It’s time to cut the Chicane at the Spanish Grand Prix

Ah the Spanish Grand Prix, two hours of incredible boredom as DRS trains flow down the pit straight and even 2021 could only make it exciting…well…more like a painful suspense in my opinion…by using weird tyre strategies. 

The new 2022 regs are bound to fix this though right? Giving us an exciting Spanish Grand Prix for the first time in what feels like an age…so long it feels longer than the Spanish Grand Prix itself. Em…probably not…

Formula 1 seems keen to keep it’s long standing races on the grid even if they aren’t that exciting…but we’ll discuss Monaco next week. 

There is hope for the Spanish Grand Prix though as it’ll only take a couple of small changes to make the track exciting again, most importantly REMOVING THAT HORRIBLE FUCKING CHICANE. If you’re immediate argument is “But Jason Safety First”…then watch to the end of the video!

And Yes, I said exciting AGAIN. It was exciting once…no seriously…ok…look…I’ll just show you.

The first Spanish Grand Prix was in 1913 making it one of the oldest races on the Formula 1 calendar. The current Grand Prix, on the Circuit de Catalunya Barcelona, ran its inaugural race in 1991. On a cold damp day…and it was, unlike recent races, actually exciting. 

No seriously, there were some really exciting races at this track back in the…ugh…of course you still don’t believe me…just roll the damn montage. These Fucking Bastards Never Fucking Believe me when I talk about…History on this FUCKING channel, it’s always FUCK YOU and Never FUCKING Like or SUBSCRIBE either you.

Since 2007 when the chicane was installed we’ve really only had two exciting races at the track. 2008 where Kimi led the race through a raft of several safety cars and 2016, which was only truly exciting thanks to Lewis and Nico getting bored and deciding to play F1 Bowling, allowing a fight between Vettel and Vertsappen who was debuting with Red Bull to take place, which Verstappen eventually took. Both of these races were exciting only for the amount of damage on track in reality, not due to what we really want, a proper fight for the lead. Then Formula 1 decided, in 2021, planning ahead to 2022 with the key idea to make the track faster. It won’t work. Let’s dig into why…

Prior to 2007 Formula 1 cars had always been able to follow pretty closely, but slowly leading up to 2007 the cars had become such aerodynamic machines that the conversation around dirty air had already began, the cars found it harder to follow and they began looking at increasing areas where the cars had to brake to improve overtaking. Anyone who has played the F1 games or simply watched a lot of races over the past 15 years would be aware that most overtakes happen in heavy braking zones. The cars follow and slipstream down a straight and then it’s latest to brake or best grip out of the corner that wins. Daniel Ricciardo made a career out of playing brake pedal chicken. 

Now let’s have a look at the tracks original layout, what it is today and where the overtaking opportunities exist. This is where I can explain why I don’t think that the 2022 cars alone can fix this GP and then we can talk about the biggest issue with this track, the chicane. 

When the track was first introduced to Formula 1 in 1991, this is what it looked like. It was a relatively exciting race for the first few years and then, after the tragedy of Ayrton Senna’s death in 1994, it was decided that the Nissan Right, Left super fast sweepers had a temporary tire chicane installed for the 1994 season. The key issue was that given the entry speed and the lack of run off, it could cause the same sort of accident that killed Senna. It was then removed completely for 1995 to give us the longer second DRS straight running down to turn 10 that we still see today. 

This format ran from 1995 to 2003 and gave the race a reputation for being very processional, which thankfully it isn’t today…wait…never mind. However if there was rain or a particularly close rivalry they could still pass down the main straight. In 2003 circuit designer Tilka was brought in to work his magic on the track and help to create a section which would produce more overtaking.

In 2004 we saw the change of turn 10, which was configured more to be like a hairpin, with the previous turn left as a second configuration for the Moto GP races which still take place at the track. This gave a turn other than turn 1 where there was a possibility of slipstreaming into range and then using the tight braking zone to cause overtakes. Remember this was before DRS. This worked for a time. Although this was removed for 2021…because…reasons…SERIOUSLY WTF WERE THEY THINKING…anyways…calm. (IDIOT SANDWICH)

Then in 2006…a key decision that would kill the Spanish GP’s chances of being exciting for good, was introduced. 

As with many track updates over the years, this next key change would be introduced primarily with the view to safer racing, which I’m obviously not against, but what they created was also pushed as a way to improve the racing. It’s time for us to talk about the dreaded…chicane. 

