Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya: The Ultimate Track Guide

The Spanish Grand Prix moved homes plenty of times before it settled at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in 1991. The track is well known by drivers and mechanics thanks to extensive testing.

TRACK LENGTH2.892 miles
MOST POLESMichael Schumacher (7)
MOST WINSMichael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton (6)

Spain has one of the longest histories with motorsport, with the first Spanish Grand Prix taking place in 1913 on a road circuit near Madrid. Another race was held ten years later, after the First World War, at the Autódromo de Sitges-Terramar, before Grand Prix racing found a more permanent home at the Circuito Lasarte. The racing was popular, but was halted when the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936.

Racing returned in the 1950s, as Spain hosted a Formula 1 race for the first time at the Pedralbes circuit. Between 1968 and 1975, the sport visited the Circuito del Jarama and the Montjuïc circuit on a yearly rotation, before the latter hosted the Spanish Grand Prix consistently between 1976 and 1981 following a crash which killed four spectators at the Montjuïc circuit.

In 1986, the new Jerez circuit was built to host the Spanish Grand Prix, though this only lasted for five seasons before the event moved to another new venue: Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya.

Main straight at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
Image: © Andrew Balfour


Situated in Montmelo, north of Barcelona, the first race at Catalunya was held in 1991. The Catalan Parliament first agreed that a racing circuit would be built in the area in October 1986 and building began in February 1989. The circuit opened on 10th September 1991 and the first race, a round of the Spanish Touring Car Championship, took place five days later. Later in the month, the first Formula 1 race at Catalunya took place. It was the 35th Grand Prix to be held in Spain.

Catalunya track map.

Spain doesn’t have too much history in Formula 1 in terms of star drivers, but the circuit enjoyed an upsurge in popularity since just after the turn of the millennium thanks to Fernando Alonso, who has brought a whole new Spanish audience to the sport.

Overtaking was frequent at Catalunya thanks to the fast final corner, which allowed the cars to slipstream down the main straight. Now, however, the track has a reputation for being difficult to overtake. The final corner on the track used to be the fastest part but, due to safety concerns, the corner was taken out and replaced with a chicane section, which slows the cars down before they turn the final part of the original corner.

Robert Kubica in testing at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in 2019.
Image: © Andrew Balfour

From 2013 onwards, the Spanish Grand Prix was contracted to alternate between Catalunya and the street track in Valencia, though this did not happen as Valencia pulled out of the deal. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya signed a one year extension to their contract to host the Spanish Grand Prix in 2019 and the circuit signed further one year contract extensions for 2020 and 2021.

In November 2021, Catalunya’s longer-term future was secured through to 2026. However, in January 2024, Formula 1 announced that the Spanish Grand Prix would move from Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to a new street circuit in Madrid. Both Madrid and Catalunya will appear on the calendar in 2026 but the Barcelona track’s future on the schedule beyond 2026 is now in considerable doubt.



Verstappen dominated the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix to bring home a comfortable win ahead of the two Mercedes drivers.

Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya reverted to its previous layout for the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix, bypassing the chicane in the final sector. That saw lap times plummet in qualifying compared to 2022, with Max Verstappen – who was fastest in all three practice sessions – taking pole position.

Charles Leclerc was caught out by improving track conditions and recorded a surprise elimination in Q1, while both Sergio Perez and George Russell were out in Q2 – the latter making contact with team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages of the session.

While Spain’s Fernando Alonso was out-qualified by team-mate Lance Stroll for the first time in 2023, the other Spaniard, Carlos Sainz, gave the home crowd something to cheer about as he lined up on the front row. Despite getting his nose ahead at Turn 1, Verstappen maintained the lead on the opening lap of Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Lando Norris had to make an early pit stop after first lap contact with Hamilton, with the Mercedes driver soon making his way past Stroll for third place on Lap 8. The opening laps featured plenty of overtaking, with the removal of the chicane clearly helping matters. Out of position starters Leclerc, Russell and Perez all benefited from the ample overtaking opportunities.

By Lap 21, most drivers had made their first pit stops, with the exception of the Red Bull and Mercedes drivers. The race leader made his first stop at the end of Lap 26, when he held a near 30-second lead over team-mate Perez. Lap 35 saw Russell overtake Sainz for third place, leaving Verstappen leading the two Mercedes drivers.

Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon went wheel-to-wheel on the main straight at the start of Lap 51, with Alonso completing a series of overtaking manoeuvres to climb to seventh place, despite the Alpine’s late defensive moves. Closer to the front, in the battle for fourth, Perez overtook Sainz with an overtake at the same spot.

Verstappen won the race by over 20 seconds, followed across the line by Hamilton and Russell. Completing his domination of the weekend, Verstappen secured the additional point for the fastest lap.


Ferrari were on form at Catalunya but reliability issues for Charles Leclerc saw Max Verstappen take victory at the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix – though it was far from an easy afternoon for the Dutchman. 

