The Circuit de Catalunya is a racetrack in Montmeló, to the north of Barcelona, Spain. It is home to the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix and the motorcycle Catalonia Grand Prix. With long straights and a variety of corners, the Circuit de Catalunya is seen as an all-rounder circuit. As such it is probably one of the sport’s most important testing grounds.
The Circuit de Catalunya was built in 1991 and is often referred to as ‘Barcelona’ in the racing community, despite the fact that it is located in Montmeló. The Circuit de Catalunya should not be confused with the Montjuïc circuit, which hosted the Spanish Grand Prix four times between 1969 and 1975 and, unlike the Circuit de Catalunya, is actually located within the city of Barcelona.
Due to the fact that so much testing is done at this circuit, Formula One drivers and mechanics are extremely familiar with it. This has led to criticism that drivers and mechanics are too familiar with Catalunya, reducing the amount of on-track action.
Overtaking can be difficult, as cars are unable to follow each other through the fast final corner due to turbulence created by the leading car. This makes it difficult for a car to get close enough to the car in front of it to attempt a pass at the first turn, which is the only obvious overtaking point on the circuit. The 2007 F1 Season saw the 1st of the 2 final sweepers replaced with a slow chicane to improve overtaking.
The wind direction at the circuit can change drastically during the day, a significant factor given the importance of aerodynamics to modern Formula One cars. It is then hard to find a good setup since cars can have massive aerodynamic drag and understeer on one part of the circuit in the morning, but suffer understeer at the same part of the circuit in the afternoon. A given tyre compound can work well when tested, but not so well a couple of months later. These changeable conditions can make for an unexpected performances from some teams during the race.
However, the circuit has been the site of some memorable moments. In the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell went down the entire front straight side-by-side while duelling for second place, with Mansell eventually taking the position and eventually the race. In the 1994 Spanish Grand Prix Michael Schumacher managed to finish in second place despite driving over half the race with only fifth gear. Two years later, in the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix Schumacher took his first win as a member of the Ferrari team after a dominant performance during a rainstorm. In the 2001 Spanish Grand Prix Mika Häkkinen suffered a clutch failure while leading the race on the last lap, handing the win to Schumacher. At the 2006 Spanish Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso became the first Spanish Formula One driver to win at his home country’s track.
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