Round four of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Honda Racing F1 Team to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix. The 66-lap race is held at the 4.655km (2.892mile) Circuit de Catalunya and marks the start of Formula One's European...
Round four of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Honda Racing F1 Team to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix. The 66-lap race is held at the 4.655km (2.892mile) Circuit de Catalunya and marks the start of Formula One's European season.
The track has staged the Spanish Grand Prix every year since 1991 and is also a renowned F1 testing facility, thanks to its demanding and varied layout. The track has undergone various 'facelifts' in its 17-year history, the most recent of which took place two years ago, when a chicane was added prior to the final corner.
The Honda Racing F1 Team completed a successful four-day test session at the track this week, where new mechanical and aerodynamic components were evaluated on the RA108 car, and the team enters the Spanish Grand Prix weekend hoping to challenge for a points finish.
CIRCUIT DE CATALUNYA - THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE
Such is the technical challenge provided by the Circuit de Catalunya, that there's no hiding from a poor car, and, conversely, a good car is likely to shine. It's a track where every aspect of set-up needs to be right in order to be quick.
The teams do a lot of testing at Barcelona because it throws up a bit of everything. The long pit straight demands good aero efficiency, there are some very challenging slow speed corners, off-camber and on-camber, and a couple of high-speed corners. If your car is quick here, it should be competitive at most tracks on the F1 calendar.
The circuit has changed quite a lot in recent years. A chicane has been built at the end of the lap to slow the cars through the final corner and the track was resurfaced in 2006. After losing a lot of grip initially, the new asphalt has rubbered-in and is now quicker than the old surface. However, it creates a medium-to-high frequency ripple effect along the straights, which can feel a bit odd for the drivers and gives some interesting data.
Full throttle: 64%
Brake wear: Medium
Downforce level: High - 8/10
Tyre compounds: Medium / Hard
Tyre usage: Hard Average
Speed: 207kph (128mph)
HONDA TEAM TALK
Ross Brawn, Team Principal
Q. How do you expect the Honda Racing F1 Team to perform at the Spanish Grand Prix?
A. "The team has made good progress at each race so far this season, gaining in confidence and performing better on each occasion. Our recent development push on the RA108 with a new aerodynamic package, suspension modifications and driveability improvements showed pleasing results during the four-day test this week. I expect these developments to add to our competitiveness and improve our points scoring potential at the Spanish Grand Prix and the races to follow."
Q. How did the RA108 perform during testing this week?
A. "We had a very successful four-day test at the Circuit de Catalunya and were able to work through a lot of test items. Our main focus was the mechanical and aerodynamic developments for the RA108 car at this race. We saw a significant lap time improvement with the new upgrades which is very pleasing, but as ever, we need to wait until the race weekend to determine how this will impact our position on the grid. I'm confident that we have continued to make good progress."
Q. You know the track well from testing. Does that help you to extract more performance from the car?
A. "Every driver and every F1 team knows the Circuit de Catalunya well as we use the track so often for testing in the winter months and throughout the season. The test which takes place in advance of the Spanish Grand Prix means that we are very well prepared for the race weekend and have a lot of data on the set-up and tyre requirements. However there are always variables in the weather, the wind conditions and the resulting grip levels so there is still a great deal of preparation work to do during the practice sessions to extract the maximum levels of performance from the car."
Q. What are your hopes for the Spanish Grand Prix weekend?
A. "Our performance over the first three races showed a steady rate of improvement which was encouraging for the whole team and has given us renewed confidence in the car. Although I was not able to complete much mileage at the test this week due to the weather, the team had three days evaluating the new upgrades, so I am confident that we are in good shape. The circuit here is very familiar so we will make the best use of our time on track to fine-tune the set-up of the car. We hope to be challenging for a top ten qualifying position again which would put us in position for a strong race."
Q. What is the key to a quick lap around the Circuit de Catalunya?
A. "The key to a really quick lap is having a car with good downforce; you need to feel confident when you commit to the very high speed corners. Overtaking can be a real challenge here and one of the best opportunities is going into the first corner after the start. You can squeeze by there once the race has settled down but it is very difficult. The chicane can also be tricky as it is extremely slippery and so very slow. One little mistake could cost you a lot of time there."
Honda in Spain
Honda has had a commercial presence in Spain since 1986, when Montesa-Honda (motorcycles) was established. The company's car division, Honda Automoviles Espana SA, was founded in 1988 and there are now five divisions to Honda's Spanish business: cars, motorcycles, power products, logistics and Honda finance.
Car sales reached a record 26,250 units in 2007 and Honda are hopeful of building on that success in 2008.