The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya will host the third round of the 2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship this weekend.

The Circuit

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya - 2019 Spanish Grand Prix

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Location Montmeló, Spain Circuit Length 4.655 km / 2.892 mi
Opened 1991 First F2 Race 2016 (as International F3000)
Direction Clockwise Lap Record 1:52.129 – Charles Leclerc  – 2017
2018 Pole Position
Alexander Albon  2018 Race Winners
George Russell  (Feature)
Jack Aitken  (Sprint)

“Everybody knows Barcelona very well because we do a lot of our testing there. Everyone’s done a lot of laps and is very well practised, so finding an edge is very difficult. It comes down to who can adapt best to the conditions on the weekend, really.

“You have to be quite smooth and quite clean with your driving in qualifying. It’s about being disciplined and keeping your tyres at the right temperature for the whole lap and staying calm.

“The track has been resurfaced and is a lot smoother and darker. That means that under the sun it should get a lot hotter, which would usually make tyre management harder, but actually it doesn’t look like it’s that different but it’s still a challenge for sure!

“If you’re really quicker than the guy in front of you, you can find some good places to overtake in Sector 2. Turns 4 and 5 are always interesting places to try and attack because they’re quite long corners so you can take different lines. In the final Sector, if you’re really sneaky you can try the last chicane to nip up the inside, but it’s quite difficult to not crash if you do that so you have to be a bit careful!

“I won the Sprint Race there last year, and hopefully this time it will be the Feature Race and we can get the full set. As a team we’re going to hopefully be getting into our stride. The season is going to be getting into the busy part of the year so it will be really nice to get a win there and carry that momentum into the rest of the European events.” – Jack Aitken (Campos Racing)

The Event

2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship – Race of Spain Schedule (10-12 May 2019)
Free Practice Session 1 Fri 13:00-13:45 Qualifying Fri 16:55-17:25
Feature Race (37 laps) Sat 16:40-17:40 Sprint Race (26 laps) Sun 11:30-12:15

Session times quoted in Central European Summer Time (GMT + 02:00)

Rewind to 2018

Riding the crest of the wave after securing his first Formula 2 pole position and victory at the preceding Azerbaijan round, DAMS’ Alexander Albon put his car on pole position in qualifying. The Anglo-Thai driver, however, had a poor getaway and fell to fourth by the first turn behind a fast-starting Nyck de Vries (PREMA Racing), George Russell (ART Grand Prix) and Luca Ghiotto (Campos Racing).

Albon was able to recover third place from Ghiotto, while up front Russell blasted past de Vries to claim the lead on the fifth lap. Albon followed suit past the Dutch driver, moving into second place on Lap 10.

By mid-distance the field was starting to consider the timing of their compulsory pit stops. Albon was struggling with high tyre wear and fell back behind de Vries before missing multiple calls from his team to pit. His delay in pitting cost him further places, while the tyre change saw de Vries close up to Russell and begin to seriously threaten the Englishman for the race win.

No less than four Virtual Safety Car interruptions had punctuated the race by this point, and facing a time-certain finish de Vries made one final attempt to pass Russell for victory. His move into Turn 5 would politely be described as ambitious, and Russell saw it coming. He delayed his turn-in to avoid contact, leaving de Vries to run wide as he outbraked himself. Norris finished third to complete the podium.

The ART Grand Prix team had further reason to celebrate in Sunday’s Sprint Race, with Russell’s teammate Jack Aitken taking victory after a fantastic getaway from the second row of the grid propelled him into the lead. The race was neutralised behind a Safety Car when de Vries threw his car into the gravel trap, and it was called into action again following a frightening collision between the Japanese pairing of Tadasuke Makino (Russian Time) and Nirei Fukuzumi (BWT Arden). The former was saved from injury by the Halo cockpit protection system as Fukuzumi’s car clambered over the front of his car.

Aitken was able to manage these interruptions and restarts each time to perfection, leaving Albon and Norris to complete the podium places.

Tadasuke Makino and Nirei Fukuzumi collide - 2018 FIA Formula 2 Race of Spain

The value of the Halo cockpit protection system was in evidence when Makino escaped injury-free after being mounted by Fukuzumi.

The Spain Form Guide

Jack Aitken made the podium twice in Azerbaijan to kickstart his 2019 campaign. Luca Ghiotto (UNI-Virtuosi) had led the Drivers’ Championship going into the weekend and despite showing strong practice speed the Italian’s weekend fell apart with a ninth place in the Feature Race and a crash in the Sprint Race.

The Feature Race win went to Aitken, who battled his way forward from eighth on the grid to claim victory in an incident-filled race from Nyck de Vries (ART Grand Prix) and an impressive Jordan King (MP Motorsport).

DAMS’ Nicholas Latifi earned his second win of the 2019 Formula 2 season in Sunday’s equally crash-marred Sprint Race, with the Canadian finishing ahead of rookie Juan Manuel Correa (Sauber Junior Team) and Aitken, who drove another blinding race which featured several brave overtaking moves around the Baku City Circuit’s challenging layout.

Latifi’s win saw him leapfrog Ghiotto into the lead of the Drivers’ Championship standings with 62 points to his name, while Aitken moved into second place on 43. Ghiotto is placed third on 39.

DAMS remain the team to catch in the Teams’ Championship standings with 95 points, ahead of Campos Racing on 55. UNI-Virtuosi Racing sits third on 50 with ART Grand Prix further behind on 42 points.

With Pirelli providing its Hard and Soft compounds to the teams on a track notorious for high tyre degradation, it’s going to be another exciting Formula 2 Championship event.

Images via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

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