2006 Spanish Grand Prix - Race 6/18

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rpstewart said:
Ban refuelling but continue to allow tyre changes albeit with a limited number of pit crew - I'm talking 4-6 including jack men.

Firstly it removes all the problems which have plagued these Intertechnique fuel rigs (which the FIA deny happen.)

Secondly it takes you back to the late 80s style of racing when there were basically 3 ways of running the race.

1) The Senna style - hell for leather for the first third of the race to build a lead then pit and pace the second set to the end.

2) The Prost style - pace the first set for 60% of the race, change to new tyres and charge after Senna.

3) The de Cesaris style - try and make one set last the entire race, making everyone wonder how a Leyton House is leading until Prost and Senna (only!) charge past with 2 laps to go.

At present everyone knows when the pitstops will be as they are determined by fuel load so it's possible to predict where any car will be at any one time. If you remove the predictability of pitstops by limiting them to tyres only then you remove the ability to pre-plan "overtaking" maneouvers. You also end up with cars with varying levels of tyre grip in the last third of the race, at the moment the final stint of a GP is basically between identically fuelled and tyred cars.

I seem to remember a race where Senna stayed out and Mansell pitted for new tyres, then closed down Senna at a rate of knots but just couldn't pass him.
 
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Spanish GP Preview: Midland

Encouraged by a strong performance at the European GP that saw both cars demonstrate flawless reliability and improved pace on their way to taking the chequered flag in 12th and 13th positions, MF1 Racing arrives in the familiar environs of Barcelona ready to compete in the Spanish Grand Prix.

With more than its fair share of quick corners - four at over 230 km/h - as well as a long straight section, the Circuit de Catalunya is one of the more popular tracks among MF1's drivers.

Tiago Monteiro: "We had a good weekend in terms of pace at the Nürburgring and I would love it if we could be same or better in Barcelona, but I think it will be tricky. All the teams do a lot of testing there and are very familiar with the track and the set-ups it requires. You won't see too many of the top teams' cars going out for Friday practice, as they already have an extensive amount of data. But we will have to make the most of every opportunity we get, so expect to see us out there quite a bit. It's a good, challenging track - fun to drive, really - and it will be more physical than ever, with the higher G forces the cars are now capable of pulling. I'm looking forward to this weekend, and bringing home another good result."

Christijan Albers: "I'm looking forward to Barcelona, because it's a track I know quite well and we had a good series of tests there over the winter. Granted, it's going to be bit different under race conditions and the warmer temperatures will affect tyre choice, but I don't see that as being a disadvantage for us. The team is coming off a strong weekend at the Nürburgring and I'm hoping we can match the pace we had there in practice and qualifying. I had a bit of bad luck in that race, in that I got held up by slower traffic at various points, but overall, I still think it was a step forward for us. If we can continue to make progress the way we have been lately, we should be in good shape to reach our goals before the end of the season."

Giorgio Mondini: "Now that I have had two Fridays to become more confident with the team and the car, I am really looking forward to this weekend, knowing that the car is constantly improving. The team is putting a great effort into raising the level of the M16's performance and that has inspired me to make a similar commitment. I have been training hard over the past few weeks in order to be able to get the most out of the car. I will be driving at the next three Friday practices in a row, as well as one full day of testing in England, so I need to be in top physical and mental condition. It's always exciting to be heading into a race weekend, particularly when the people surrounding you are as motivated and hungry for success as MF1 is. Barcelona is a beautiful track, but frankly speaking, when you're behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car, all the tracks are beautiful!"

Dominic Harlow, Chief Race and Test Engineer: "Barcelona is a circuit where we all test frequently, and as such, we will have a good baseline from which to start our weekend. In aero set-up terms, it will be very similar to the Nürburgring. The track is not particularly hard on brakes and rewards engine power in a similar manner to a lot of other circuits - basically, a tenth a lap for every 10bhp. Despite the one-week turnaround following the European GP, the factory has worked extremely hard to supply some updates for this event, specifically, a couple of changes to the front suspension geometry and a new damper specification. Our aim, as always, is to improve on the last event and do our best to avoid early elimination from the qualifying session. We will also be concentrating on race tyre choice for the conditions that present themselves."
 
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Spanish GP Preview: Super Aguri

Following a difficult weekend at the Nürburgring, the Super Aguri team arrives in Catalonia for the 2006 Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya.

The Circuit de Catalunya was built in 1991 and is located in Montmeló, 13 miles to the north-east of Barcelona. With a lap distance of 4.627km/2.875 miles the track is considered to be well designed within the sport and as such has become the most important F1 testing facility.

