F1 2015 Spanish Grand Prix: Hamilton bids for victory in Barcelona
PUBLISHED: 10:43 07 May 2015 | UPDATED: 16:49 07 May 2015
Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton bids for his fourth victory of the season at the 2015 Spanish Grand Prix this weekend.
The Formula One World Championship season continues with Round Five, the Spanish Grand Prix, held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Sunday.
After winning in Bahrain last month, the 30-year-old Mercedes driver from Hertfordshire is looking for back-to-back victories around the Barcelona track.
Hamilton said: “Bahrain was a tough race so to come away with the win was a great feeling and it’s amazing the start we’ve had this year.
“Next up it’s Barcelona, which is a great place to start the European phase of the season.
"Having tasted success there for the first time last year, I want to do it in even better style this time."
“The weather is always good and the circuit is a real test of every aspect of the car, which is why we go testing there.”
He added: “It’s a great city, too. The architecture is stunning and it’s a young, vibrant place so I always enjoy the weekend.
“Racing there is tough – it’s usually hot and the circuit is incredibly physical. But the support I have in Spain is growing every time we go and, having tasted success there for the first time last year, I want to do it in even better style this time.”
The Circuit de Catalunya is a great test of man and machine.
Circuit de Catalunya: The race
* Start time: 14.00 (local) / 13.00 (BST).
* Race distance: 66 laps (full world championship points awarded after 75% distance/49.5 laps).
* 2014 winner: Lewis Hamilton.
* 2014 pole position: Lewis Hamilton 1m25.232s 196.616km/h.
* 2014 fastest lap: Sebastian Vettel 1m28.918s 188.466km/h.
* Chances of a Safety Car: Low. There have been five Safety Car periods since 2003 and four of those were for first-lap incidents.
* Don’t put the kettle on… Between laps 18-20 and 40-43. Last year’s race was won using a two-stop strategy. The medium-compound tyre was the preferred race tyre, with most cars using the harder compound late in the race for a short dash to the flag.
* Weather forecast: The long-term forecast looks good, with temperatures in the low-20s. The chance of rain is low.
Only three of circuit’s 16 turns are taken at less than 100km/h (62mph); the remainder are all medium and high-speed corners, which test a car’s high-speed balance and aerodynamic efficiency.
These challenges have made the circuit a popular testing venue over the years, the most recent tests taking place in February.
Overtaking is notoriously difficult. Eighteen of the 24 Grands Prix staged at the Circuit de Catalunya have been won from pole position, which is the highest ratio of any track on the calendar – including Monaco.
As a result, a good qualifying performance is key.
Circuit de Catalunya: The track
* First race: 1991.
* Circuit length: 4.655km/2.892 miles.
* Run to Turn One: 730 metres – the longest of the season.
* Longest straight: 1.047km, on the approach to Turn One.
* Top speed: 330km/h on the approach to Turn One.
* DRS zones: Two – the first on the approach to Turn One, the second on the approach to Turn 10.
* Key corner: Turn Three. This is a tricky uphill right-hander, through which the drivers get hard on the throttle before they can see the exit. A lot of time can be saved through here if your car has a good high-speed balance.
* Pitlane length: 331 metres.
* Major changes for 2015: None.
A good start is also important because the run from pole position to the apex of Turn One is the longest of the season.
A lot can be won and lost during this 730-metre dash and you often see drivers being very aggressive under braking for the first corner.
It is also a challenging circuit for tyres because the combination of old, abrasive asphalt and fast corners puts a lot of energy through the rubber, particularly the front left.
To combat these stresses, Pirelli are taking their two hardest compounds to the race, the Medium (Option) and Hard (Prime).
Circuit de Catalunya: The car
* Fuel consumption: 1.7kg per lap, making it fairly average in terms of fuel consumption.
* Full throttle: 63 per cent.
* Brake wear: Medium. There are eight braking events, but only 13 per cent of the lap is spent braking and there are two long straights along which to cool the brakes.
* Gear changes: 44 per lap/2904 per race.
Hamilton’s Silver Arrows star Nico Rosberg was buoyed by his performance in the desert race last month and is looking forward to challenging the two-time world champion’s superiority in Spain.
Rosberg said: “The race in Bahrain was definitely the most enjoyable of the season for me so far.
“It was a really good fight out there and it gave me the chance to show what I can do in a close battle.
“Although we had a problem at the end, the car felt fantastic and I could really push hard to get my positions back.
Did you know?
The end of the lap was re-profiled in 2007.
A chicane was installed to slow the cars prior to the final corner, dropping the average lap speed by 12kph.
“I’m feeling really fired up for the next races knowing I have all the tools available to me for a strong performance.”
The German added: “It’s felt like a long break and I can’t wait to get back out there in Barcelona.
“It’s the first race in Europe at a track which every driver knows well, so it should make for an exciting weekend.