Ferrari headed all three practice sessions at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and continued to post impressive lap times during the qualifying hour. Charles Leclerc secured pole position, despite a spin at the final chicane on his first lap in Q3. Max Verstappen’s Saturday afternoon was hampered by engine issues, a lack of power meaning he was unable to challenge for pole in the closing stages of Q3. Meanwhile, home favourite Fernando Alonso was eliminated in Q1 along with Sebastian Vettel, while Mick Schumacher reached Q3 for the first time. 

Leclerc and Verstappen led away from the front row of the grid, with the Red Bull finding no way past the Ferrari in the opening laps. There was contact between Lewis Hamilton and Kevin Magnussen at Turn 3, compromising both drivers’ races.

Carlos Sainz found himself in the gravel – a familiar sight early in the 2022 season – spinning off the track of his own accord. Two laps later, Verstappen also found himself in the gravel at the same part of track. Both drivers managed to continue, though both lost positions, with George Russell and Sergio Perez both passing Verstappen. 

Verstappen struggled with intermittent DRS issues as he battled with Russell to take back second place. With Verstappen struggling, it seemed as though Ferrari would have a relatively easy run to victory – that was until Leclerc’s car gave in and he was forced to retire from the lead. Russell assumed the lead as his battle with Verstappen continued. When Verstappen pitted, Russell came under pressure from the other Red Bull of Perez, the Mexican making short work of taking the lead. 

Elsewhere, Pierre Gasly and Lance Stroll made contact, sending the Aston Martin driver into a spin.  With the pit stops all complete, Verstappen pursued his team-mate, with Perez told to let Verstappen through. He did so on Lap 49. Verstappen led the rest of the race and won the Spanish Grand Prix for the first time since 2016.

Hamilton made up for his earlier misdemeanours, passing Valtteri Bottas and Sainz’s Ferrari in the closing stages. However, a “DNF risk” saw Hamilton have to lift and coast in the closing laps, preventing him from progressing to the podium places. Perez and Russell joined Verstappen on the podium, with Red Bull recording their second 1-2 finish of the season. 


Starting from pole for the 100th time, Lewis Hamilton took a sixth consecutive Spanish Grand Prix victory in 2021 as Mercedes won a strategic battle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Formula 1 headed to a revised layout of Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in 2021, with the track being reconfigured at Turn 10. Robert Kubica, filling in at Alfa Romeo, brought out the red flags in Free Practice 1 with a spin into the gravel at this corner.

In qualifying, Lewis Hamilton made history as he became the first driver to secure 100 pole positions in Formula 1. His lead at the start of the race was shortlived, as Max Verstappen stole the lead at Turn 1. Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri was an early casualty in the race, with his Honda engine giving up and coming to a halt.

Verstappen was first of the frontrunners to pit, with Hamilton stopping four laps later. The Red Bull emerged ahead after the first round of pit stops. Fourteen laps on, Mercedes committed to the two-stop strategy. Hamilton pitted for fresh tyres in scenes reminiscent of the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix. Valtteri Bottas was instructed to give up his position to his team-mate but did not make life easy for Hamilton.

With seven laps to go, Hamilton had closed up to the rear of race leader Verstappen. Hamilton made the race-winning move at the start of Lap 60 and went on to claim a sixth consecutive win in Spain. There were mixed fortunes for the Spanish drivers. Carlos Sainz finished in seventh place, while Fernando Alonso finished a lap down in seventeenth. The Alpine driver dropped down the order on older tyres towards the end of the race.


Once again, the Spanish Grand Prix failed to provide a scintillating race as Lewis Hamilton stormed to a fourth consecutive Catalunya victory.

Lewis Hamilton started from pole position at the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix, having lapped just 0.059 seconds quicker than his team-mate in qualifying. It was a bad start for Valtteri Bottas, who lost positions to Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll, as Hamilton sailed into the lead.

Bottas managed to re-pass Stroll on the fifth lap, with Verstappen staying close behind the leading Mercedes. Verstappen switched tyres as the race reached one third of its distance, emerging ahead of the Racing Points. Both Mercedes drivers pitted two laps later, with Verstappen remaining ahead of Bottas.

There were battles in the midfield, with Lando Norris attempting an overtake on Esteban Ocon only to then be challenged himself by Charles Leclerc. Leclerc later spun and came to a halt at the final chicane with an engine issue. The Monegasque driver retired from the race as a result.

Hamilton went on to take an unchallenged victory, with Verstappen and Bottas completing the podium. Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll finished fourth and fifth, securing a strong result for Racing Point.


Valtteri Bottas dominated in qualifying, but it was Lewis Hamilton who led home a fifth consecutive Mercedes 1-2 at the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix.

Valtteri Bottas shone on Saturday as he took a commanding pole position, lapping over six tenths quicker than team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Starting from pole for the third consecutive race, Bottas failed to maintain his advantage into the first turn. Both Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel pulled alongside, with Hamilton driving into the distance as the Finn was squeezed by the two champions.

