Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya is always a welcome sight for F1 fans in February, as the traditional host of pre-season testing.
The 4.6 kilometre track, located 30 minutes from the city’s world-famous Las Ramblas tourist centre, is generally the preferred venue given it’s just a short trip for most teams…
… and has an ideal range of corners to put the cars through their paces.
SOUNDBITE (English) LEWIS HAMILTON,
4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
“It’s a very, very demanding circuit for the car. That’s why we test it there because it’s a perfect place to test the aerodynamics because you’ve got a mixture of low-speed; one very, very slow chicane, in the last sector it’s really all, generally low-speed. And then you’ve got the medium and high, so it’s a great combination in that sense.”
Pre-season testing in 2018 will again be compacted into just eight days in total, across two four-day stints with the teams put through an exhausting schedule - working around the clock in two shifts.
In the first four-day stint, which began on Monday this week, the focus is generally on systems checks, establishing balance and reliability.
It’s a nervous time for all 10 F1 teams, after a long European winter spent building the new cars, the first runs giving the drivers’ a taste of what may lay ahead in terms of their campaigns.
SOUNDBITE (English) DANIEL RICCIARDO,
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
"Every time the engine starts up you are a bit nervous, but then it all sounds like it's running well and you pull out of the pits and you can see in the mirror all the crew behind you watching it down pit lane, it's cool. And we did a fair few laps to start which was nice. Just going up through the gears, it's a familiar noise and it's nice to be back.”
On the opening day, low temperatures and rain made comparisons difficult. Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo finished on top, but more impressive was his 105 laps out of the box – including a 35-lap stint.
The times, though, are largely meaningless especially during the first four days with the teams generally ramping up performance in the second test starting on March 6.
But lots of laps is a good omen – with major issues costing track time and momentum that may affect the opening races.
Regardless, it’s a story that’s set to unfold all the way through to March 9, when the teams pack up in Barcelona - in readiness for the opening race in Melbourne, Australia.