“The circuit itself really tests every element of the car – especially the aero – so it will be interesting to see how each team has developed since we last came here in the winter and also to see who has brought the most upgrades since the last race.
“I know our guys have been working mega hard at the factory, so let’s see what we’ve got.”
The head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport is pleased with the team’s progress so far this season – but is taking nothing for granted.
Toto Wolff said: “After the first part of the season, the last weeks gave us the chance to judge our performance so far – and look at what we need to do to build our advantage in the next weeks and months.
“We scored more points in the first four races of 2015 than in 2014 and enjoyed better reliability; the team is in a very strong position.
“The difference is the competitive situation: in 2014, we had a lead of over 100 points in the Constructors’ Championship; this year, it’s 52 points and we are in a close battle at every race weekend.
“But that’s what Formula 1 is all about: accepting the challenge of performing at your best for every lap of every race weekend, and always pushing yourself to be even better.
“Every single team member in Brackley and Brixworth knows that we can’t afford to take our foot off the gas so we are pushing hard with developments to the car and the power unit for the coming races.”
Of this weekend’s test, Wolff added: “Barcelona is traditionally the first race for big upgrades, so we will be interested to see how we perform relative to the competition.
“One area where we can be totally confident is our driver line-up. Lewis is in the zone right now, probably driving as well as he has ever done, and Nico showed his teeth in Bahrain with some forceful overtaking and a strong, aggressive race. We’re expecting more of the same in Spain.”
Technical director Paddy Lowe added: “It feels like a long but well-needed break since Bahrain, having barely had more than a week’s gap between events since the pre-season programme began.
“This has given us time to reflect, regroup and pick up on what we’ve learned in the first part of the year.
“We now head to the first European race, which is traditionally seen as the first major upgrade point of the season. But in practice, recent years have seen car upgrades become more of a constant and relentless campaign throughout the year.
“We may see a little more than usual after the three-week gap, however, so it will be interesting to see what each team brings to the table.
“Barcelona is one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar, testing both chassis and power unit, and it’s often said that if you’re quick here, you’ll be quick anywhere.
“We looked strong during winter testing – but time has passed, teams will have developed their cars significantly in the subsequent weeks and we’ll now see much warmer temperatures, so we don’t know how we’ll look until we get there.
“We’ll have a lot of work to do on Friday to get the most out of the car and see where we stand for the weekend.”
The Circuit de Catalunya is the sixth Spanish venue to host a World Championship Grand Prix, after Pebralbes, Montjuic Park, Valencia, Jarama and Jerez.
It is located in the northern industrial suburbs of Barcelona and has been a permanent fixture on the Formula 1 calendar since 1991.
However, it hasn’t always hosted motorised events.
It was one of the many building projects ahead of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, during which the track hosted the time-trial cycling events.
It is also the home race of McLaren-Honda ace Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard said: “My home Grand Prix is always very special. The Spanish fans are really passionate about Formula 1 and the Circuit de Catalunya is very enjoyable to drive.
“It’s a great place to kick off the European season. Let’s hope we can put on a good show.”
After a testing start to the season, Alonso added: “We’ve taken some useful steps forward during the flyaway races and I’m looking forward to getting back in the car after the three-week break and continuing our push.
“We are seeing improvements race by race, and I want to ensure that we maintain this consistency throughout this weekend.
“It will be very difficult, as other teams will also have been working hard to develop their cars too, but I’m hopeful that the start of the European season will be positive for us and allow us to carry momentum into the next few races.”
Hamilton’s former McLaren team-mate Jenson Button is also looking forward to the first European challenge of the season.
Button said: “Coming into Europe after four flyaways and a three-week break is always an exciting feeling.
“It’s like the second phase of the season is beginning and, especially after my difficult weekend in Bahrain, I’m raring to get back out there and see how our car fares around this track.”
Button, who won the Spanish Grand Prix in 2009, added: “We’ve been working flat-out since the last race to improve the performance of the MP4-30, both the chassis and the power unit.
“Barcelona will be a good track to test our package as it’s a challenging circuit with every type of corner.”
Talking about the Spanish tack, Button said: “The Circuit de Catalunya is a great place to kick-off the European season and a fun circuit to race on, with long straights, high-speed corners and tricky chicanes that require you to get the most out of the car throughout the whole lap.
“It really challenges the car and you need good balance and aerodynamic downforce to get the best consistency, and, ultimately, performance.
“It’s difficult to overtake there, so we’ll be working on our qualifying performance from the outset to try and push us up the pecking order.
“We’ve made good strides over the past few races, and that effort has continued right through the break between Bahrain and Spain, so I’m excited to see where we are and work with my engineers to keep pushing the boundaries of our previous performances at every opportunity.
“The key to all of this, though, is reliability, and that’s the most important element if we are to really push our package to its limits from Spain onwards.”
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