After four flyaway races we’re this weekend heading into the European season and that means the Spanish Grand Prix and one of the most visited circuits in all of F1 – the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
The track at Montmeló has long been F1’s test venue of choice and in addition to the 28 grands prix held at the circuit since 1991, the venue has also hosted a whopping 100 test sessions since 1999, when it first opted to use the track as a proving ground.
It means that Barcelona’s 16 corners are among the most familiar of all to F1’s teams and drivers. Indeed, Max has completed 22 days of testing in Barcelona and even a relative newcomer such as Pierre has done 12 F1 test sessions at the 4.655km track.
But while we’ve accumulated a huge amount of data about Barcelona the track can still spring surprises, such as the massive change made by the resurfacing of the track last year. Of course, the biggest shock – albeit a pleasant one – came in 2016 when Max became F1’s youngest winner on his debut with the team. Can we replicate that kind of form this year? Time will tell, but as Max and Pierre explain being back at the traditional gateway to the European season is always special…
We’re back in Europe, in Barcelona, a venue that after 2016 must rank highly among your favourites?
It’s the track where I won my first F1 race, so it is always a special one for me. It’s a good track and we all test there during pre-season so hopefully that will help us set-up the car straight away. Of course, the temperatures will be a bit different and everyone is bringing new parts to their cars, so it will be interesting to see how competitive we can be.
Aside from the emotional resonance of your first win, is it a track you like?
There are some fast corners so it’s always a challenging circuit, and being closer to home, it will be good to see so many fans in the grandstands. For us, the main thing is to keep maximising our results while we hopefully continue to close the gap to the championship leaders.
You’ve had a dozen test days in Barcelona but just one F1 race there. How comfortable are you with the track?
Barcelona is kind of a cool race because you’re back in Europe and it marks the start of the middle part of the season. It’s also a track where I’ve driven most of my laps, because going back to my junior career, we always tested there, so it’s a track everyone knows well.
Winter testing seems a long time ago now, so what are you expecting from the race weekend in Spain, in warmer temperatures and with four races under our belts?
It’s a really exciting time as Spain is where you have upgrades coming and that’s really when you see the step everybody is making. I think the Team has always been competitive there so I’m excited to see the performance we can achieve. You usually find the fans are pretty passionate in Spain so I expect a lot of people and it’s a race with a massive crowd. For sure you have more French people there as it’s close to France so there’s a bit more support and seeing the flags in the grandstands is a nice feeling that gives you an even bigger boost!