Takuma Sato: Barcelona is a very high-downforce circuit featuring challenging high-speed corners that are a lot of fun to drive. On a lap of the track you need to keep a good rhythm through the first few turns then on up the hill to the unique, long corners. You need good car balance on braking and turning into turn four, then it is down and up to a fast blind apex followed immediately by the straight to the hairpin. The final two turns make up the famous high-speed last corner which is physically demanding on both the driver and the car. The Spanish Grand Prix will be another tough race for us, but the latest aero update has improved the balance of the car, so hopefully we will be able to find a good car set-up for this weekend.

Franck Montagny: I am happy to be going to Barcelona, it is a great circuit. I believe that it will be a very different experience to last weekend as the track is much harder than the Nürburgring. It is good to be back with the Super Aguri team as the first time you are with a team you try to do well and get to know everyone, but the second time, for sure, it is a bit easier to do something good. I am impatient to go there and to do well, so I am looking forward to this weekend.

Aguri Suzuki, Team Principal: The current situation with Yuji and the Super Aguri team is regretful, but we will continue to support him. We will keep trying our best during the remaining races and continue to grow as a team. In order to do so, Taku and Franck’s feedback is extremely important. Franck provided us with great feedback regarding the SA05 during the European Grand Prix and I am happy to have him with us for the Spanish and Monaco races.
 
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Spanish GP Preview: McLaren

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.

Kimi Raikkonen: "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: "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: "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."
 
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Spanish GP Preview: Bridgestone

After consecutive wins at the San Marino and European Grands Prix for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro's Michael Schumacher, Bridgestone is hoping to make it a hat trick at this coming weekend's Spanish Grand Prix. It won't be easy as the Circuit de Catalunya is regularly frequented for testing by Formula One's teams, giving them all a greater depth of knowledge of this track than of most others. The 4.627km circuit is also a high-speed, and therefore hard- wearing track on the tyres, so Bridgestone and its teams have paid particular attention to ensuring tyres have been chosen with as much grip and as much durability as possible. After competitive performances from several of the Bridgestone runners at the Nurburgring last weekend, hopes are high of more podiums and points for the Bridgestone teams this weekend.

Hiroshi Yasukawa, Director of Motorsport: "The huge crowd numbers and the facilities provided by the Circuit de Catalunya have made the Spanish Grand Prix one of the best races on the Formula One circuit. There is also a fantastic atmosphere. Spain is an important market for Bridgestone and we will have many guests and supporters at this race so we are very much hoping that the recent competitiveness of our teams will continue this weekend so our supporters can enjoy a thrilling weekend of racing."

The 2006 tyre regulations permit each driver seven sets of dry tyres, four sets of wet weather tyres and three sets of extreme wet weather tyres. Combined with the increased number of teams running with Bridgestone in 2006, approximately 1,200 Bridgestone Potenza Formula One tyres have been sent from the Technical Centre in Kodaira City, Tokyo, to Spain's Circuit de Catalunya.

Hisao Suganuma Bridgestone Motorsport Technical Manager: "The Barcelona track was resurfaced prior to last season but nevertheless, the track remains one of the toughest on the calendar from a tyre perspective. It has several long, high-speed corners which means that our tyres must be strong from both a compound and construction point of view. Looking at our compound selection, the Barcelona circuit has a relatively smooth track surface which would normally mean choosing compounds from the softer side of the range. However, the nature of the track is not kind to tyre compounds so our choice of a medium compound range is a compromise between getting high grip and the necessary toughness. These tyres are from the same series of constructions and compounds that have performed so well in recent races. Having tested a lot with our teams at this circuit we are confident that they can be competitive this weekend, although Barcelona is a regular test track for most of the teams so no doubt the competition will be tough this weekend."
 
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Spanish GP Preview: Toyota

Panasonic Toyota Racing will make its next stop at the Spanish Grand Prix, which is being held at the Circuit de Catalunya for the 16th time. The team will work hard towards repeating last year's race results, where Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher took 3rd and 4th place respectively. The circuit has built additional grandstands this year, and this is likely to attract record crowds. The Spanish Grand Prix is always known to be an exciting race, as the Circuit de Catalunya is a favoured testing venue. Because all teams and drivers know the track very well, it is likely to be a tight race. Panasonic Toyota Racing will also profit from its past experience with the track having already made three stops for testing this year and putting in little over 6,000 cumulated kilometres.

After having to retire just before end of the race at the Nürburgring, Ralf Schumacher is motivated to get back into action in Barcelona.

Ralf Schumacher: "We have been doing quite well during testing in Barcelona. We are in the upper middle field, better in the race than in qualifying – at least in my case – and so I'm quite happy about that. We showed that we could have a strong race performance at the Nürburgring, it was just unfortunate for the whole team that we had an engine failure. I am confident however that after analyzing the data we will find the right solution for the coming races. Although I have tested there many times, the Circuit de Catalunya is always a bit tricky due to the wind, which makes it hard to find the right aerodynamic set-up. Tyre choice is also another difficult matter, but I am sure we will be able to fall back on our testing data here from the last tests. Overall, we are certainly on the right track, a little patience is needed but when the time comes, we will pick up some points and defend our last year's championship position."

