Since 1991, the Circuit De Barcelona-Catalunya has been panned for its processional racing and lacklustre facilities, which have turned the Montmelo-based venue based into one of the F1’s more unloved circuits.
Worse still, with pre-season testing moving to Bahrain and a poor 2022 Spanish Grand Prix, which was chastised by fans and pundits alike, the race’s future post-2026 looked uncertain.
But one way of sweetening fans back onside was the removal of the chicane at the last corner, which was introduced in 2007 to slow the cars down.
However, has the change saved the Circuit De Barcelona-Catalunya‘s F1 future? Particularly at a time when countries are queuing up to land a slot on the calendar.
The circuit is now a challenge again.
Before 2007 Barcelona used a fast but twisty layout which tested both chassis and engine making it a favourite venue for teams to test their new challengers in the winter.
Montmelo has changed since its first GP in 1991, with several corners, such as turn nine, being altered, with even a chicane being put in place for 1994 because of growing safety concerns.
However, it’s trump-card was Turn 13, which the drivers would take in sixth gear before arriving at the start-finish straight, giving the cars behind a good slipstream for turn one.
With the chicane gone, drivers can now attack going into turn one but will be challenged to take the corner flat or face losing precious time during qualifying, making the circuit more fun to drive.
Off-track issues can now be focused on
Complaints over the circuit layout had paved over some of the cracks which Montmelo picked up over the years when it came to the fan experience and security of F1 personnel.
The 2022 Spanish GP saw the circuit’s ageing facilities be ruthlessly exposed in unseasonably warm conditions with a lack of shade, food and drink, causing some to suffer heat stroke.
The media have also been victims of attempted robberies in the circuit car parks, with the number of incidents still happening yearly becoming a significant concern which has yet to be addressed.
With on-track matters, sorted attention must turn to improving and modernising facilities to the standards which F1 requires a modern-day circuit to have.
Work has already begun on a newly refurbished paddock, but the next task will be upgrading grandstands, public transport links and beefing up security around the circuit.
The work will need to recommence shortly as F1 may look down on the circuit if more extensive changes aren’t made, particularly with a potential move to Madrid still in the pipeline.