The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya (as it became known in September 2013) is one of Europe's busiest tracks, playing host to high profile rounds of Formula One, MotoGP and becoming the seasonal winter home of the F1 teams as they test their new cars and drivers. It is also the default setting for most simulator drivers at professional teams.
The circuit features a mix of fast and slow corners, a long straight and a variety of elevation changes. As a result, it is a popular testing venue, aided by the usual pleasant winter weather. Spectator facilities, which have always been good, were boosted further in 2002 with the opening of a new main grandstand, designed by Herman Tilke and with a capacity of 9,580. Opposite, a gigantic electronic scoring board now also dominates the end of the pitlane.
The 4.655-kilometre track contains 16 corners, mostly right-handers, putting the emphasis on the front-left tyre in particular, which does most of the work. However, the rear tyres also have to withstand plenty of stress in order to provide the combined traction that is needed coming out of the slower corners in the final sector of the lap. The asphalt in Barcelona is also quite abrasive. Coupled with the high ambient temperatures expected over the race weekend, this only adds to the amount of tyre wear.
Turn three is the most demanding corner of the entire lap, with a lateral force of 3.9G going through the tyres for a prolonged period of time. In the braking area for turn 10, the tyres also have to cope with a deceleration of 5.09G.
The first corner comes at the end of the 1km pit straight on which speeds will peak at well over 300kph a top level car. The car and engine are therefore subject to heavy braking loads as the driver scrubs off 50% of that speed to take the first corner at approximately 140kph. Halfway through Turn 1, drivers start to accelerate into Turn 2 and Turn 3 (also known as Renault) but as the circuit starts to climb a car will have a tendency towards ‘snappy’ oversteer. Having a delay in engine response or an overshoot in torque delivery will only confirm this trend, thus increasing tyre wear as the car tries to slide to one side and subject the tyres to lateral g-force.
Once through Turn 9 the track begins to descend into Turn 10. The braking zone for this corner is the hardest one of the track, as (F1) cars arrive at 300kph and take the turn at just over 70kph. To give the right stability engineers work very hard on the overrun settings, trying to give neutral engine braking when the driver is off the throttle. In parallel engineers will try to make the downward gear shifts as smooth as possible so the torque gradient change is ironed out and not too aggressive. Giving smooth downshifts and the right level of overrun will result in a better balance, thus helping to control wheel lock and minimize tyre wear. By the end of the corner the driver is down in first gear but needs to accelerate back up the hill. This sends huge loads through the tyres so pedal maps are often designed with just this corner in mind.
The chicane on this track is very slow and needs, again, the right amount of engine torque, not only at the entry of the corner but in the midpoint of the chicane. In fact the driver will just blip the throttle between the entry and the exit of the chicane as he changes direction. Even if he is only on the power for a millisecond balancing the car on this knife edge is critical to keep the car balanced, minimize wheelspin and ultimately gain lap time. Once the cars exit this chicane traction is very important as the speed will be carried through turn 16.
As a general rule, the Catalan circuit is not too demanding on engines but units are still put through a decent workout over the course of the lap. Only around 60% of the lap is spent at full throttle in a Grand Prix car, but the 1.047km main straight requires good peak power, while the circuit’s unique flow of corners demands good driveability from the engine and a responsive gearbox.
The 4.655km long Circuit de Catalunya is a medium downforce, medium engine demand track used extensively in testing as it has a very good ‘average’ of characteristics of other circuits. There are a variety of low and medium speed corners that push engines on the lower rev ranges, particularly in sector three, but 55% of the track is also taken at full throttle in a F1 car.
The longest period of full throttle is of course the pit straight. The undulating nature of the track also puts the engine internals under pressure so every element of the engine gets a full workout here. The first corner is quite representative of this as the driver accelerates as the track goes uphill. In addition to monitoring the fluid systems there is a need to deliver a smooth torque curve to give controlled power to counter the high g.
Circuit Length: 4.655km
Maximum speed: 317kph
Minimum speed: 65kph
Average Speed: 204kph (127mph)
Average corner speed: 128kph
Downforce Level: High
Aero efficiency ratio: Low
Full throttle: 56%
Engine severity: Low
Power loss: -5%
Fuel effect: 0.3 s/10kg
Fuel consumption: 2.4 kg/Lap
Braking events: 8
Brake Wear: High
Gear changes per lap: 44
Gearbox severity: Low
We've teamed with Chassis Sim to provide a reference trace file for Circuit de Catalunya, using F3-type data (or the closest representative car type).
A data outing is available to download for each of the major circuit variations. Fine tune your own setup before you even set off for the circuit!
You'll need Chassis Sim's programme or similar data analysis software to open these files.
Address: Circuits de Catalunya S.L., Mas "La Moreneta", PD 27 08160, Montmeló, Barcelona
PH: +34 93 57 19700
Circuit type: Permanent road course
The circuit at Barcelona is extremely well-equipped and has all of the facilities one would expect at a track of this standard. The pass collection centre for major events is a long distance from the railway station in an offroad centre. Those collecting passes should opt for a taxi to this location, and from there on to the paddock as it is a very long walk indeed.
Food and drink is generally cheap but not of a high standard in the area around the circuit.
Taxis are often lined up outside the main paddock near the statue of Fangio.
The streets near Montmelo station are full of bars and are often lively on the weekend of a major race.
Wifi connections in Spain can be somewhat patchy, even in major hotels.
Catalan is the language used by the majority of locals rather than Spanish, while English is less-spoken than in some other parts of mainland Europe, so it may be helpful to learn a few phrases of Catalan to help you get by.
There are a number of hotels in the immediate area of the circuit but they only score well on convienience rather than facilities.
There are a huge number of extremely good and affordable hotels in central Barcelona for those opting to use the train service to Montmelo.
The train service to Montmelo starts at the 'El Prat' Airport so hotels there could be of use, but the commute is much longer. Traffic can be an issue between the main Airport and circuit. Bear this in mind.
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is located at Montmeló, 25 km north of Barcelona city centre, approx. 40 km from Barcelona Airport and 70 km from Girona Airport.
Road access to the circuit is good, as it is close to a number of major highways; follow the C-17 road (exit Montmeló), or the AP-7 highway. If you choose the AP-7 toll highway, you have several exits to reach the circuit (13, 14 and 15). There are 32,000 parking spaces at Circuit de Catalunya, so for most events getting parked should not be an issue.
There is a good rail link to the circuit; unfortunately, while the line runs parallel to the main grandstand, there is no station at the circuit and Montmeló station is a good 45 minute walk away (and along some pretty busy roads at that). On grand prix weekends only, shuttle buses operate to the circuit. Trains run evey half hour from Barcelona at weekends, with the journey to Montmeló taking 30 minutes.