Learn about the history of the Spanish Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
The Spanish Grand Prix, first contested over 100 years ago, is one of the oldest motor races in the world. Held frequently throughout the early 20th century, the race was hosted on numerous occasions at the Circuito Lasarte until the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The event returned at a new circuit, Pedralbes, in the 1950s. Since 1967, it has retained a spot on the Formula 1 calendar at a variety of venues including Jarama, Jerez and since 1991, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya outside Barcelona.
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is also regularly used for winter testing, meaning the drivers and teams know the track very well. The Spanish Grand Prix looked set to fall off the calendar in 2020, but its immediate future was secured thanks to a cash injection from the local government. While the longer term future of the event remains in doubt, Carlos Sainz’s move to Ferrari in 2021, and Fernando Alonso’s return to the sport, is likely to boost spectator figures.
The 2020 Spanish Grand Prix, originally scheduled to take place in May, was pushed back to an August date due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event was one of many in the 2020 season to take place behind closed doors. In 2021, restrictions on spectator numbers were still in place, with only 1,000 fans able to attend the Grand Prix. At the 2021 event, Lewis Hamilton secured his 100th pole position and went on to take a fifth consecutive Spanish Grand Prix victory.
Multiple and notable winners
The Spanish F1 Grand Prix was a favourite of Michael Schumacher, who won the race six times in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Lewis Hamilton equalled Schumacher’s Spanish Grand Prix win record in 2021. Other multiple winners of the event include Jackie Stewart, Mika Hakkinen, Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost, each with three wins apiece. In recent years, the spoils have been more evenly divided. In fact, between 2007-2016, the Spanish Grand Prix was won by ten different drivers! That goes some way to explaining why only three of the current crop of F1 drivers have more than two wins at the circuit. In addition to Hamilton’s six wins, Kimi Raikkonen (2005, 2008) and Fernando Alonso (2006, 2013) have each scored two wins at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Home race heroes
Fernando Alonso is Spain’s only Formula 1 champion. He won on home soil three times; twice at the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya in 2006 and 2013, and once at the Valencia Street Circuit in 2012. Attendance figures soared at the height of Alonso’s success. Read more about Spain’s Home Race Heroes.
Spanish Grand Prix: Did you know?
- Circuit de Catalunya Barcelona also hosts a round of the MotoGP championship. Known as the Catalan Grand Prix, the race has been won five times by Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo
- A second Spanish round in Valencia (known as the European Grand Prix) was held for five years between 2008-2012. The Valencia track was due to alternate with Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya as the host of the Spanish Grand Prix from 2013 onwards, but this failed to materialise.
- The 2020 Spanish Grand Prix marked the first time in the event’s history, dating back to 2013, that the race had been held in August. It was also the first time F1 raced in Spain in August since the 2009 European Grand Prix.
- Lella Lombardi is the only woman to have scored a top 6 finish in an F1 World Championship race. She recorded half a point for sixth place in the shortened 1975 Spanish Grand Prix on the treacherous Montjuïc circuit in Barcelona.
- As well as Pastor Maldonado’s 2012 win being his only win in F1, it also marks the only time a Venezuelan driver has started from the front of the grid, finished on the podium or won a race. Maldonado is also one of only two Venezuelans to have scored points in the sport, the other being Johnny Cecotto.
- Kimi Raikkonen is one DNF away from equaling Rubens Barrichello’s record of 7 non-finishes at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
- At the 1993 Spanish Grand Prix, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher all finished on the podium. By the end of their careers, they’d have 14 World Championship victories between them; the most to have ever finished on an F1 podium together.
- While Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton share the record of most wins for a driver at the Catalunya circuit (6), Ferrari are the team with the most wins (8).
- Schumacher’s first win for Ferrari came here in 1996, which coincidentally was the last Spanish Grand Prix to be affected by rain.
- Since it joined the calendar in 1991, only 11 podium finishes at this circuit have come from lower than fifth on the grid. Only three races at the track have not been won from the front row of the grid.
Catalunya’s Memorable Moments
- 1991: Senna v Mansell: The very first F1 race at the Catalunya circuit produced a memorable wheel-to-wheel scrap between McLaren’s Ayrton Senna and Williams’ Nigel Mansell. After plenty of position switches and tyre changes from wet to dry, Senna lost his nerve and spun, leaving Mansell to become the first victor at the circuit.
- 1996: Schumacher shines in the wet: Michael Schumacher was in a class of his own at the wet 1996 Spanish Grand Prix. The hectic race saw plenty of drivers slide off the track, including polesitter Damon Hill. Schumacher snatched the lead from Hill’s team-mate Jacques Villeneuve and proceeded to set lap times three seconds faster than any other driver. He eventually won the race by over 45 seconds from Jean Alesi to take his first victory for Ferrari.
- 2012: Maldonado’s only victory: After Lewis Hamilton was disqualified from the Qualifying result, it would be Pastor Maldonado who started from pole for the first time in his career. He faced no easy feat on Sunday, with Fernando Alonso starting alongside him on the front row. Predictably, Alonso overtook him at the start, but Williams’ pit-stop strategy and a super speedy out-lap while the Ferrari was stuck in traffic saw Maldonado emerge in the lead. He went on to take his only F1 win, as well at the only Grand Prix victory for a Venezuelan driver. It was Williams’ first win in eight years, and their latest so far in F1.
- 2016: Verstappen makes history: The first lap of the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix is notable for one of the most talked about incidents of recent times in F1, as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg came together on the opening lap, ending both of their races. The crash paved the way for Max Verstappen to take an impressive victory on his very first appearance with the Red Bull team. It was hard fought for, as Kimi Raikkonen pushed the Dutchman all the way to the finish, with Verstappen winning by just over half a second. As a result, he became the youngest ever Grand Prix winner at 18 years and 228 days.
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya Facts
|Circuit Name||Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya|
|Race first held||1991|
|Track Length||4.675km (16 turns)|
|Race Distance||66 laps (308.424km)|
|Lap Record||1:18.149, Max Verstappen (Red Bull, 2021)|
|2021 Result||1st Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:33:07.680|
|2nd Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +15.841s|
|3rd Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +26.610s|
|Spectator Capacity||140 700|