Jarno Trulli has achieved two podiums in his career to date at the Spanish Grand Prix in 2004 (3rd place) and 2005 (3rd place). This year he will be looking to turn this into a hat trick by achieving another podium position.

Jarno Trulli: "The Circuit de Catalunya is a track I know very well, just like most of the other drivers in the field. Because the track is quite demanding with four high-speed corners and few chances for overtaking, we will have to concentrate on having good aerodynamic performance. There is a long main straight but it is a fast corner coming onto it and it is quite difficult to stay close to the car in front. The overtaking situation is a little bit better since they have changed the layout of Turn 10. It all means that a lot of the lap is spent in corners and so the car's balance has to be absolutely right. Reliability and tyre wear are also two factors that are always important, especially because all the teams that go there know their set-ups already. I have had some good races here including the two podiums I have achieved the last two years and I am definitely looking to repeat this again this year."

Familiarity of the track can be an advantage for the Panasonic Toyota Racing team; however it will still be challenging to find the right set-up and strategy.

Pascal Vasselon – Senior General Manager Chassis: "The right use of previous test data is always a key and critical item within Barcelona preparation. There is usually a large change of track conditions between the last test and race event, when temperatures start to heat up. We have especially learned from the past how to handle the tyre choice and take into account the expected track evolution. It leads to two tyre specifications which are more similar than on other tracks where no test data are available. Otherwise, brakes play little role in Barcelona, which is mainly about aerodynamic efficiency of the package and we will be looking to have the best package taking all elements into consideration."
 
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Spanish GP Preview: Honda

Last weekend's European Grand Prix was a race of mixed fortunes for the Honda Racing F1 Team. Whilst Rubens Barrichello finished in the points for a second successive weekend, Jenson Button's retirement due to engine failure, whilst also in a good points scoring position, was obviously a disappointment.

With only a week before Round 6 of the 2006 FIA Formula One World Championship, the Honda Racing F1 Team's focus now switches to this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. The Circuit de Catalunya is something of a home from home for all of the teams since it is one of F1's primary testing circuits.

The Honda team has already conducted eight days and over 7600kms of testing there with the RA106 this year, and hopes that this will be one of the factors which helps the team to a successful weekend.

Rubens Barrichello: "The Spanish Grand Prix is slightly unusual because we use the circuit so often for testing, so I think we will see that reflected in the performance of all the teams. It's a track I enjoy - although I do get to see rather a lot of it! - and I think we should do well there. It was good to get some more points at the Nurburgring, although we lacked a little bit of pace. We have to work to improve on this for the weekend."

Jenson Button: "It was a tough weekend at the Nurburgring so I'm looking ahead and focusing on Spain now. It's a circuit where you need to be strong aerodynamically and I think our car is good in that respect. It's quite a demanding track for the drivers and the fast corners put a lot of strain on the neck. However we do get a lot of practice at Barcelona as we test there so often, so we know the track inside out. The weather is likely to be nice and hot which always suits us better and if we can resolve the engine problem from last weekend, I think we should be able to get a good result. I'm looking forward to the weekend."

Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director: "A home from home is the perfect description of the Spanish Grand Prix. Like many other teams, we use the track extensively for testing throughout the year. The RA106 has been competitive in the various tests there since it was launched back in January, In addition, we have the latest specification engine for both drivers. All of which makes us positive going into this weekend, despite our relative lack of pace in the last race. Barcelona itself is one of the favourite venues on the F1 calendar amongst many of our team members."

Shuhei Nakamoto, Management Board Member - Honda Racing F1 Team, Engineering Director - Honda Racing Development: "Both drivers have a fresh engine this week, with the newest, more powerful specification. We will have a countermeasure in place for the problem on Jenson's engine at the Nurburgring, and will be aiming to get closer to the front-runners."
 
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Spanish GP Preview: WilliamsF1

The Circuit de Catalunya plays host to the sixth round of the Formula One season this weekend, the Spanish Grand Prix. Falling just one week after the European race at the Nürburgring, the team will travel directly to Barcelona, a circuit at which WilliamsF1 has taken five victories since its debut on the Formula One calendar in 1991. Located just outside of the city, Montmeló is also a favoured test facility and is therefore one of the most familiar circuits for all the teams. The FW28 has covered over 6,000 testing kilometres at the Spanish track this year and it is this experience that the team is looking to draw upon this weekend to improve upon its current position in the championship.

With such a short break between Germany and Spain, none of the drivers were on call for testing or marketing activities leaving Mark, Nico and Alex to all head home for some brief respite before heading to Barcelona on Thursday this week.

