PALMER: Why the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is the perfect track for the teams to introduce upgrades – Formula 1
When F1 arrives in Barcelona this weekend, expect to see a raft of upgrades on the cars throughout the field, which could just tinker with 2022’s pecking order.
The Spanish Grand Prix has long been a race that’s earmarked for major upgrades to be introduced, and there are plenty of reasons why that is the case – and why it could be even more opportune this year.
It comes at a good time – and it’s in a good location
Over the winter, Formula 1 factories are bustling away with designers, mechanics and machines working day and night to get prepared for the first test. The build of the cars is left until the last possible minute to allow maximum time for the designers to lock in car specs before starting to produce components.
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As soon as designs are locked in, parts can be made, but the design process moves on and that’s why throughout testing and even until the first race, you see new iterations of parts being churned out.
Unless particular issues need troubleshooting early on – like McLaren’s brake ducts in Bahrain this year – teams often then look to bring a major upgrade package, because sometimes a roster of changes will work well together, but not necessarily when combined with older-spec parts.
The build of the 2022 cars will have been left as late as possible
Having a race in May gives a decent lead time for this new process to take place, allowing designers more time to try and find some significant performance gains, based not only on simulation data as the initial base car is, but also on how the cars are reacting on track, and with an eye on what the competition is doing as well.
The fact that Barcelona is relatively nearby all of the factories allows a little more breathing space for parts to arrive on time as well, or even for parts to be reverted to or replaced by flying in overnight on Thursday or Friday. It gives a lot more flexibility.
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It’s a track everybody knows
All Formula 1 drivers know Catalunya like the back of their hand. It’s where they spend most of their time driving, be it in junior categories or throughout F1 as well, given current testing restrictions.
This means that when they get to FP1 on the race weekend, there is no time needed to get up to speed from a driving point of view, and so the focus can be immediately on car performance and back-to-backing upgrades.
The fact that pre-season testing has usually happened on the same circuit just two or three months previously allows for some extra baseline comparisons if they are needed, although ambient conditions can sometimes blur the absolute picture.
The drivers have spent huge amounts of time lapping the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Here’s current Mercedes driver George Russell leaving the pits in his GP3 days in 2017
The Catalunya circuit features a wide array of corners
Barcelona is a great test track, …….