Team McLaren Mercedes travels to Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya this week for the sixth race of the 2006 Formula One World Championship, the Spanish Grand Prix.
The race is the second of the five sets of back to back events this season, coming just seven days after the European Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. Team McLaren Mercedes has tested at the Circuit de Catalunya a total of 20 days of car running time since the start of the year, covering 6,510km of the Spanish track.
The inaugural Spanish Grand Prix took place at the Pedrables track in 1951. Since then the event has been a sporadic fixture on the calendar, held at a number of locations including Jarama and Montjuich Park, until 1986 when it returned on a permanent basis. The purpose built Circuit de Catalunya, which is approximately a 30 minutes drive from the centre of Barcelona, has hosted the race since 1991.
Team McLaren Mercedes has won four times in the past eight years. Most recently Kimi Raikkonen took victory at the Circuit de Catalunya having led the race from pole position. From 1998-2000, Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard took three one-two victories for the team.
“Over the weekend at the Nürburgring the car was definitely improving, and I am looking forward to getting straight back on track in Spain, to try and continue to find more pace. The Circuit de Catalunya is a very quick track, not in the same way as say Monza that is all about power, it is because there are a lot of fast corners that keep you flowing the whole way round.”
“This does mean though that you can lose a bit of downforce when you are close behind another car through the quick corners and this can make it quite difficult to pass. The aerodynamics of cars are tested the most here, so set-up is crucial. This can be quite tricky as it can be quite windy on track and something that worked really well in the morning doesn’t always work as well in the afternoon.”
Juan Pablo Montoya:
“It wasn’t the best race for me in Europe, but that is racing and you have to move on. There has traditionally been quite high levels of tyre degradation at the Circuit de Catalunya, this was less last year with the resurfacing, but over the course of the past twelve months it has returned to being fairly abrasive. With all the super fast corners there are big loadings on the tyres, so tyre wear is still a consideration, particularly the front left.”
“We have worked hard with Michelin in preparation for the race, and final selection between the prime and option will be our main focus in the early part of the weekend. I have tested at the Circuit de Catalunya for seven days since the start of the year, providing useful data.”
“The Michelin tyre selection process for the race started in early April when we were testing at the track and we completed it at Silverstone a couple of weeks ago. Overtaking here is not easy and to do it having good traction out of the corners is a must, there is one chance, as you can slipstream along the main straight and then try to overtake at the first corner.”
Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula One, Team McLaren Mercedes:
“The European Grand Prix demonstrated that we are in a ferociously competitive Championship, and Team McLaren Mercedes has to push forward to find the extra pace we need to challenge for victories. The Spanish Grand Prix sees us race at a demanding circuit that necessitates optimum performance form the entire MP4-21. The Circuit de Catalunya is a very changeable track to run on, whether it is the wind affecting the aero efficiency or the temperature changing having a significant impact on grip levels.”
Norbert Haug, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
“Barcelona is the circuit which all teams know best, because it’s the test track they use the most. Since the beginning of this year all teams together completed about 54000 kilometres in total here and with more than 6500 kilometres we are by far not the team which tested the most.”
“The circuit is characterised by sweeping and mainly fast corners and a long front straight. About 62 percent of a lap will be run under full throttle. This track is the most demanding of all circuits in terms of a car’s aerodynamic efficiency and is considered the yardstick for the competitiveness of a technical package for the entire season.”