Three weeks after scoring a 1-2-3-4 finish in the Bahrain Grand Prix, its first clean sweep of the top four since 1997, Renault Sport F1 heads to Spain and the Circuit de Catalunya for round five of the 2012 championship.
The 4.655km circuit outside Barcelona is a medium downforce, middle of the road track for engines. Nevertheless there are some careful preparations specifically required for the RS27 V8 for the Spanish Grand Prix.
The 1km pit straight, where the cars reach over 300kph and maximum rev limit, gives a possibility for a double KERS release as the KERS energy counter resets, which should increase overtaking possibilities. There are several good opportunities for the KERS to be recharged over the course of one lap, including turns 1, 4 and 10.
Wind direction can often change at Barcelona due to its proximity to the sea and mountains. This can make gear ratio selection difficult down the long straight, particularly as there are a couple of bumps down the pit straight, which can cause the engine to hit the limiter.
The track follows the contours of the hills, and therefore undulates over the course of the lap. The up-and-down nature of the track and the length of the corners mean the cars will be subject to high lateral forces. To maximise acceleration without compromising on power, Renault Sport F1 engineers create engine maps that can be used with short gear shifts.
The second sector is more flowing than sector one, but it is nevertheless hard on the tyres due to the long corners and the fact that the drivers run onto the kerbs through this section. Different overrun settings can be used to stabilise the rear under braking, but this can increase fuel consumption.
The long turn 3 is a challenge for the drivers. In qualifying it can be taken almost flat, but in race trim the driver may short shift before the apex to make it easier to control the delivery of torque through the corner, thus preserving tyre life. With up to four stops expected in Barcelona, this could be a vital advantage in gaining track position.