In 2007 the new track for the Grand Prix was introduced, with a final chicane before the drivers hit the main straight. There were realistically two reasons for this. The first and foremost as we know now were the increasing speeds coming into the final sweeping corner and the lack of runoff. Then the more publicly pushed reason was the fact that the newer increased downforce cars were becoming increasingly difficult to follow and at a track like this one, this was making overtaking more difficult. The idea of the chicane was to slow the cars down so they could get closer before they came around the final corner so they would be close for a run down the long pit straight to turn 1 and increase overtaking.

Clearly the initial reasoning of increasing overtaking hasn’t worked. In fact, it’s gotten worse, as the cars have gotten bigger and heavier this has meant it has been even harder for the cars to follow during this chicane. The 2022 cars are certainly not going to find this chicane easier, we’ve seen them be even lazier in this type of corner as a matter of fact. This leads me to two final points of this video, the first being what are the chances of the 2022 cars improving the racing throughout the lap as a whole and giving us an exciting race at this year’s GP and second, could we in theory drop the chicane and return to the original final sweeping corner with the safety concerns. Let’s delve into it.

There’s no doubt that the 2022 regs have worked, we’ve seen cars follow closer than ever, so this should turn this track into a glorious flowing overtaking run of wonderfulness, right? I hope so, but I doubt it and here’s why. Though the sweeping corners leading to the hairpin turn at Turn 5 (known previously as the SEAT turn), I think that these cars will be able to follow closer and we may see some lunges and different lines than normal taken into this turn. However we need to keep in mind that to do this they’re going to have to keep very close coming through Repsol, turn 4 and this could be hard on the new tires. Therefore I think as the laps continue I think we’ll see that decrease. 

Then coming into the next real overtaking opportunity which is the run down to turn 10 with the DRS after turn 9, this may give the cars a chance to get closer, especially say the massive speed advantage of a Red Bull over a Ferrari that we saw at Miami. However the issue, the Turn 10 braking zone is gone. Therefore the new circuit essentially will allow the cars to be closer running around the next few corners before the main straight. 

We should then in theory have the cars run very close into the final chicane and this is where the cars, as far as I can see, will ruin the run into the final turn. We saw how difficult it was for the cars at the Miami chicane and this chicane will be similar. Finally, the lack of dirty air means that the slipstreaming effect has been decreased in terms of the advantage, and if the cars aren’t close coming out of the chicane. We’re going to see a return to long DRS trains down the straight.

Now I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. Let me know in the comments, but let’s talk about the original safety concerns with the lack of run off that are the reason this terrible chicane was brought in and why I think we could remove the chicane now. Also why I think if the FIA and Formula 1 disagree with me, it’s the ultimate hypocrisy. Let’s go.

Now just as much as the next, relatively sane, Formula 1 fan I will 100% be happy to allow for less exciting racing if the opposite means insane crashes. Obviously, driver safety is paramount. However…the chicane at this track could, in theory be removed today. The speeds coming into this corner will no doubt be greater than they were when the chicane was introduced in 2007 given that the cars have gotten even better at downforce, even taking into account the switch back to ground effect. Now the issue is that given the lack of run off this could cause a problem, but the run off area the way it is with an array of tech pro barriers added on either side with the massively increased safety of these cars? Then yes 100% they could return to the old sweeping corner and remove the chicane for F1 cars. This would allow the cars to follow extremely closely coming into the final corner and give much more overtaking down the main straight.

The argument here would be that the track would then be too dangerous for the cars in extreme events or with contact. This is where FIA and Formula 1 hypocracy comes in. If they are still against this, then they immediately need to remove various tracks that have exactly this issue. An extreme example you say? We’re racing at Jeddah. If you want to argue that they can’t do this for safety reasons then we need to remove Jeddah along with multiple other tracks including all street tracks from the calendar.

Simply put, with the advances in car safety and tech pro barriers, there is absolutely no reason we couldn’t move back to the old layout. Would it make the track epic? Probably not. Would it give us far more overtaking than we currently have? Definitely. Especially with the cars back to being able to follow like they could in 1991…well ish.

If you’re reading this FIA and F1, give me some reasons why I’m wrong. If you’re a normal reader that disagrees the comments are always at your disposal and if you agree, thanks.

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