F1 2013 Spanish Grand Prix: Hamilton’s testing Barcelona challenge
PUBLISHED: 12:20 05 May 2013 | UPDATED: 14:32 11 May 2013
THE 2013 Formula 1 World Championship heads to Europe for the first time this season next weekend, with Lewis Hamilton facing a testing Spanish Grand Prix to maintain his title challenge.
The 28-year-old Mercedes F1 driver from Hertfordshire currently sits third in the championship after the opening four rounds in Australia, Malaysia, China and Bahrain.
Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya sees the first of the season’s seven European races. It’s a track Hamilton is familiar with, being one of the circuits used during pre-season testing.
And the Mercedes AMG Petronas newcomer feels next Sunday’s race will be a good judge of how far the F1 W04 has progressed since February’s testing.
With two podiums already this year, Hamilton said: “We’ve been boosted by the results that we’ve had at the start of the season and to come away from the first four races with two third and two fifth places feels like a real achievement.
Grand Prix of Spain
* Race distance: 66 laps (307.104km/190.825 miles)
* Start time: 14.00 (local)/12.00 (GMT)
* Circuit length: 4.655km/2.892 miles
* 2012 winner: Pastor Maldonado (Williams FW34) 66 laps in 1hr39m09.145s (185.838km/h)
* 2012 pole: Pastor Maldonado (Williams FW34) 1m22.285s (203.658km/h)
* Lap record: Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari F2008) 1m21.670s (205.121km/h)
“I’m feeling very comfortable in the car now and we know the areas that we need to improve so a lot of effort is being put in to close that gap to the front-runners.
“Barcelona should be a good test as we know the circuit so well having completed most of the pre-season test programme there. The weekend should be a good benchmark of the progress we have made since then.”
The 2008 F1 world champion from Hertfordshire added: “It feels like a long time since Bahrain so we’re all looking forward to getting to Barcelona next weekend and starting to get into the routine of the European season.
“The short break has been good however, and I’ve had the chance to catch up with family and friends, and also spend some time at the factory with the guys, working on our efforts to improve.”
"Barcelona should be a good test as we know the circuit so well having completed most of the pre-season test programme there."
The Circuit de Catalunya is one of Formula 1’s most popular racetracks. Its eclectic mix of corners and straights provides a thorough workout for the cars, which is why the teams conducted eight days of pre-season testing at the track in February.
At 730 metres, the run from the start to the first corner at Barcelona is the longest of the entire season.
The past two Spanish Grands Prix run with DRS saw 57 (2012) and 83 (2011) in-race passes respectively. The 2011 (75) and 2012 (65) races featured a total of 140 pit-stops, more than in the previous four years combined.
Hamilton’s team-mate Nico Rosberg said: “I’m looking forward to travelling to Spain next weekend. We know that the car went very well at the Circuit de Catalunya in pre-season testing so I am hopeful that we can have a strong weekend.
“We will have to wait and see how our pace compares however.
“I’ve been in the factory for a couple of days this week, on the simulator and meeting with the team, and everyone has been working hard to make progress on our race day performance.
“It will be an interesting weekend and once we see how everyone performs in Barcelona, it should give a good idea of how the rest of the season will look.”
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn explained the developent work carried out since Bahrain, where Rosberg claimed pole position.
He said: “In the two weeks since we returned from Bahrain, there has been a lot of hard work taking place in Brackley and Brixworth to prepare for the start of the European season in Barcelona next weekend.
“We have focused our efforts in two key areas; finalising our upgrade package for Spain and understanding our comparative lack of race pace in Bahrain.
“We have made progress in the latter area and will evaluate some developments over the upcoming race weekends to help improve the situation. We’re not there yet but we are making progress and of course, performing in the race is what really counts.”
The 4.6km Catalunya circuit is the fifth venue to host the Spanish Grand Prix – the others being Pedralbes, Jarama, Montjuich Park and Jerez – and it’s one of the legacies of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
The track was one of the city’s numerous building projects during the build-up to the summer Olympics and it staged its first Grand Prix in September 91, just weeks after it was completed. It’s been a regular fixture on the F1 calendar ever since.
Brawn added: “The Circuit de Catalunya is a circuit that we know well and we have a lot of data from the two pre-season tests to help prepare for the weekend.
“However in the late spring conditions, we can expect the track to be of a very different nature to what we experienced earlier this year.
“Overtaking is more difficult there than at some of the early season tracks and, of course, every team will be bringing new developments so the weekend should provide an interesting challenge.”
Two of the Barcelona track’s standout features are its abrasive track surface and its long, high-speed corners. These make the Circuit de Catalunya particularly demanding on the tyres, which is why Pirelli is bringing its two hardest rubber compounds – Medium and Hard – to the race.
Mercedes director Toto Wolff said: “The three-week break between the Bahrain and Spanish Grands Prix was welcome, as it gave us extra time to analyse in detail what happened at the last race.
“We have built a good picture of our varying levels of race performance and why we under-performed overall in Bahrain.
“In Barcelona, we will test some solutions aimed at improving our tyre management in addition to our planned upgrade package.”
Wolff added: “The circuit itself is well known as a benchmark for aerodynamic performance and we performed strongly there at the end of winter testing.
“The track conditions and temperatures will be very different on the race weekend, though, so we must dial the car in to those circumstances.
“Our target is to improve our Sunday afternoon performance to match what we have delivered on Saturday in the past two races.
“It will certainly be interesting to see what gains everybody has made since the last time we were at the circuit and how the planned upgrade packages work from car to car.”
The 2013 Grand Prix of Spain takes place on Sunday, May 12, with a 1pm BST start.
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