F1 and Sightseeing: Barcelona
A trip through one of the most beautiful cities in Europe
Round 4 of the 2021 Formula One season takes us to Barcelona in Spain. It is a city on the coast of northeastern Spain. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Catalonia. Though the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya does not produce a lot of racing, the city has a very fascinating history and some really stunning places to see. So, as usual, let's start with the history.
Though the origins of the city at its present site is unclear, ruins of civilisation have been found dating back to 5000 BC. In 15 BC, the Romans redrew the city as a Roman Military Base. Under Roman rule, the city grew in importance due to its location and beautiful harbour. The city's famous cathedral, Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Barcelona is said to have been founded in 343 BC.
The city was conquered by the Arabs in the early 8th century but was reconquered by the Romans after a siege in 801. The city became more independent and its territory expanded to include much of modern Catalunya. However, on July 6, 985, the Arab military leader Almanzor looted Barcelona and either killed or enslaved most of the city's population.
The Bank of Barcelona, one of the oldest public banks in Europe, was established in 1401 due to the necessities of the state and the Bank of Venice and the Bank of Genoa soon followed suit.
Once Barcelona became part of the Spanish monarchy in the 15th century, it became the centre of Catalan separatism and was one of the sites of the Spanish revolt. During this time, the Spanish plague reduced the city's population to half.
A fortress was built at Montjuïc, overlooking the harbour in the 18th century. In 1793, French astronomer, Pierre François André Méchain used the fortress for observations relating to a survey that provided the official basis of the measurement of a metre.
During the Spanish Civil War in the 20th century, anarchists lost control of the city to their own allies, the Communists, after street fighting during a series of clashes between various factions of Republicans, known as May Days. The fall of the city led to the exodus of residents across the French border. Despite the Civil War, the city remained relatively industrialised and prosperous which led to the immigration of people from the poorer parts of Spain and led to the city's urbanisation.
Currently, it is the second-most populous city in Spain and the fifth most populous in the European Union. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe and has lots of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
There is plenty to do in Barcelona. It has numerous monuments that show the city's history as well as many modern structures that depict the city's progress in modern times.
The Sagrada Familia is the best place to start a trip to Barcelona. It is a largely unfinished cathedral in Barcelona. Its construction began in 1882 but was slow and interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. Once construction is complete, it will be the tallest church building in the world. The church combines various architectural styles like Catalan Modernism, Art Nouveau and Spanish Late-Gothic.
Las Ramblas is a sequence of promenades running from the Plaça de Catalunya to the Columbus Monument at the waterfront. In summer, the trees provide people a shady relief from the hot sun while looking at living statues, live performers, bird-sellers and flower stands. Few shops also sell waffles along the street. Once one reaches the waterfront, one can visit the Barcelona Aquarium or the Maremagnum Mall.
The Casa Batlló is another postcard-worthy building in Barcelona. It is an apartment block remodelled in the 20th century. The building's roof is tiled to look like the scales of a dragon and the building itself has great attention to detail. The noble floor of the Casa Batlló has a mushroom-shaped fireplace for people to warm up in winters.
La Boqueria is an iconic and educational place. It is a market that has existed since medieval times. It has an elegant glass roof that was installed in 1914. One can buy great quality food or just take in the sights and sounds of the city. It has permanent stalls selling fruits, vegetables, cold meat, cheese and olive products. There are also numbers of bars to help people cool down during hot summer days.
The Camp Nou is the home of F.C. Barcelona, one of the biggest football clubs in the world. It is a cathedral of European football. It is like heaven for fans of the sport. Touring the stadium and looking at the memorabilia is an enthralling experience. It is a great experience for non-fans, who can appreciate the dizzying scale of the 99,000 seater arena.
Developed for the 1929 International Exhibition, Montjuïc is a city district that features several high profile museums. The views of the city from the National Museum of Catalan Art are truly stunning. There is also a magic fountain where one can see light and sound shows on the weekends. On top of the hill, there is a fort that saw action in the Catalan Revolt as well as the Spanish Civil War.
The Palau de la Música Catalana is a concert hall that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built at a time when there was huge investment in the performing arts in Catalunya. The hall hosts performances in opera, symphonies and folk music.
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
2020 Spanish Grand Prix. Photo: Formula One
The venue for this weekend's Grand Prix, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was built under the 1992 Barcelona Olympics development programme. Construction started in 1989. The track made its racing debut in 1991 by hosting a round of the Spanish Touring Car Championship. Two weeks later, Formula One arrived in Barcelona. It had a brilliant debut with Nigel Mansell battling with Ayrton Senna for the win.
Despite having hosted so many races in the past, there have not been too many memorable or notable moments, mainly due to lack of overtaking action. However, as mentioned, it had quite a memorable debut and has also been the site of first wins for two drivers.
In the track's first F1 race in 1991, Ayrton Senna was leading Nigel Mansell. However, Mansell, on fresher tyres caught the Brazillian and beat him in a drag race down the main straight to take the lead. Mansell then pulled away and went on to win the race.
Nigel Mansell passes Ayrton Senna in the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix. Photo: Autosport
In 2012, Pastor Maldonado managed to take pole in his Williams. At the race start, Fernando Alonso passed the Venezuelan and led the race until the pitstops where Maldonado and Williams undercut Alonso to take a really surprising first victory in Spain.
Pastor Maldonado celebrates with Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen on the podium in 2012. Photo: Formula One
The first 3 years of the hybrid era, which started in 2014, was absolutely dominated by Mercedes and anyone else winning meant that the victory had been gifted by the Silver Arrows. It was such a gift that Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg gave the Red Bulls and Ferraris in 2016 when they crashed into each other on the opening lap. This left Daniel Ricciardo in the lead followed by Max Verstappen on his Red Bull debut with the Ferraris behind him in hot pursuit. Both teams ended up splitting strategies which left Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen fighting for the lead. Ultimately, Max managed to hold on despite having really worn tyres and took his first F1 win.
Max Verstappen after winning the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix. Photo: New York Times
The track has lots of fast, flowing corners and a long main straight but no real braking zone. This, combined with the fact that the track is the usual host of winter testing means that teams have lots of data and races here are usually very boring. This year, turn 10 has been remodelled to make it a more flowing corner to increase safety for MotoGP. This has further reduced the chances for overtaking at the track.
Watch Carlos Sainz's 2020 track guide:
2020 Spanish Grand Prix
The 2020 Spanish Grand Prix was a pretty dull affair. Lewis Hamilton started from pole and went on to win unchallenged. Max Verstappen finished 23 seconds behind Hamilton in second as Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas recovered from a terrible start to finish third. There was some action in the midfield involving the Mclarens and Racing Points but nothing much to liven up the race.
Watch the highlights below:
What to Watch For
The battle for the Drivers' title is well and truly on. Lewis Hamilton currently has the upper hand over Max Verstappen. However, the Circuit de Barcelona should suit the Red Bulls and should help Max claw back to the lead of the Championship. It is also worth watching out for the two Spaniards, Fernand Alonso and Carlos Sainz, who seem to have gotten to grips with their new machinery. With rain forecast for Sunday, tune in to find out who wins the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix.