F1 GP: everything you need to know about Barcelona
WHAT BARCELONA'S LIKE TO WATCH?
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, located around half an hour from the city centre, has hosted the Formula 1 and the Spanish Grand Prix every year since it was built in 1991. The race used to take place right in the heart of the city around the fearsomely fast Montjuïc road circuit, which alternated with Jarama near Madrid before the event moved south to Jerez in the 1980s.
The modern Barcelona circuit is somewhat tamer in comparison. It's a track that the teams and drivers know extremely well from the amount of testing that takes place there, so there aren't always many surprises. But that doesn't mean the circuit hasn't provided us with some memorable moments over the years.
One image from the very first race there in 1991 remains perhaps the most iconic: the sight of Nigel Mansell's Williams and Ayrton Senna's McLaren side-by-side down the pit straight, Mansell making a famous move stick into Turn 1 on a damp track on his way to victory. Five years later came Michael Schumacher's epic first victory for Ferrari in wet weather. In 2001, Schumacher won again thanks to a cruel blow for Mika Hakkinen when his engine failed on the very last lap.
More recently, Pastor Maldonado held off Fernando Alonso for an unlikely win with Williams in 2012, while in 2016 the track was the scene for Max Verstappen's maiden win in his first race for Red Bull – after Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had collided on the first lap.
WHAT BARCELONA'S LIKE TO DRIVE?
The track layout at Barcelona provides a comprehensive test of a car's characteristics, which makes it an ideal venue for testing and an enjoyable circuit to drive. The number of high-speed corners in particular really tests a car's aerodynamics – as well as its tyres – with the very long Turn 3 right-hander generating the greatest forces.
The middle of the lap perhaps provides the most fun and challenge for the drivers, with the quick Turn 7-8 left-right chicane leading uphill to a very fast and blind right-hander at Turn 9 – where mistakes and spins can be a frequent occurrence, especially if the wind is blowing.
The Turn 10 hairpin was changed for 2021, making it faster and wider than before. It was the first major change to the layout since 2007 when a tight chicane was introduced before the final corner to try and improve overtaking opportunities down the main straight. The start of the lap still provides the best chance for wheel-to-wheel racing, and it's not unusual to see drivers remaining side-by-side through Turns 1 and 2 and into Turn 3.
WHAT BARCELONA LIKE TO VISIT?
Perhaps the very best thing about the Spanish Grand Prix is that it takes place just a short drive away from Barcelona, one of the world's great cities. While some people choose to sleep close to the track, it's entirely possible to stay in the city centre and come to the track every day (there's even a train service if you don't want to drive).
There's so much to see and do in Barcelona that's impossible to know where to begin, but the Ramblas – a meandering pedestrianised road through the historic centre of the city, lined with bars and shops – is a must. The port area is also worth a look (especially if you're into spotting superyachts) and then there are the classic sights such as Gaudi's Sagrada Familia – the most incredible cathedral you will ever lay eyes on – and Park Guell, where Gaudi actually lived (you can visit his house, in the grounds of the park). Montjuic Park, with its views over Barcelona, is also worth a visit, especially if you're into the history of Formula 1 or the Olympic Games (held in Montjuich in 1992).
On the track, there are several great places to watch: the grandstands on the outside of Turn 1 give you a view over the best overtaking spots, while the Turn 3 grandstands show the cars working at the extremes of their downforce capabilities.