The FW28s will feature several updated mechanical components in Spain which are expected to improve the team's pace in qualifying. Both cars will also run with new hydraulic parts to ensure that the fault experienced on Mark's car at the Nürburgring does not re-occur.

The Circuit de Catalunya is regarded as one of the most technically challenging tracks visited during the Formula One season. The direction of car set-up is dominated by the sweeping, high speed corners, for which the drivers and their engineers prioritise a high downforce set-up with good grip levels for optimum car stability. Aerodynamic efficiency is also crucial, although can be compromised by the unpredictable winds. In fact, the region's erratic weather conditions pose one of the greatest challenges over the weekend and force a continual evolution of car set-up to cope with the changeable conditions. Tyre selection must take into consideration the track's abrasive nature as well as the considerable loadings and energy events which occur over a lap. With only 61% of the lap raced at full throttle, engines experience a relatively relaxed race in Barcelona.

Mark Webber: "Barcelona is obviously a venue all the teams know exceptionally well because we have all done thousands and thousands of testing kilometres there. It has been a bit of a tricky circuit for us in recent years, but I feel we have made some progress in recent tests and I also think Bridgestone is putting some pressure on Michelin, which is good, so I hope we can take some of this progress to the Grand Prix. The atmosphere in Spain will be incredible because of Fernando, but it is good for the rest of us to compete when the event is buzzing. I'm looking forward to it."

Nico Rosberg: "Even though I have raced in Barcelona only once before in GP2, I know the track very well because we have done a lot of testing there, like most of the F1 teams. Since Imola, we have improved our performance and we were quite competitive at the Nürburgring, so I believe we can collect some points at Montmeló. It's an interesting and a quick track, and I like it. I scored some points there in GP2 and also set the fastest lap, but the best memory I have of Barcelona is my first test in an F1 car - a Williams, of course, back in 2002."

Sam Michael, Technical Director, WilliamsF1: "Barcelona is a unique circuit, but it is also challenging to find a well balanced set-up there. We spend some time testing at Barcelona during the winter but the weather conditions are usually so different that the teams are still tuning the set-up during the race weekend. The reduced engine power compared to last year means that two of the four high speed (250kph+) corners are now full throttle, although they still put a large loading on the car.

We will have some mechanical items to further improve the FW28 as we go into the second race on the Cosworth engines, while Bridgestone are also bringing two new tyres that we have tested extensively at Barcelona and at Silverstone a few weeks ago. Strategy has traditionally been a two or three stopper, but the revised qualifying format may affect that, but that will become evident after the practice sessions."

Simon Corbyn, Head of F1 Race Engineering, Cosworth: "Both Cosworth CA2006 Series 4 engines will continue for their second events at this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix. We identified no problems with either engine during the post race checks at the Nürburgring. Cosworth will now work with WilliamsF1 to optimise the remaining engine duty cycle for both Mark and Nico in Barcelona."
 
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Spanish GP Preview: BMW

This coming Sunday, 14th May 2006, Formula One will be rolling onto the grid of the Circuit de Catalunya for the next World Championship race – the sixth of 18. With such a tight schedule, teams will have to do their packing and unpacking in record time. En route from the Eifel to Barcelona, the team trucks and motorhomes will clock up a good 1,300 kilometres. That leaves no time for a breather, let alone any testing.

Nick Heidfeld: "Every driver is very familiar with the circuit at Barcelona because so much testing takes place there. That's mainly because the Circuit de Catalunya is a very challenging track in terms of aerodynamics. That more or less sums up the circuit: it is fast, and in its great high-speed corners you have to make sure your aerodynamics do the job. In the meantime, the race has also taken on a special status from a spectator point of view – due to Fernando Alonso's success, of course. During the last test session I noticed they've even built new stands and heard that it's a sell-out event. It looks like the Spanish GP is going to be a very good race."

Jacques Villeneuve: "The Circuit de Catalunya is a good circuit and one where I've been pretty successful, having won three GPs there. And of course we all know the track like the back of our hands because we do a lot of testing there. It has a couple of exciting high-speed corners, but not too many overtaking opportunities. There's quite a lot of understeer to contend with. But the race track apart, Barcelona's a great city! It's a happening place where people like to go out and the atmosphere is great. I love the lifestyle of the city. It's sometimes a bit difficult to understand Catalan, but with a smattering of Spanish you can get by."

Robert Kubica: "This grand prix is a special one because of all the testing that takes place here. For me, it's interesting to compare my personal performance on familiar circuits and those that are new to me. I like the circuit in Barcelona with its long, fast corners. In my opinion it's one of the best Formula One tracks – it's challenging and great fun driving an F1 car there. I'm really looking forward to the weekend. Unfortunately I've never raced in Barcelona. My first experience there was my debut Formula One test last December. But since then I've had eight or nine days of testing on the circuit."

