More Than Just a Circuit…

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is as close to a home venue as F1 has. Since testing became a rationed commodity, it’s been a perennial favourite, thanks to good facilities and an eclectic mix of corners that challenges a car across a wide variety of conditions. F1 comes here more than anywhere else: because the car that goes well at this place is likely to go well everywhere. Testing, however, is one thing; racing another, and when the cars are on the limit in the Spanish Grand Prix, in front of a 100,000 screaming fans, it’s a very different circuit. Happily, we’ve enjoyed some great racing days on this track too…

Mark Webber – victory from pole position, 2010

With the benefit of hindsight, the RB6 was every inch a championship-winning car – but early in the 2010 season, that wasn’t entirely clear cut. While Mark Webber or Sebastian Vettel had been on pole for every race at the early season flyaways, only one of those four had led to victory. In later years, a confident team, accustomed to victory, could have shrugged that off, in 2010, going to Spain third in the Constructors’ Championship and fifth and sixth in the drivers, things were a little nervous. 

Mark Webber helped settle those nerves with a dominant performance. A tenth quicker than Seb in qualifying (and nine-tenths clear of Lewis Hamilton in third) saw him take pole position, then a dominant race concluded with a 25-second margin to Fernando Alonso in second, after leading every lap. Following that, ours was definitely the car to beat for the rest of 2010.

Sebastian Vettel – third place from P2, 2010

On the face of it, starting second and finishing third doesn’t sound like a particularly epic afternoon for Seb. What’s truly remarkable about his 2010 podium however, is that he managed to achieve it with only three working brakes on a car. All in all, Seb had a fairly miserable grand prix. His first pitstop was slow, and involved him being unluckily held in the box because of passing traffic, which cost him P2. His race was further hampered by a brake failure, he lost the front left 15 laps from home. That should have been game-over but by pushing the brake balance all the way rearwards, and tip-toeing through some of the bigger stops, he managed to cling on to a podium ahead of a charging Michael Schumacher. It was a tense time in the garage with the gap falling from a comfortable 44s on lap 52 to around 10s at the flag on lap 66. Seb had many better days in 2010 – but in an astoundingly tight title fight, nursing a broken car over the line and limiting the loss to Mark and Fernando did as much as anything to win the Championship for Seb. 

Sebastian Vettel – victory from P2, 2011 

Sebastian Vettel began his first title defence in fine style, taking three wins from the first four races. In Spain, though, he had to really work to claim a fourth victory.

Starting from the front row behind polesitting team-mate Mark Webber, Seb made a good getaway, but not as good as Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who bypassed both Red Bulls to seize the lead.

The Spaniard kept control until the first round of pit stops but then began to fade as the Red Bulls found better pace. Seb took the lead but in the closing stages and was put under heavy pressure by McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. Suffering with technical issues Seb was in danger of losing out, but brilliant defensive work kept Hamilton at bay and the Red Bull driver eventually crossed the line to take his 14thcareer win, just 0.630s ahead of the McLaren driver. “It was very close, but on the last two laps, I could make it stick,” Seb said. “KERS was on and off, which meant I was playing around with brake distribution a lot. It's quite a release when you cross the line and you know that you made it, so I'm very, very happy.”

A superb drive by Sebastian on his way to his second title for the team. 

Daniel Ricciardo – P3 for a first (official) podium finish, 2014 

The Honey Badger made a brilliant start to his time with the team by claiming a podium finish at the first time of asking, at his home race in Australia. However, due to an issue with fuel flow monitoring, the result was snatched away from him. It didn’t take long for Daniel to erase the disappointment, though, and just four races later, in Spain, he was once again spraying the champagne. 

Starting from P3 he lost out to Williams’ Valtteri Bottas when the lights went out but he stayed with the Finn throughout his first stint. Following Daniel’s first pit stop, Bottas stayed out and Daniel gradually chipped away at the gap. When the Finn eventually pitted the Honey Badger had done enough to simply breeze past and reclaim a third place he held to the flag. 

“Holy Moly!” he said afterwards. “It's nice to stand back up on the podium – I actually still feel a bit awkward up there, but I'm sure I will get more comfortable.”

Over the course of 28 more appearances and the introduction of one of F1’s most famous celebrations, the ‘shoey’, he certainly did that.

Max Verstappen – first F1 victory, 2016 

Max had been a Red Bull Racing driver for all of about 10 days when he climbed into the cockpit for FP1 at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix. Sixth in that session was decent but no indicator of what was to come. On Saturday Max climbed higher, taking fourth place in qualifying behind team-mate Daniel Ricciardo and a front row made up of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

The race began to come the Dutchman’s way right from the first laps. First the Mercedes drivers collided with each other on the opening lap, ruling both out of the race. That left Daniel and Max out in front, but the Australian opted for a three-stop strategy that eventually saw him finish fourth. 

The lead eventually fell to Max and in the final third of the race the newcomer to the team was imperious. In the final laps he was relentlessly pressured by Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen but Max defended like a seasoned pro to hold on until the chequered flag, when at 18 years and 228 days he became Formula 1’s youngest ever race winner. 

“It was an incredible feeling because nobody expected anything from me in the team. Not in a bad way, they just said ‘get used to the car, just get comfortable and see where you end up’ and then it just happened,” said Max of the victory.