Barcelonas Circuit de Catalunya - an F1 set-up guide 06 May 2009
The Spanish Grand Prix circuit near Barcelona is one that every Formula One team knows well from the hundreds of kilometres of testing carried out there over the winter. Few venues offer such a variety of medium and high-speed corners and it is widely acknowledged as the definitive aero circuit that provides a stern test of a car. With few big braking zones and so many high-speed corners, overtaking is extremely difficult and a good qualifying performance and sensible strategy are paramount for a successful weekend. Renault explain how they plan to ready the R29 for racing
Aerodynamic efficiency is always a key factor at Barcelona, although the introduction of the chicane at the end of the lap in recent years has replaced on of the most critical high-speed parts of the lap and means the track is not as demanding as it once was. Even so, the circuit remains the ultimate test of a car's aero package and teams will run with high downforce levels to ensure competitiveness over the whole lap.
Renault driver Fernando Alonso explains: "There are lots of high-speed corners where good aero performance is critical. A good example is Turn Nine, a fast right hand corner taken in fifth gear at about 230km/h. You have to be very precise with the car as there is there is no room for error on the exit and it's important to carry good speed onto the back straight."
With the suspension we have to find the best compromise to give the drivers a well balanced and responsive car. This means we will use relatively stiff settings at the front of the car to get a good change of direction, while the rear will be slightly softer in order to get the best possible traction out of the slower corners, such as Turns 14 and 15.
Driver Nelson Piquet explains: "The end of the lap used to be fast and flowing, but the introduction of the chicane a couple of years ago means it is now a low-speed section where you need good mechanical grip and traction. Getting a good exit out of Turn 15 is especially important as it leads immediately into the final corner and onto the kilometre long straight. Lose speed in 15 and you will be under pressure and vulnerable to attack down the front straight."
Ride height is also an important parameter to consider as generally we can run the car quite low in order to gain maximum aerodynamic performance.
Barcelona is not generally thought of as an 'engine circuit' as the engine is not under particular stress as any point and only 61 percent of the lap is spent on full throttle. There are relatively few hard acceleration zones from low revs as the engine spends most of the lap accelerating from the middle of the rev range. As such, the priority is for the power delivery to be progressive and driveable in order to maintain the best handling balance, and limit tyre wear.
Barcelona is well known for being demanding on tyre wear because it includes so many long, high-speed corners and has a fairly abrasive track surface. The most demanding corner is perhaps Turn Three, as Alonso explains:
"Turn 3 is a very demanding corner: we spend two or three seconds at 250kph, and it's hard work for the neck muscles. The key to getting the corner right is finding the correct line as there is no margin for error on corner entry. If you get it right, then you can get all the way through this long corner with a good level of grip in the car, and it's not too difficult. But if you miss the entry by even just a little bit, you will be fighting understeer then oversteer, hurting the tyres and losing time all the way round the corner."
The tyres are therefore under high loadings, particularly the front left which has to work hard through Turn Three as well as Turn Nine. As a result Bridgestone will supply the hard and soft compounds this weekend, and the team will need to pay close attention to the wear and degradation during free practice to determine which compound to use for the majority of the race.