Mario Theissen, BMW Motorsport Director: "In previous years, Spain often failed to attract a large number of fans. Then in 2005 the organisers announced a sell-out crowd. It will be the same again this year. The euphoria that Fernando Alonso has sparked off is quite palpable. Spain is also a strong growth market for BMW and we welcome the burgeoning interest in Formula One.

Drivers and engineers regard Barcelona as a known quantity. No other race track sees so much testing, and the wealth of data for basic set-up is correspondingly great. Nevertheless the race weekend throws up surprises time and again. Conditions on the track change almost by the hour. Our aim is to get both cars into the third qualifying session and to pick up a few points in the race.

After the successful debut of the BMW Sauber F1 Team Pit Lane Park, the theme park will make its second appearance in Barcelona. But rather than at the race track, which is a long way out of town, it will be set up in the heart of Barcelona – in the harbour at the end of the famous Las Ramblas boulevard."

Willy Rampf, Technical Director Chassis: "Barcelona is known for its long, high-speed turns such as T3 or the two right-handers before the start/finish straight, where the left front tyre takes most of the strain. That is why aerodynamic efficiency and tyre performance are crucial. The circuit used to be known as a bit of a tyre-wrecker, but it was resurfaced at the end of 2004, which meant softer rubber could be used last year. The track is very sensitive to fluctuating temperatures, which affects grip levels and consequently lap times. As a result, you constantly have to make adjustments. Another difficulty is that you can't ignore traction, as the left-hander at the end of the back straight has been made even narrower."
 
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Spanish GP Preview: Michelin

The Spanish Grand Prix has been one of the most itinerant in the Formula One world championship's 57-season history – present host the Circuit de Catalunya is the fifth track to have staged the race and the third different Barcelona venue.

The sixth round of this year's world championship, the Spanish GP was first included on the F1 calendar in 1951. The inaugural race took place at Pedralbes, 7km north-west of the Catalan capital, and the event flitted from Jarama (near Madrid), to Montjuich Park (central Barcelona) and Jerez (in Andalusia, southern Spain) before moving to its present home, 20km north of Barcelona, in 1991. This will be the 36th Spanish GP and the 16th at the Circuit de Catalunya, which has been the event's most durable host.

Michelin has participated in eight Spanish GPs and has notched up two victories, with Gilles Villeneuve (Ferrari, Jarama, 1981) and Kimi Räikkönen (McLaren-Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2005).

When local favourite Fernando Alonso graduated to motor racing's top echelon in 2001, only one Spanish driver – Fon de Portago, at Silverstone in 1956 – had achieved an F1 podium finish. Alonso has since rewritten the record books, however, becoming his nation's first world champion and sparking a huge surge of interest in the sport. The Spanish GP didn't always attract a capacity crowd, but it is now a guaranteed sell-out.

In F1 terms, Alonso is the youngest driver to have qualified on pole position (Malaysia 2003), set fastest lap (Canada 2003), recorded a race victory (Hungary 2003) and secured the title (clinched in Brazil last year, aged 24 years and 59 days). He achieved all of these feats on Michelin tyres.

More than 9 000 people work for Michelin in Spain. The group has four production sites in the country, at Aranda de Duero, Lasarte, Valladolid and Vitoria. There is also a research and development facility in Almeria.

Spain plays a major part in the Michelin Group's European production cycle and half the tyres produced are exported to overseas markets.

Michelin manufactures a wide variety of tyres in Spain - they are destined for a range of vehicles, including scooters, motorcycles, cars, vans, 4x4s and agricultural machines.

Nick Shorrock, Formula One director, Michelin: "Following an exciting weekend in Germany, where Michelin partners Renault and Fernando Alonso finished second to maintain a comfortable lead in their respective world championships, the F1 campaign transfers to Spain – Fernando's homeland. The Circuit de Catalunya, near Barcelona, was resurfaced at the end of 2004 but has now satisfactorily 'worn in'. It is a track that we know well because we do much of our testing here throughout the year.

"The track features several long, fast bends and a lengthy main straight. Teams tend to run fairly high downforce levels to generate more grip. The track characteristics mean the tyres we use need to be able to support both high mechanical and thermal loads – and that makes Barcelona a demanding circuit from our perspective.

"Selecting appropriate tyre compounds is a balancing act – they need to resist high loads and significant temperatures without being vulnerable to blistering, yet we also have to generate strong first-lap performance and consistency over long race stints. We have been working on some interesting new ideas recently and will introduce some of them this weekend in Spain.

"I'm confident that the work done by our team will once again yield very competitive products and we look forward to another nail-biting race."

Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team: "Racing in Barcelona makes me very proud: to see the fans, their support and their passion is something really fantastic. I want to win for them, but it is not an extra pressure. In my mind the support of the fans makes me even stronger when I am racing in Spain.

