After four long haul races the European season begins next weekend in Barcelona. After failing to score any points in China, Williams will be hoping that new parts will help them challenge the frontrunners in Spain.
The teams were last at the Circuit de Catalunya in February for pre-season testing, and Williams technical director Sam Michael is looking forward to returning. “We spend a lot of time testing in Barcelona so we know the track well. That brings obvious advantages for the drivers, but it also enables us to spend more time working on different programmes during the practice sessions.
“We will have some aero updates for the car in Barcelona, including a new front wing, sidepod and revised wing mirrors. We will also be running additional test parts in order to further develop the blown rear wing that we had limited time with in Shanghai.”
Rubens Barrichello explains the challengers that the drivers face at what is essentially their second home. “Most of the drivers know Barcelona inside out. It's a great track, particularly for qualifying and that can really be the determining factor of the weekend.
“The circuit has a combination of high and low speed sectors but the priority is to achieve good speed going into the corners, rather than focusing on the long straight, so you have to have a strong aerodynamic set-up. Turn three is challenging and you are looking to go flat out there for qualifying. The four-through-seven corner sequence is where you can make up the most time on the lap so getting that hooked up is important too.
Even rookie Nico Hulkenberg, who will be racing in Barcelona for the first time in F1, knows the circuit like the back of his hand. “I've enjoyed the first few races so I'm looking forward to Spain and working together with the team again. I've covered a lot of kilometres testing in Barcelona over the past couple of years, and I've raced there in GP2, so I'm confident I know the track well enough to hit the ground running.
“It's a good circuit to drive and gives everyone a clear indication of how strong your aerodynamics are. The track flows nicely and has some testing corners. The first sector is especially quick. Turn three is a fast right hander, turn nine too, and both are a lot of fun to drive.
“Like everyone else, we will have new parts for Barcelona so there's some expectation to do better there than in China. I've been to the track so many times but I've never really seen the city itself. Now that I'm actually racing in F1, I doubt that's going to change!”
Photo credit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic