Formula One

Spanish GP Track Layout, Turns and DRS Zones Analysed

F1 completes another back-to-back this weekend, making its yearly trip to Barcelona. It will also mark the series’ first visit to the revamped Spanish GP layout.

Spanish GP F1 track layout
Circuit detail – turn 1 gravel trap extension and widening of run-off area. 01.06.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona, Spain, Preparation Day. –, EMail: [email protected] © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images – Photo by Icon sport

Join us as we take a tour around the 14-turn, 4.657 km Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Spanish GP Layout: Back to the Origins

The most notable thing about the Spanish GP layout for 2023 is the new (or should we say old?) turn 13. Out with the highly controversial chicane, in with the high-speed right-hander up the hill.

Installed in 2007 to slow the cars down on the way to the final turn, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya chicane was extremely unpopular among drivers and fans alike. The complex started with a tight right-hander on turn 13, leading to a very slow left-right sequence on turns 14 and 15.

This is the second major change to the Barcelona-Catalunya track layout. For the 2021 edition, the turn 10-11 complex was widened, making it easier for cars to follow each other around into turn 12.

Drivers start the lap around the Spanish GP layout going down a 1.047 km-long front straight – which was the longest in F1 through the 90’s and into the early 2000’s. Next comes the mid-speed sequence of right-left sweepers through turns 1 and 2. Drivers then go straight into the flat-out turn 3, exiting into a short straight and braking hard for turn 4.

After another short straight, drivers once again go heavy on the brakes for turn 5, which has now becomes the track’s slowest corner. Exiting turn 5, the cars go flat out through the turn 6 kink, and then go heavy on the brakes again for the turns 7-8 sweepers. Going up the hill, drivers only blip the throttle to go through the high-speed turn 9.

Down the back straight, the cars go into another heavy braking zone into turns 10-11. This part of the track is absolutely crucial, as a good exit from turn 11 will create a lot of momentum. After briefly slowing down for turn 12, drivers go flat through 13, and then just blip the throttle for 14 before entering the long front straight again and completing the lap.

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya DRS Zones: Two DRS Zones, One Real Overtaking Chance

There are two DRS zones at Barcelona. The first one is located on the backstraight, leading into turn 10. Its detection zone is located just after the exit of turn 8, on the uphill leading to turn 9.

While the old turn 10 was one of the two good overtaking spots around the Spanish GP layout, the reprofiled corner doesn’t offer a lot of chances. Despite alllowing cars to run side-by-side, it does create some additional difficulties to pull off a move.

On the other hand, the DRS zone does allow the chasing car to close down the gap to the leading one. And with the ground effect regulations making it easier for cars to follow each other around, it means that drivers can use the first DRS zone as a set up for the next one.

Exiting turn 13, drivers go through the second DRS detection point. The DRS zone itself is located on the exit of turn 14, entering the front straight. With just under a kilometer, the second DRS zone is a prime overtaking spot. However, drivers need to complete the move down the straight, as the turns 1-2 complex does offer the leading car a chance to defend, either around the outside or down the inside.

Circuit de Barcelona Racing History

1991Gerhard BergerNigel Mansell
1992Nigel MansellNigel Mansell
1993Alain ProstAlain Prost
1994Michael SchumacherDamon Hill
1995Michael SchumacherMichael Schumacher
1996Damon HillMichael Schumacher
1997Jacques VilleneuveJacques Villeneuve
1998Mika HakkinenMika Hakkinen
1999Mika HakkinenMika Hakkinen
2000Michael SchumacherMika Hakkinen
2001Michael SchumacherMichael Schumacher
2002Michael SchumacherMichael Schumacher
2003Michael SchumacherMichael Schumacher
2004Michael SchumacherMichael Schumacher
2005Kimi RaikkonenKimi Raikkonen
2006Fernando AlonsoFernando Alonso
2007Felipe MassaFelipe Massa
2008Kimi RaikkonenKimi Raikkonen
2009Jenson ButtonJenson Button
2010Mark WebberMark Webber
2011Mark WebberSebastian Vettel
2012Pastor MaldonadoPastor Maldonado
2013Nico RosbergFernando Alonso
2014Lewis HamiltonLewis Hamilton
2015Nico RosbergNico Rosberg
2016Lewis HamiltonMax Verstappen
2017Lewis HamiltonLewis Hamilton
2018Lewis HamiltonLewis Hamilton
2019Valtteri BottasLewis Hamilton
2020Lewis HamiltonLewis Hamilton
2021Lewis HamiltonLewis Hamilton
2022Charles LeclercMax Verstappen

The first F1 race at Barcelona was a historic one. With Ayrton Senna on the verge of clinching his third world championship, title rival Nigel Mansell found himself in a must-win situation. Starting third on the grid, behind the McLarens of Gerhard Berger and Senna, the Lion got around his championship rival after nearly banging wheels down the damp front straight. Following a pit stop, Mansell once again found himself behind Senna. The McLaren driver spun on the wet, giving Mansell a clear track to chase down Berger. And sure enough, the Williams man got around the pole sitter, going on to win the race and keep his championship hopes alive.

In 1996, Barcelona witnessed another historic moment: Michael Schumacher’s first win for Ferrari. In a grueling two-hour race on a wet track, the then two-time champion recovered from a poor start and put on a masterclass to beat the dominant Williams team – which would go on to win 12 of 16 races that year.

Exactly twenty years later, Barcelona once again bore witness to a historic win. The race was marked by a collision between championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, which put both Mercedes out of contention on the first lap. Enter Max Verstappen. The young Dutchman was making his Red Bull debut, having just been drafted in from Toro Rosso days earlier as Daniil Kvyat’s replacement. Verstappen benefited from a two-stop strategy and held off Kimi Raikkonen to claim his first ever Grand Prix victory, becoming the youngest winner in F1 history at 18 years and 228 days.

Last year’s race saw the Dutchman, now the reigning world champion, recover from an early off to win and take the championship lead. After overtaking the surprising George Russell, Verstappen was vaulted into first place when longtime race leader Charles Leclerc retired with an engine failure. The Monegasque had built an unassailable 13-second lead by that point, and was well on his way to a crucial win. Verstappen never relinquised the championship lead after that, and went on to secure his second consecutive world championship.

What Lies Ahead for 2023

The new Barcelona layout will be an interesting challenge. Back to being a high-speed track, although with limited overtaking opportunities, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is probably going to favor Red Bull and Aston Martin again. Keep an eye on Ferrari, though: the Italian Scuderia brought a massive upgrade to Spain, with the new downwash, Red Bull-style sidepod being the highlight. Ferrari is ditching its inwash, “bathtub” sidepod to adopt the same solution as the Austrian team.

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