"In terms of the circuit, everybody knows it very well from testing, of course, and the car needs a bit of everything to be strong – good aero efficiency, a stable balance and good engine power for the long straight. Tyres are very important too. The track was resurfaced last year, but it is still very aggressive because of the long, fast corners and the high loadings. We have had some very good tests there with Michelin and tried out a large range of tyres. When we get to Spain I am very confident that Michelin will have exactly the tyres we need."
 
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Independent tracks cannot compete with governments

Following a European Grand Prix, which, thanks to a return to form for Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, witnessed an upsurge of last minute ticket sales, Nurburgring boss, Walter Kafitz, has claimed that 'traditional' race venues are being priced out by new government-funded tracks.

In their attempts to boost their image and increase tourism, and join the 'global village', Turkey, Malaysia, China and Bahrain have poured vast amounts of money into their F1 dream, constructing ever more lavish facilities, and meeting Bernie Ecclestone's ever-increasing demands.

While these governments might be able to dig deep and provide the necessary funding, the same can not be said of the independent operators responsible for the majority of the European tracks. While tracks such as Silverstone, Spa, Hockenheim, Barcelona, Monza and the Nurburgring struggle to meet the spiralling costs of hosting a round of the Wworld Championship, the new eastern economies, with their (seemingly) limitless cash and resources are driving up the ante.

"The Crown Prince got into Formula One because he wanted to put Bahrain on the map," Kafitz told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "We are no longer competing with race track operators, but against governments."

It was Kafitz who previously suggested that the Nurburgring and Hockenheim might share the German Grand Prix in alternate years, a proposal which has since been dismissed as unworkable.

Despite an upsurge in ticket sales for this year's event, Kafitz is fully aware that German race fans will desert the sport once Michael Schumacher eventually retires. "Nobody knows what will happen when he retires," admitted the German. "Perhaps it is then up to Nico (Rosberg)."
 
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Barcelona: Overtaking guaranteed!

Race fans attending this Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona are guaranteed a feast of close racing and thrilling overtaking... providing they arrive early.

Organizers at the Spanish race track have announced that the circuit will open one hour earlier than usual, in order that fans can watch a live broadcast of round four of the MotoGP Championship from Shanghai, China. The event will be shown on 23 giant screens, which will be visible from all spectator areas. The circuit gates will open at 6 am.

As an added bonus, race fans who arrive before 9 am on Sunday will be offered free breakfast, in any of the Circuit's bars taking part in the promotion.

Following local hero Fernando Alonso's 2005 World Championship success, this year's event at Barcelona is a sell-out, with 130,000 race fans expected on Sunday, and 330,000 over the course of the weekend.
 
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F1 hopefuls catch the eye in GP2

The prospect of the King of Spain dropping in at this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix prompted an irreverent but telling response from Briton Adam Carroll.

"Maybe I could nick his wallet," joked the Northern Irish driver, who competes in the GP2 series one rung down from Formula One.

Carroll's Spanish-based Racing Engineering team are owned and run by the energetic Alfonso de Orleans-Borbon y Ferrara-Pignatelli, seventh Duke of Galliera and a relative of King Juan Carlos.

Royal visits aside, there is little glamour and even less money in Carroll's world as he strives to make the leap to the Grand Prix paddock so close but still so far away, behind a wire-mesh fence.

The series is closely watched by Formula One's main men, with last year's champion Nico Rosberg now impressing at Williams and Finnish runner-up Heikki Kovalainen tipped as a possible replacement for world champion Fernando Alonso at Renault.

Like Formula One, GP2 is also a world of 'haves' and 'have-nots' and last weekend's races at the Nurburgring only highlighted the divide.

With Grand Prix regulars Jenson Button and David Coulthard failing to finish, British newspapers hailed a new hero in McLaren protege Lewis Hamilton.

The 21-year-old, one of the 'haves', won both his GP2 races with his success fuelling speculation that he could be in the frame for a McLaren drive next season.

"It's not impossible, as you can see Nico's doing a very good job," said McLaren team boss Ron Dennis when asked about the chances of a novice coming straight in.

"But it's far too early to be talking about these sorts of things and of course we have a very clear objective which is to end up with the best available drivers.

"(Mercedes motorsport head) Norbert (Haug) and I have invested a lot of time and money in him and it's nice to see that he's responded to the challenge and he's doing his bit in the relationship."

Hamilton will undoubtedly graduate to Formula One, probably sooner rather than later. He has that aura about him already.

Carroll, who finished third in race one at the Nurburgring, cannot be so sure.

The McLaren/Autosport young driver of the year in 2002, and part of Honda's young driver programme with occasional F1 testing thrown in, has made it thus far on talent and determination alone.

