The Ben Evans Column: Boring Barcelona

David Coulthard, Super Aguris, Midlands, Jacques Villeneuve, Barcelona, 2006This New Year’s Eve I stayed inside in the warmth and got drunk with a few friends. So I started 2007 hung over and lacking New Year’s Spirit.

This unfortunately means that I’ve been thinking about the 2007 season in a rather pessimistic way.

Yes, it promises to be the most interesting F1 season for a long time and I cannot wait for it to start. But, as we all know, modern F1 is flawed, and in particular I am not looking forward to 2007 for one reason – the Circuit de Catalunya.

In an era when overtaking moves in F1 are rarer than sighting a tiger in the wild, the Spanish Grand Prix has always stood out a triumph of the turgid.

I can remember three good races at the Catalunya circuit – 1991 when it rained, 1992 when it rained and 1996 when it rained. The highlights footage from the dry races is even shorter than the book of French military victories.

So why is the Spanish Grand Prix so consistently dull? As far as I can tell there are two main reasons.

Jarno Trulli, Ralf Schumacher, Toyota, Barcelona, 2006The first problem is that the teams test there so much that their cars go round as if on rails. The cars of each team rotate in pairs in a high speed re-enactment of Noah’s Arc.

Second the track design prevents overtaking almost perfectly. At a push I’d say there are two places you could get through in a Formula Ford car, and one where you could make it stick in an F1 racer (if you’re feeling brave and the guy in front is either asleep or Jarno Trulli).

Christian Klien, David Coulthard, Red Bull-Ferrari, Barcelona, 2006This is all particularly unfortunate as F1 is rapidly becoming the Spanish national pastime and there is increasing talk of a second race. And the overwhelming majority of the tracks in Spain are painfully dull.

Valencia is pitiful excuse for a racing circuit. It may have fantastic facilities for teams and spectators alike but the track – the thing that matters – is too slow, unimaginative and twisty for 125cc motorbikes, let alone F1.

Jerez, the former home of the Spanish GP, produced a couple of memorable races, notably in 1986 and 1997.

But this should both be taken with a hearty pinch of salt. The dicing seen at Jerez in the late ’80s simply could not be replicated with modern cars (the twists would ensure they ran nowhere near each other). And the 1997 title finale was something of a one-off.

Nick Heidfeld, Juan Pablo Montoya, Barcelona, 2006It is a cruelly ironic situation. The Spanish have fallen in love with F1, but have no circuits that can produce the sport at its best. My preferred option of building a replica of Spa outside Madrid is unlikely to be successful, but with the both F1 and Moto GP’s huge popularity there is surely a case for building facility that can do the cars and the fans justice.

In the meantime when this year’s Spanish race rolls around, I’m going to pull out a cold beer, put my feet, take the phone off the hook, and watch some British Superbikes.

As for the Grand Prix, I’ll watch the first corner and pick up the result on the radio later, although I doubt the order will change.

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2 comments on The Ben Evans Column: Boring Barcelona

  1. Nathan Jones said on 8th January 2007, 7:25

    could not agree more there mate! thing is the MotoGP is usually exciting there with passing and slipstreaming galore! the 125cc bikes often go down the main straight 4 wide!
    the fact that the only 3 decent races there, and ’96 was rather dull except for schumachers brilliant drive’ proves one thing!
    these races were wet when aero grip is overtaken by mechanical grip as most important!
    thier is nothing wrong with the track itself as the bikes can race there but these cars cannot be ‘raced’ and i doubt that even 80′s cars could race there but the track in general is not the best for cars!
    Valencia maybe getting a GP is an absolute joke!
    they say they will change the layout but unless they tear the place apart and start again it’s not going to be anywhere near good enough!

  2. yes,it seems to get worse ,as the years pass by.
    i’ve been mad about racing since 1971,the days when cars still had their own character,now all cars are/look the same,bar the paint job.more rules than racing.Nowadays the best races are wet races,says it all,doesn’t it!

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