F1 2015 Spanish Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton battles for pole position in Barcelona

PUBLISHED: 08:23 09 May 2015 | UPDATED: 14:09 09 May 2015

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg  in practice ahead of the 2015 Spanish Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in practice ahead of the 2015 Spanish Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz]

Mercedes-Benz

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton bids for pole position in qualifying for the 2015 Spanish Grand Prix today (Saturday).

The 30-year-old Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 racer from Hertfordshire topped the second practice timesheets at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Friday.

And Hamilton will start qualifying this afternoon as favourite to secure yet another front row grid spot – just as he did in Spain last year when he claimed pole position.

The circuit’s layout is a true test of man and machine.

Only three of its 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.

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.

These challenges have made the circuit a popular testing venue over the years, the most recent tests taking place last 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.

A good start is also important because the run 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.

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.

On nailing the perfect hot lap in Spain, Hamilton said: “The lap begins with quite a long straight that also has a DRS zone.

“It’s really important to find the right braking point for the first corner and to carry a lot of speed through the apex without running too deep into Turn Two.

“Then you’re straight into Turn Three which is just mega: so much G-force and taken almost flat out during qualifying. Maintaining momentum through the first three corners is crucial.”

The two-time world champion added: “Depending on wind direction and how strong the front end is on your car, you can quite easily end up with understeer through Turn Four which may make you run quite deep into the corner.

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.

“Turn Five is then quite a long corner with a bit of a dip through the apex. Good exit speed is essential here for the run down through Turn Six and into Seven.

“This is where the track starts to climb and continues to do so through Turn Eight, before levelling out through the high-speed Turn Nine and down the back straight.

“After another DRS zone, it’s heavy braking into the tight left-hander at Turn 10, which is tough on the rear tyres.

“A quick flick left again through Turn 11 and you’re straight into the right-hander at Turn 12. You have to make a ‘v’ out of this double apex corner before heading into the complex at the end of the lap.”

Hamilton added: “The final few corners are pretty tricky, as by this stage the rear tyres are quite hot. It’s tough to get the car turned in through the Turn 14 and 15 chicane without having too much oversteer and the exit is absolutely crucial.

“You’re flat out through the final turn and back into that long DRS straight to start another lap, so this is the place to overtake.”


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