How much further it can take him remains to be seen in a sport that can be hard to crack even with substantial backing. Nelson Piquet junior, son of Brazil's triple champion, is in his second year in GP2.

There are few seats open to young rookies and most involve some sort of funding by the driver, unless he is part of a programme with a team like Red Bull.

Winner of three GP2 races, including Monaco, in 2005, Carroll can cite ringing endorsements from the likes of compatriot Eddie Irvine and Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

But that is not enough. Carroll, 23, needs to be winning just to keep the momentum going.

Racing Engineering are well sponsored but Carroll's drive is still costing 200,000 euros ($254,400) this year and even that is a fraction of the going rate.

"It's 1.2 to 1.4 million euros on a full budget and a cheap drive is 500-600,000," said Carroll. Accidents cost extra.

"My shunt in Valencia (the season-opener) has hurt us big time, that's basically cost more than half the season," he added with a shrug.

"The insurance pays for a certain amount and whatever's left over...is huge. Last year I didn't crash once, I bent one wishbone at Monaco and I still won the race so that was okay. But it could be 120,000 euros a crash."

Most of the bills have been picked up by Dublin-based waste recycling entrepreneur and former long-distance truck driver John Sweeney, who has backed the Portadown youngster since 2000.

"It has always come down to just John and we've always done it on an absolute shoestring and the money hasn't always been there," said Carroll of his career.

Hamilton, he recognises, has everything going for him but he too is keeping his spirits up.

"If I don't get into Formula One this year, then I don't think I ever will," he mused. "We deserve a chance really, to be honest, just because of the effort and what we've had to do to get here."
 
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Alonso not writing off McLaren, Honda

Championship leader Fernando Alonso is not ruling out rivals McLaren and Honda from this year's title fight despite a slow start to the season.

Both teams have failed to match the pace set by Renault and Ferrari in the first five races of the year, despite being tipped as favourites to dethrone Alonso and his team before the start of the season.

Although Michael Schumacher has scored two consecutive wins for Ferrari, Alonso admitted on Thursday he was not singling out the Italian squad as Renault's main rivals.

"Not much," said Alonso when asked how worried he was about Schumacher and Ferrari. "It is the same worry as I have of McLaren and Honda.

"We are still the four teams that should fight for the victory. In the first five races everything working perfectly for Ferrari and Renault and we won the five races, but McLaren and Honda have the pace.

"Honda they have been good, especially in qualifying and McLaren is normally good for the race and get close to the podium when it goes right for them. It will be a close fight and we need to work, to do as good a job as we can as we did in the first five races and the results will come at the end."

Ferrari have made a strong recovery following a shaky start to the season, and Alonso believes the Bridgestone tyres have been the main reason the Italian team are back in the title hunt.

"I think we saw that in the last two races Ferrari was coming very strong, but it's difficult to know how we develop compared to them because we have different tyres," added Alonso.

"Compared to Honda and McLaren we are still growing up at the same level as them, everyone is improving race by race but normally we are beating them.

"Ferrari we don't know how much they develop. The tyres are more important than everything else. Hopefully here we come back here fighting."

Alonso is aiming to become the first Spanish driver to win his home Grand Prix this weekend, although he admitted he will treat the weekend as always.

"It is the same," he said. "I think it is a normal race for me but obviously with much more support from the grandstands so for me it is extra motivation to race here at home and hopefully get a good result here on Sunday."

The Spanish driver said he was looking forward to stop Schumacher's run of victories, admitting beating the seven-time champion gave him extra satisfaction.

"Many times I said normally to beat the big names, the big drivers in the big cars gives you more motivation and more excitement, and Michael is a seven times champion so is nice to fight with him and if you can beat him it brings more pleasure than to beat someone else," he said.

"But to win races and overtake people is always exciting."
 
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Villeneuve's engine damaged in transport

Jacques Villeneuve's engine was damaged during transportation from the Nurburgring to the Barcelona circuit, BMW motorsport boss Mario Theissen revealed on Thursday.

The bizarre incident, which has forced BMW to change Villeneuve's engine ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, occurred after the end of the European Grand Prix, where the Canadian driver has finished in eighth place.

Villeneuve will lose ten grid positions in this weekend's race as he was scheduled to use the engine for the Barcelona race too.

"It happened at Nurburgring on Sunday when the engine was prepared for transportation. It was probably damaged, we don't know exactly," Theissen told autosport.com.

"I don't want to go into the details because it would affect certain team members there," added Theissen when asked if the engine had been dropped.

"Under the current regulations you are not allowed to open the engine for further investigation, and we thought the risk would be too high to have him race that engine here.

"So we decided to give him a fresh one and take the penalty of ten grid positions and his Nurburgring engine go to the dyno in Munich and complete two race weekends."

Oh come on....

It was dropped. :D

You fumbled it...

