Spanish Grand Prix
Vitaly launches his blog, where will tell about his racing – and not only – activity. The very first story is dedicated to fifth Formula One event, Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.
It is often said, that European races differ a lot from overseas ones – this time I don’t feel so. Yes, I know Circuit de Catalunya well, but other drivers have even more experience here, because it hosted a lot of races end even more pre-season testing before. The only significant variances with earlier Grand Prix – this time we arrived to circuit just three days, not a whole week in advance, and there were a lot of support races, which I tried to follow if I had time for.
Friday was mostly quiet, but it was Saturday morning when I had huge off-track moment. The reason was overnight rain, which left standing water in kerb grooves – I didn’t even saw it! I tried to enter a turn a bit wider and touched a kerb. Who may suppose such a consequences: car jerked on braking and I could do nothing while crashing a barrier.
Kamui Kobayashi spun off track in the same place just before me – but I didn’t see his off, because hi lost his car at corner’s exit. It was too soon for anyone to react: if I was not so close to Kamui, stewards would wave yellows and the team would surely warn me by radio. But it was all at a moment. Very disappointing.
The car was damaged quite a lot and I was far from sure I could participate in qualifying. Team even said me to prepare to start from last position. Twice a pity that all aero updates for Barcelona – floor, front wing etc. – were destroyed in a crash. That’s why in the rest of week-end I used all version a car, the same as in China.
Fortunately our mechanics did brilliant job just in time and qualifying went rather smoothly. But I was moved back by five position to 19th after gearbox change. I made good start, but this time all drivers did almost the same – maybe well-known track was a reason. To say frankly, this time I was somehow sure before the event that I couldn’t gain a lot of places at start. It was a strange feeling.
When lights went out I began overtaking, but after a few seconds Jarno Trulli moved across the track in front of my nose, forcing me to lift off. I understood my feeling was right and this time my start could not be as good as before. So I decided to be careful at first turn, keeping in mind my main target for Spanish event – to finish my first ever dry F1 race for sure.
I had a fight with Kamui Kobayashi almost from start to finish – we’re good mates, but you don’t have any mate when on track. Barcelona is a difficult place for overtaking. Kamui’s BMW-Sauber had А-duct – if keep a hand in a proper place in cockpit, car’s speed on straights increases significantly. But even this system didn’t allow him to close a gap between us and attack me.
But I couldn’t overtake anyone as well, even if was faster – downforce decreases rapidly, when you follow other car closely. Your competitor “removes an air” form your way, so aerodynamics of your car works worse, you can’t keep a speed and lose ground.
At Barcelona I was lapped. At that moment I clearly understood, that I don’t remember whether I was ever lapped before. Not the best feeling. But at this circuit a lot depends on a car, so leaders – Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren – are much faster then us. Catalunya is quite short – it is also a factor.
When you give a way to race leaders, it is never easy. You have to do it at right place; otherwise you lost a lot of time. In my case it was also important to look at mirrors and check Kobayashi, who could try to use this moment to attack me. Of course team said me about I’m due to be lapped in advance by radio.
I’m really pleased about my pace through the distance. My best lap is only four thousands slower than Robert’s one. It was fair comparison and the team thanks me for my speed in the middle of the race – I didn’t back off and was almost as fast as Robert.
Finally I finished 11th. When starting from 19th – not bad. Our car lacks downforce. It is fast on straights, but loses through turns. Top speed is good for overtaking, but downforce is more important on many circuits. It is so at Barcelona and as well at Monaco, where next event is due to begin in some days.
It is unique place where you have to do well in qualifying. The race almost sure will be processional; the result will mostly be decided on Saturday’s afternoon and during the start. After that you just need not to make any mistakes.
See you at Monte-Carlo!