Verstappen made his way up to third place, ahead of the Ferraris. The two Ferrari drivers swapped places, as Vettel had picked up a flatspot in the opening lap drama. Just before the midpoint, Daniil Kvyat made a fine move on Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 4, while Vettel finally re-passed Charles Leclerc on Lap 36.

Lando Norris and Lance Stroll became the first retirements of the afternoon as the pair collided through the opening corners of the lap. That brought out the Safety Car, which bunched the field back up. The two Haas drivers collided on the restart, forcing Romain Grosjean to take avoiding action. The pair repeated their antics a few laps later, this time without contact.

Hamilton took victory, with Bottas finishing second to give Mercedes a fifth consecutive 1-2 finish. Max Verstappen completed the podium.


It was a dominant weekend for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton as Romain Grosjean raised eyebrows with his first lap antics

Brendon Hartley had a heavy crash in Free Practice Three, while Lewis Hamilton took pole for the second time in 2018. With Mercedes locking out the front row, Sebastian Vettel made it past Valtteri Bottas for second place at the first turn. Further back, Romain Grosjean span and caused havoc among the midfield runners, eliminating himself, Nico Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly from the Grand Prix.

After a Safety Car period, Vettel was first to pit while the other Ferrari came to a halt with turbo issues. A Virtual Safety Car later in the race gave Vettel the opportunity to pit again, rejoining in fourth, behind Max Verstappen. There were plenty of tussles on track – Charles Leclerc and Fernando Alonso went head-to-head, and Verstappen ran into the back of Lance Stroll’s Williams as the VSC period ended.

Hamilton took the win by over twenty seconds, with Bottas making it a one-two for Mercedes. Despite contact with Stroll, Verstappen took his first podium finish of the year.


  • At Turn 7 you can see an old farmhouse, which existed before the Catalunya circuit was built. It now houses the circuit’s offices.
  • Between 2007 and 2016, there were no repeat winners of the Spanish Grand Prix.
  • Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was built in 1991, and in 1992, the track acted as the start/finish line for the road team time trial cycling event in the Olympics which were held in Barcelona.
  • In 1992, the race here was advertised as the ‘Grand Prix of the Olympic Games’.
  • Wind direction can have a significant impact on the Catalunya track, and it is known to change drastically throughout the day.
  • Catalunya is probably the most well-known to the teams and drivers as they test extensively here in Winter Testing.
  • The track has seen a number of event sponsors over the years, from Marlboro and Pirelli to the Spanish based giants Telefónica and Santander.
  • The track was known as the Circuit de Catalunya until 2013, when a sponsorship deal with the Barcelona City Council saw ‘Barcelona’ added to its title.
  • Catalunya can hold over 140,000 spectators, and was a sell-out event in Fernando Alonso’s most competitive seasons. The 2022 weekend attendance was close to 280,000.


YearPolesitterTeam On PoleWinnerWinning Team
1991Gerhard BergerMcLarenNigel MansellWilliams
1992Nigel MansellWilliamsNigel MansellWilliams
1993Alain ProstWilliamsAlain ProstWilliams
1994Michael SchumacherBenettonDamon HillWilliams
1995Michael SchumacherBenettonMichael SchumacherBenetton
1996Damon HillWilliamsMichael SchumacherFerrari
1997Jacques VilleneuveWilliamsJacques VilleneuveWilliams
1998Mika HäkkinenMcLarenMika HäkkinenMcLaren
1999Mika HäkkinenMcLarenMika HäkkinenMcLaren
2000Michael SchumacherFerrariMika HäkkinenMcLaren
2001Michael SchumacherFerrariMichael SchumacherFerrari
2002Michael SchumacherFerrariMichael SchumacherFerrari
2003Michael SchumacherFerrariMichael SchumacherFerrari
2004Michael SchumacherFerrariMichael SchumacherFerrari
2005Kimi RäikkönenMcLarenKimi RäikkönenMcLaren
2006Fernando AlonsoRenaultFernando AlonsoRenault
2007Felipe MassaFerrariFelipe MassaFerrari
2008Kimi RäikkönenFerrariKimi RäikkönenFerrari
2009Jenson ButtonBrawn GPJenson ButtonBrawn GP
2010Mark WebberRed BullMark WebberRed Bull
2011Mark WebberRed BullSebastian VettelRed Bull
2012Pastor MaldonadoWilliamsPastor MaldonadoWilliams
2013Nico RosbergMercedesFernando AlonsoFerrari
2014Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2015Nico RosbergMercedesNico RosbergMercedes
2016Lewis HamiltonMercedesMax VerstappenRed Bull
2017Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2018Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2019Valtteri BottasMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2020Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2021Lewis HamiltonMercedesLewis HamiltonMercedes
2022Charles LeclercFerrariMax VerstappenRed Bull
2023Max VerstappenRed BullMax VerstappenRed Bull
Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top