But sad that they were not allowed to open the engine to inspect it. So instead they're going to return it to the Dyno and run it till distruction. :D
 
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Alonso rejects Ecclestone criticism

Renault's Fernando Alonso hit back at Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone on Thursday for suggesting he did not do enough as World Champion.

Ecclestone, 75, said at the European Grand Prix last weekend that drivers should give more back to the sport and singled out the 24-year-old Spaniard as a champion "who doesn't do too much".

"I don't know what exactly Bernie means with that," Alonso told a news conference ahead of his home Spanish Grand Prix.

"I have a team that pay me to do my job, I go testing, I go to the promotional events, I have my sponsors, I go to my obligations, I race, I do my maximum and this is my job in Formula One.

"I don't know what more I have to do. There is nothing more in the contract that I have to do."

Spanish fans clamouring for a glimpse of their hero, who lives in the English university town of Oxford, could doubtless come up with a few suggestions.

Sunday's race is a 130,000 sell-out, a record for the circuit. Some were out chanting Alonso's name on Thursday when there were no cars running and most drivers had yet to arrive.

The main thing they ask is for Alonso to win, and that he hopes to do.

If the last race in Germany was coloured Ferrari red, Barcelona is Renault blue with Alonso's face smiling out from advertising billboards and cardboard cutouts all over the Catalan capital.

"It makes me feel strange, for sure," said the champion. "In the last two years everything grew up very quickly in Formula One (in Spain).

"Three years ago we had about half a million people watching on TV and now we have 10 or 12 million watching this race and it is a big change.

"I think Formula One now is a sport that everybody is talking about in the street, that everybody is aware of everything in the races and my image, or my face, you can see everywhere here.

"For me, it is a little bit strange, but I am not too often in Spain."
 
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Schumacher's decision at 'end of year'

Michael Schumacher has dropped a major hint that he will not make a decision about his future until the end of the season.

Just 24 hours after his manager Willi Weber was quoted as saying that he expected news about Schumacher's intentions by July, the seven times World Champion suggested ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix that a decision may not even come by then.

"It (the decision) could be very late," said Schumacher in the paddock at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday.

When asked how late Ferrari would be willing to hang on for Schumacher to make a decision, Schumacher said: "Ferrari is quite happy to wait until the end of the season."

Schumacher added that it was "very possible" a decision may not come until then, before confirming that it was even likely to happen then before adding: "The decision will be the end of the year."

Weber said earlier this week there was no pressure from him on Schumacher to announce his future.

"I cannot find it annoying when Michael is saying he needs time to reflect on what might be the most difficult decision in his career, perhaps in his life, since he was to decide where the journey goes to," Weber said.

"If you have such a strong emotional bond to what you are doing as Michael has, then you simply need enough time to think that over."

A Ferrari spokesman confirmed that Formula One's glamour team had set no deadline while Schumacher's spokeswoman Sabine Kehm said there was no pressure on him.

"The fact is that Michael is free to decide until the end of the season and he is thankful for this and he has accepted that, not coming over with a decision before the end of the season," she said.

"He said it is a very important decision he has to take and the more time he has to consider it deeply, with all the knowledge he can have, then the better it is."

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo told Gazzetta dello Sport last month that he expected the seven times champion to decide his future within the coming month.

"It's up to him to decide and he knows that if he wants to stay for two years then we will agree. He has to say it," said di Montezemolo.
 
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Button already thinking of Monaco GP

The action may not have even got underway at the Spanish Grand Prix yet, but Jenson Button has admitted he has already got one eye on the next race in Monte Carlo.

The current form of Honda Racing's RA106 has left Button doubtful that he will have a car capable of fighting with Renault and Ferrari for victory in Barcelona this weekend - but he is bullish about the team's prospects for Monaco.

"This is a good circuit for us, we do a lot of testing here and we know how the car is going to feel, but it is also a circuit where you need very good aerodynamics and a lot of downforce," he said at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday.

"The Renault has that, McLaren has that and Ferrari has that – so I don't think we are going to be any more competitive than we have been for the past few races. Hopefully we will be reliable enough – that is the thing we have to work on for this race.

"But Monaco for me is the one race where I am really looking forward to – more than this place. I think you can make up the small differences in the cars."

Although Button has not raced at Monaco for two of the last three races – he was forced out after a serious practice crash in 2003 and was banned for 2005 after the BAR fuel-tank saga – he reckons that his runner-up performance in 2004 should act as encouragement.

"2004 is the year we really want to remember for Monaco," he said. "The only time I have raced there in the last three years was a good weekend. I love the circuit; I have gone there well the last few years so I am looking forward to it.

"I think it is a circuit where the car will work well. It is not a high aerodynamic circuit, mechanically I think we are very strong and I am looking forward to it – but there is still one race to do before that. And, if we can get some good points with both cars, that would be great."
 
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