pit stops, the Ferrari driver was even able to defend his lead, but when he had to switch to the harder mixture for the first time in the middle of the race, the glory was over. Alonso was not only noticed by the finish line Back in fifth place, he was even overtaken by the top.
In our photo gallery we have again the pictures from the GP Spain 2011.
auto motor und sport will be Follow free practice on Friday in the live ticker.