Jenson Button, McLaren
2011 Qualifying – 5th, 2011 Race – 3rd
“Barcelona can be a funny circuit: we all test there so regularly that every driver knows it like the back of his hand, yet it can still be an extremely tricky place to get absolutely right. But, because every team is so dialled in to the track, even having a well-sorted car isn’t necessarily the answer because it’s sometimes the smallest differences that determine the order.
“You need to have absolutely every box ticked if you’re going to win at Barcelona. It’s a place that punishes poor balance like almost nowhere else – if your car is understeering around here, then you’re going to really struggle. There are no particularly stand-out corners, but the blast up the hill through Turns Seven and Eight and the fast right-hander at Turn Nine have a great flow and feel great when you nail it – especially in qualifying.”
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
2011 Qualifying – 3rd, 2011 Race – 2nd
“Our performance at Barcelona during winter testing looked promising – but the form of the season is still very hard to read, so it’s difficult to predict who’ll be at the front next weekend. Nonetheless, we had a great race there last year – I pushed Sebastian [Vettel] all the way to the finish. I think we have a comparatively stronger car this year, so I hope we can have another strong race.
“It’ll be interesting to see how straightforward overtaking will be this year. It’s always been a tough place for passing – as I found out last year – but I really hope DRS and KERS-Hybrid combined will make it a little easier. I think it’s going to be one of the toughest tracks of the year for overtaking, but I’ll be hoping for a strong performance in qualifying in order to make it as straightforward as possible in the race.”
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
“I think the drivers and the engineers enjoy the tricky technical challenge of Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya. You really operate your set-up on fine limits around here: every team’s balance is so refined that even the slightest imperfections become highlighted. Get it right and you tend to have a serene afternoon, get it wrong and you’ll be hitting trouble, and traffic, throughout the race.
“As we’ve seen in the first four races, added to that mix will be the additional conundrum of managing the tyres – Barcelona should give all the teams a clearer understanding of how the tyres behave in what’s likely to be a ‘typical’ European race climate. But there will still be plenty to learn.
“I sometimes think of the Santander Spanish Grand Prix as a useful acid test as to the effectiveness of the year’s regulations: it’s a tough, technical circuit where passing is limited. If the racing is good here, then we’re normally set for an interesting year: for 2012, we’ve already seen that the combination of DRS and KERS-Hybrid can spice up proceedings, so I hope we’re in store for a fun and eventful race next weekend.”
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