Barcelona is a European tourist hot spot, featuring fascinating architecture, fresh Catalan cuisine and a bustling nightlife...with the 1.2-kilometre pedestrian-walk known as Las Ramblas the heart of the action downtown.
And the locals are huge sports fans, with their beloved Barcelona Football Club 25-time La Liga champions, and 5-time Champions League winners.
Motorsport is also a big drawcard, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya the city’s renowned temple of speed as host of both pre-season testing, and the Spanish Grand Prix.
All the teams and drivers know the 4.6 kilometre Montmeló track intimately, having pounded out tens of thousands of laps throughout the years and in all conditions, snow included.
And while the crowds will miss their gladiator this year, with two-time F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso having stepped back from the series, and preparing for the Indy 500…
… young gun Carlos Sainz Junior, the son of World Rally Champion and Dakar winner Carlos Sainz Senior, is making his way at McLaren, having replaced his hero at the former British powerhouse.
SOUNDBITE (English) CARLOS SAINZ,
F1 DRIVER, McLAREN:
“It’s incredible to see the amount of support we get over the McLaren Plus Papaya fans - and in general, no?! I think this is one of the most loved teams in F1.”
Mercedes heads to Barcelona in top form, a far cry from last year when it began its fightback against Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton taking his second victory for 2018 after the Scuderia and Red Bull claimed the first three rounds.
Hamilton has three victories in Barcelona including the last two, making him the most successful there on the current grid, but Michael Schumacher is the outright record holder with six.
And winning at Barcelona is generally a very good omen, because if your car is on-form there it should be competitive elsewhere.
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.”
The Spanish track remains a strong technical challenge, the 4.6 kilometre circuit featuring 16 turns, seven left and nine right, and a top speed of 335 kilometres an hour. Daniel Ricciardo reset the lap record last year with his former team Red Bull. And there are two DRS activation zones: along the back straight, as well as the pit straight, with two DRS detection points.
But it’s not the only host venue of the Spanish race, despite the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya home for almost three decades.
The Catalonian racetrack is the fifth venue in history to host the Formula 1 Spanish GP since 1951… following on from Pedralbes, Jarama, Montjuïc, and Jerez, which also twice hosted the European GP.
For the teams, Spain generally also means upgrades; the round marking the opening of the European season.
…and both squads and power unit manufacturers will all be looking at making big improvements, to help fire up their campaigns.
… with Ferrari in the hot seat, desperate to turn its season around after Mercedes owned Azerbaijan, with Red Bull Racing and Honda closing the gap.
Technical and fast, it’s time for the Spanish Grand Prix.