Formula One returns to Europe for what is traditionally a key race: the Spanish Grand Prix. The Montmelo circuit is familiar to the teams and they frequently use the return to Europe to introduce significant car upgrades, designed to improve performance and increase downforce. This often adds to the demands placed on the tyres at what is already a high-energy circuit because of the fast, sweeping corners that put extreme forces through the tyres. As a result, Pirelli will bring the two hardest compounds in the Formula One range.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: "It's often said that Barcelona provides the most accurate representation of the form a season will take, because a car that performs well in Barcelona should perform well everywhere. The same is true of the tyres, because the Spanish circuit is one of the most demanding circuits we race on all year. Long and fast corners such as Turn Three put a huge amount of energy into the tyres, as a result of which degradation is high. The track surface is also quite abrasive, and ambient temperatures can be high, which increase the workload on the tyres further. In the past we've seen up to four pit stops in Spain. With the changes we have made to the tyres this year, we would now hope to see no more than three for the majority of drivers. We made a solid start to our preparations for next year with the first dedicated in-season tyre tests in Bahrain. We're looking forward to building on that work with four teams in Spain after the grand prix."
Jean Alesi, Pirelli consultant: "For the tyres, Barcelona is one of the hardest circuits of the year. The surface is quite abrasive but the main thing is all the fast corners that you accelerate through, which take a lot out of the rear tyres in particular. So this means that having the right set-up is absolutely essential to control degradation. If you don't do that, you end up destroying the rear tyres and you lose pace very quickly. The other problem becomes braking and acceleration: with worn tyres it also takes longer to brake and find traction out of the corners. It will be interesting to find out how the cars are at Barcelona this year: in theory, with less downforce, it should be less tiring for the drivers than it was in the past. But we have to see which upgrades the teams bring as well."
The circuit from a tyre point of view:
While Barcelona has traditionally been used for pre-season winter testing for as long as most drivers can remember, this was not actually the case this year, when pre-season testing took place in Jerez and Bahrain. As a result, the teams and Pirelli come to Barcelona with no information about the new generation of cars on the circuit.
The left side of the car is worked particularly hard in Spain, with heavy traction demands on the left-rear tyre in particular. The lateral forces acting on both left tyres are the second highest of the entire year.
The high energy loads going through the compounds means that the surface of the tyre can reach a maximum temperature of 130 degrees centigrade. There is just one long straight, so the tyres do not have much of a chance to cool down over the course of a lap.
The hard tyre is a high-working range compound, designed for the hottest and most extreme conditions of the year, while the medium tyre is a low working range tyre, designed to work effectively in an ample variety of conditions. This combination ensures that there is always a solution for the wide range of conditions that can be seen in Barcelona.
Eight of the last 10 races in Barcelona have been won from pole position, underlining the importance of qualifying and the difficulty in overtaking at the Spanish track. As a result, strategy can be crucial to gain track position, as the 2013 race showed.
Last year, Fernando Alonso won the race for Ferrari with a four-stop sprint strategy, defeating Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) in second, who stopped three times. Alonso set a new record, becoming the only driver to win a grand prix at the Montmelo circuit from as far down as fifth on the grid.