Spanish GP form guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the Barcelona race

The key stats and facts you need before this weekend's race

2y ago
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We didn’t think the racing could get much better after China – but then came Baku! The last three Grand Prix have seen some spectacular racing.

F1 now moves on to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for the Spanish GP and the fifth race of the season. With racing dating back to 1913, well before the first Formula One World Championship in 1950, the Spanish GP is one of the oldest on the calendar. The current circuit was first used in 1991 and has been home to the Spanish GP in every year since.

Teams and drivers know the track well with pre-season testing taking place at the circuit although with generally much cooler temperatures than expected for the race weekend.

Will the Spanish GP match the excitement of Azerbaijan? Buckle up – here’s everything you need to know ahead of the race weekend.

What happened in this race last year?

- In 2017 Lewis Hamilton started on pole and won the race.

- Sebastian Vettel was second on the grid and finished second though he had a great race with Lewis after taking the lead on the first corner.

- Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas collided on lap one with the first two retiring. Valtteri then retired on lap 38 with an engine failure while running in third position.

- Daniel Ricciardo managed to steal third place after starting sixth on the grid.

- Daniil Kvyat had a superb race starting 19th on the grid and finishing in the points in ninth.

- Pascal Wehlein started 15th and and finished eighth scoring the first of Sauber’s two points finishes for the season.

- Unfortunately for Daniil and Pascal their great drives weren’t enough for them to retain their seats in 2018.

Podium record

Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen: Spanish masters (Pic: Sutton)

Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen: Spanish masters (Pic: Sutton)

Two drivers have won more grand prix at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya than any of the current drivers: Michael Schumacher with six victories and Mika Hakkinen with three.

The graphic below shows the podiums achieved in Spain by the current driver lineup.

Lap records

Michael Schumacher set the overall record at this circuit in his 2006 qualifying session but this time is not really the benchmark any more. A chicane was added in 2007 in an attempt to promote overtaking opportunities (more on this below), so Hamilton’s quali time last year set the record for the fastest time on the current layout.

Kimi Raikkonen’s race lap record on the current track layout remains from 10 years ago. The Ice Man’s time was nearly two seconds quicker that Hamilton’s fasted lap last year. As we’ve noted in our other 2018 pre-race track reviews the current F1 rules are significantly limiting lap times on race day compared qualifying pace.

Who has the best qualifying record?

The stats show some interesting qualifying trends among the top teams in Spain. Both the Ferrari drivers have unfavourable quali biases with Kimi averaging a full place lower on the grid in Spain compared to his average for all circuits.

Seb’s relative form has been almost as bad with an unfavourable 0.8 place bias. In contrast the Mercedes drivers each have around half a place favourable track bias and the Red Bull drivers have excellent track biases of 1 and 2.4 places for Ricciardo and Verstappen respectively.

With the Ferraris, Mercedes, and Red Bull’s one lap pace very close will Max and Dan’s great track bias give them the edge in qualifying in 2018?

The top quali bias in Spain goes to Chilli Sainz with a favourable bias of 3.1 places from his three races here to date.

This is in stark contrast to his Renault teammate with Hulk Hulkenberg having an unfavourable 3.4 place bias. Can Chilli turn this 6.5 place spread to his advantage and gain some ground in the Renault head to head battle?

How important is qualifying?

Pole position has been crucially important at this circuit. Historically over 74% of race winners started on pole. Only 11.1% of races have been won from outside the front row of the grid.

If the poor qualifying bias of the two Ferrari drivers is indicative of their performance this year it may be a tough circuit for the Scuderia. But read on - there’s a twist when we consider the stats from the race results...

Race results

Recall that both Ferrari drivers had poor qualifying track biases in Spain while the Mercedes drivers have performed well in quali here relative to their career averages. Well, for race results these biases are flipped 180 degrees. Both Merc drivers have unfavourable track biases (a full 1.8 places for Lewis) while the Ferrari drivers have each tended to finish about half a place better in Spain than their career average.

In our opinion the quali bias is the more important factor in Spain given how critical it is to land on the front row. But the switch for the race bias for the Ferrari drivers is very interesting and bodes well if they can make the most of their opportunities in quali!

Force India had a terrific result here last year with 4th and 5th. While Ocon has only had one outing in Spain his fifth place gives him the prize for top track bias as this result was 5.9 places ahead of his career average finishing position.

How goods is the circuit for overtaking?

The chart below shows the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has tracked the overall season average for overtakes pretty closely over the last five years – except for last year that is! 2017 was a poor year for overtakes (for reasons we discussed here), but Spain had a particularly poor showing at roughly half the season average.

Let’s hope some more overtaking returns to Spain in 2018!

How many pitstops should we expect?

Two stops was the dominant strategy last year with 11 drivers completing two stops, three drivers completing one stop and four drivers completing three stops.

Of the three cars completing one stop only Wehrlein managed to finish the race. As we’ve already mentioned Wehrlein started 15th and finished 8th after Sauber’s strategists played the contra card brilliantly.

Retirements

80 percent of drivers finished the race last year. Bottas, Verstappen, Raikkonen and Stoffel Vandoorne were not among them.

Track speed and corners

The average speed of the winning driver (Hamilton) over the 307 kilometre race distance was 192.1 km/h in 2017. This puts Spain in the bottom third for average speed last year.

What to look out for this weekend

- With only four points separating Lewis and Seb it’s another key race for the main championship rivals.

- After a terrible race for both Red Bull drivers and some serious bad luck for Valteri Bottas in Baku all three will be looking to make amends in Spain.

Ricciardo and Verstappen need a decent race this weekend after their crash in Baku (Pic: Sutton)

Ricciardo and Verstappen need a decent race this weekend after their crash in Baku (Pic: Sutton)

- Based on the RBR driver’s solid quali bias at Barcelona both will need to capitalise if they have any chance of challenging for the title.

- The mid-field battle is intense. With significant upgrades expected for most teams in Spain who will have made the best of their improvements?

- With one point separating McLaren and Renault for fourth in the championship and Force India strong in Azerbaijan it will be fascinating to see which team comes out on top in Spain.

- Saturday will be critical. Who will secure the vitally important top two grid positions in qualifying?

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