F1 has raced at the Circuit de Catalunya for the last 18 years and, compared to many other circuits, the track has changed little in that time.
So how have lap times at the circuit changed over the years – and when were F1 cars at their fastest?
Changes to the track
1994 – Temporary tyre chicane inserted at Nissan corner to slow the cars down. One of many tracks to gain a temporary chicane following the Imola tragedies earlier that year. (See 10 worst… chicanes)
1995 – Nissan cut back into Campsa corner, which remains today.
2004 – La Caixa tightened in (largely unsuccessful) attempt to increase opportunity for overtaking.
Other reasons for lap time changes
Three main factors influence lap times: the rules, the track configuration, and whether there are competing tyre manufacturers in the sport.
For example, during the Bridgestone-Michelin tyre war of 2001-2006, the technical regulations were largely stable, and lap times generally decreased.
In 1997 the arrival of Bridgestone sparked a tyre war with Goodyear and lap times plummeted. But the next year the FIA reacted by introducing grooved tyres and other changes, and lap times went back up.
The latest changes to the circuit have made the lap slower. There were concerns that there was inadequate run-off at the final two corners on the circuit.
Inevitably, you have to wonder how much quicker the cars would be on the original track if they still had V10 engines (or, indeed, V12s), unrestricted aerodynamics, and competing tyre manufacturers.
In a later article I’ll take a look at how lap times changed at a different circuit at a different period in time, giving us a chance to compare how quickly the cars improved.
Read more: 2009 F1 cars quicker than in 2008