The Formula 1 World Championship is back in Europe and the Spanish Grand Prix marks the start of a return to more classic circuits. From now until the Italian Grand Prix in September, with the exception of another traditional venue in Canada, the championship makes the old continent its home. As has often been the case, the race at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit signals the beginning of a new phase of the season, one in which the teams introduce developments based on their findings from the first few races. The Scuderia arrives in Spain off the back of a double podium finish in Miami. Naturally, after his third place in Florida, Carlos Sainz is hoping to do well at home in front of his and the Scuderia's fans, 3500 of whom will pack the "Grada CS55" grandstand.
The track layout features a mix of high, medium and low speed corners, changes of direction, undulations and a long start-finish straight, making it a probing test bench for the cars. It will be also be interesting to see how the new cars will fare there, following the Formula 1 rule changes which sees the return of ground effect after a forty year break, aimed at producing closer racing and more overtaking opportunities. In recent years, the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit has proved to be one of the most difficult for overtaking and it will be interesting to see if the new generation of cars, that first took to the track here in pre-season testing, will deliver close racing. If they do, it will be the seal of approval for the new changes initiated by the FIA and Formula 1. As always at this track, drivers will have to deal with changes of wind direction, which has a major effect on the balance of the cars, which explains the medium-to-high downforce levels used here. There are two DRS zones, one on the main straight leading to the first chicane and another after turn 9, on the back straight leading to turn 10.
The cars take to the track for the first time on Friday for the usual two 60 minute free practice sessions at 14 CEST and at 17. Qualifying takes place on Saturday at 16, preceded by the final free practice at 13. The 52nd Spanish Grand Prix gets underway on Sunday at 15 and runs over 66 laps of the 4.675 kilometre track, for a total distance of 308.424 kilometres.
Three questions to...
The track for your home race is very well known to all the drivers, given that it has regularly been used for winter testing. What are its main features and which section do you like best?
Carlos Sainz: "This is definitely a track that we know very well and I think all drivers enjoy it. The track layout offers a mix of high, medium and low speed corners that makes it challenging to get the right balance of the car throughout an entire lap. I think turns 3 and 9 are the most thrilling ones. At turn 3, a long high speed right hander, we maintain a lot of G force from entry to exit and turn 9 is a great uphill high speed corner that we expect to take flat out, at least in Qualifying. The track has a lot of character and I look forward to driving this new car here in race conditions."
You arrive in Spain from the race in Miami where you secured your best qualifying performance and your ninth career podium. What is your goal for the Spanish Grand Prix?
CS: "The goal, as in every other race weekend, is to extract the maximum out of our car and try to win the Grand Prix. The fact that it's my home race makes it even more special because of all the fans and the support we get there, but in terms of goals, we need to always push and fight for the best result possible."
This is another race where a full crowd will once again be allowed in and the "Grada CS55" grandstand will be open. What do you expect from your fans and what do you plan to do for them?
CS: "After two years with little or no fans at the track I'm very happy that this year the circuit is completely sold out. Being able to have "Grada CS55" again is also very important for me, as it has become a great tradition and it allows me to interact a bit closer with my fans. However, I know we will receive massive support from every grandstand at the track and I can guarantee the fans maximum effort from myself and from the entire team, to give them plenty to cheer about! Hopefully we can have a great racing weekend in Spain and everyone can enjoy the thrills of an F1 race!"
Ferrari at the Spanish GP
GP entered 51
Debut 1951 (J.F. Gonzàlez 2nd; A. Ascari 4th; P. Taruffi ret.; L. Villoresi ret.)
Wins 12 (23.53%)
Pole positions 13 (25.49%)
Fastest race laps 14 (27.45%)
Total podiums 38 (24.83%)
Spanish GP: facts & figures
13. The number of Spanish drivers who have taken part in at least one Formula 1 Grand Prix. So far, the only one to win World Championships has been Fernando Alonso. He also won 11 Grands Prix with Scuderia Ferrari. Carlos Sainz is second in terms of the number of races entered (145), points (574.5) and podiums (nine, of which seven with Ferrari). Then there is Marc Gene (36 GPs and 5 points) who, through his work with the F1 Clienti programme has driven more Ferraris than any of his fellow countrymen. Finally, there is Alfonso de Portago who raced with the Scuderia in 1956 and 1957.
68. The number of parks in Barcelona. They cover over 10% of the city's surface area. The largest is Collserola, while the most well known are Parc de la Ciutadella, with its famous fountains and the Parc Güell, embellished with the works of Antoni Gaudi. Not far from the city is another very special park, the Portaventura amusement park, which is home to Ferrari Land, opened in 2017 full of attractions inspired by the Maranello marque.
100. The distance in kilometres of the cycling team time trial event held at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit as part of the 1992 Olympics. The event was won by Germany (Rich-Meyer-Dittert-Peschel) followed by Italy (Peron-Anastasia-Colombo-Contri) and France (Harel-Boussard-Faivre–Pierret-Gaumont).
109. The number of years since the first motor race was held in Spain. It took place on 15 June 1913 at a circuit in the Guadarrama region, not far from Madrid. It was won by local driver Carlos de Salamanca driving a Rolls Royce. The inaugural Spanish Grand Prix dates back to 1923, held on the oval circuit at Sitges-Terramar in Catalunya and the winner was Frenchman Albert Divo in a Sunbeam. The record book also shows three wins for Monegasque driver Louis Chiron, in 1928, 1929 and 1933. The first time it counted towards the Formula 1 World Championship was in 1951, when it was run on the Pedralbes street circuit in Barcelona, won by Juan Manuel Fangio in an Alfa Romeo. Ferrari took the first of its eight wins in 1954, courtesy of Mike Hawthorn at the wheel of a 553 F1.
3500. The spectator capacity of the "Grada CS55" grandstand, dedicated to Carlos Sainz for the Spanish Grand Prix. Tickets sold out in a matter of hours, on a wave of enthusiasm generated by Carlos' great season in 2021 and Scuderia Ferrari's one-two finish in this year's opening round in Bahrain.
Ferrari 75 years ago
May 1947: the Scuderia had just returned from what was called "a promising failure" in the race at Piacenza, which Franco Cortese had led on Ferrari's race debut, until a few laps from the end, when he had to retire with a mechanical failure. It was enough for the Italian media to put the Maranello marque and motor sport in general in the spotlight. At the end of May, a three week event, "Primavera Romana del Motore", featured several races for a wide variety of categories. In an attempt to ensure that the Maranello cars would be there, the organisers also opened up entries to cars up to 1.5 litres capacity. That was exactly what Enzo Ferrari was waiting for and he entered Franco Cortese in the same 125 S that he had raced in Piacenza. The problem that had sidelined the car on that occasion had had been fixed and the Rome Grand Prix, held against the spectacular backdrop of the Terme di Caracalla, could turn out to be one of the most important moments in the history of the Maranello marque.