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Spanish GP: Track changes and DRS

NEWS STORY
10/05/2018

One of the biggest changes at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya since last year's race is that the entire track has been resurfaced, though it was done in time for pre-season testing so shouldn't present too many surprises... other than the lack of snow.

In addition, a 10m wide section of asphalt has been replaced by gravel around the outside of Turn 1, while the artificial grass on the exit of Turns 2 and 7 has been removed.

The guardrail has been re-aligned to the left of the run-off at Turn 4, while new double kerbs have been installed on the exit of Turns 5 and 16 and the artificial grass removed and also the run-off areas on the exit of Turn 12 and around the outside of Turn 13 have been increased.

Once again, there will be two DRS zones.

The first has a detection point 86m before Turn 9 and an activation point 40m after, while the second detection point is at the Safety Car line, with activation 57m after Turn 16, which means the zone has been extended by 100m.

This year sees the supersoft make its debut at the Barcelona track alongside the soft and the medium.

The hard tyre has always featured in the past, but this year the new track surface has altered the complexion of the circuit, giving it more grip but with reduced wear and degradation.

The surface may be smoother, but the long and high speed corners remain, putting plenty of energy and stress through the tyres: the classic examples being Turn 3 and Turn 9.

Wear and degradation rates will need to be re-assessed. Although the teams tried out the new surface at the start of the year, the weather was much cooler, and the cars were much less evolved. The new surface may have evolved as well.

Barcelona contains a good all-round mix of corners and loadings that emphasise every aspect of a car's performance: one of the reasons why it is a popular testing venue.

The new surface has led Pirelli to reduce the tyre tread depth by 0.4 millimetres. This has no effect on performance but helps to control slick tyre temperature. The front-left tyre is worked hardest, with Catalunya being a front-limited track.

Last year, with harder compounds nominated, the majority of the field stopped twice but with a variety of different strategies: in the past, Spain has also been a three-stop race. Race-winner Lewis Hamilton started on used softs before switching to new softs and a final stint on new mediums. While the other podium finishers used similar strategies, fifth-placed Esteban Ocon and eighth-placed Pascal Wehrlein were the only top-ten finishers on a two-stop strategy.

Grid position counts for much here, for in only three of the 27 Grands Prix run to date has a win been scored from beyond the front row of the grid, the most recent being Max Verstappen, who scored his maiden win after starting the 2016 event from fourth place.

Five Spanish Grand Prix winners will line up on the grid on Sunday: Kimi Raikkonen (2005, 2008), Fernando Alonso (2006, 2013) Sebastian Vettel (2011), Lewis Hamilton (2014, 2017) and Max Verstappen (2016).

Check out our Thursday gallery from Barcelona, here.

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