Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2022

Circuit de Catalunya seeking approval to run races without chicane

2023 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

The operators of the Circuit de Catalunya intend to offer Formula 1 the option of bypassing the slow chicane at the end of the lap for future races.

The chicane was added to the circuit in 2007 for safety reasons, interrupting the two quick right-handers which ended the lap previously. As well as adding a tight right-left at turns 14 and 15, it slowed the preceding right-hander turn 13.

However some drivers believe removing the chicane would improve overtaking opportunities. George Russell told RaceFans last year it would be “an easy fix to a circuit that is pretty poor.” Spanish F1 driver Carlos Sainz Jnr has also said he’s keen to try the layout without it.

At present the only version of the Circuit de Catalunya which has the FIA grade one licence necessary to hold F1 races includes the chicane. The FIA has looked into the possibility of removing the chicane and the subject was discussed during the track inspection ahead of the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix.

The track’s operators confirmed to RaceFans they intend to ask the FIA to homologate two layouts at the Montmelo circuit, one with the chicane and one without, so race promoters can select which version they prefer. Some minor reinforcements of the existing safety elements at the current turns 13 and 16 will be made in order to ensure the final sector can be raced safely without the chicane.

Work has already begun on an extension to the gravel trap at turn one, which is expected to be complete by the end of March. The total area of the run-off will increase from 5,200 square metres to 7,200. The total gravel area will rise from 3,100 square metres to 5,100.

The renovations will require some trees to be felled. These will be replaced by new trees which will be planted within the circuit and surrounding area.

The last change to the circuit’s layout was made in 2021 and also involved reversing a previous alteration. Turn 10, which had been tightened in 2004 in an attempt to improve overtaking opportunities, was eased into a faster bend similar to its original shape.

A small number of circuits have FIA grade one licences for multiple layouts, though none of them currently host F1 races. They are Paul Ricard in France (five versions), Motorland Aragon in Spain (three) and Dubai Autodrome in the United Arab Emirates (two). The Bahrain International Circuit held two grands prix on different layouts in 2020.

Circuit de Catalunya track map, 2021
Track data: Circuit de Catalunya

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2022 F1 season

Browse all 2022 F1 season articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

28 comments on “Circuit de Catalunya seeking approval to run races without chicane”

  1. I think that is a very good and cheap solution.

  2. Please let them do it, please let them do it, please let them do it! Surely it is the most disliked chicane on the while F1 calender?

    1. I think chicanes are pretty universally unpopular no matter where they are. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be used, though.
      Nor does it mean that they don’t provide an offset or even positive effect at another part of the lap, or over time during the course of a competitive session.

      Personally – I don’t think this chicane does anything for the circuit, but I don’t think introducing it took anything away either.
      It’s a poor racing circuit for most cars regardless. Especially F1 cars.

      1. Personally – I don’t think this chicane does anything for the circuit, but I don’t think introducing it took anything away either.

        The major problem with the final chicane is that it impacted the one good overtaking spot on the track, heading into Turn 1. Perhaps the most obvious example being the race in 2016, where Räikkönen was faster than Verstappen, but because the chicane privileged low speed traction, which the Red Bull did better than the Ferrari, it constantly put Räikkönen too far behind Verstappen coming up to the main straight to attempt a pass. While the commentators may have pretended otherwise, there was basically zero chance of there being a chance in positions.

        It’s fair enough to say that every track requires a balance in setup, but when one corner becomes all important that’s usually a sign that the track layout doesn’t actually allow for a variety in setups.

        1. It’s fair enough to say that every track requires a balance in setup, but when one corner becomes all important that’s usually a sign that the track layout doesn’t actually allow for a variety in setups.

          If one car gets off slow corners better, then its designers did a better job in that area, right? That’s a big part of what people argue F1 should be about. Different cars with different strengths and weaknesses.
          One could argue that a car set up for very low drag could make up that deficit with straight line speed – they’d just lose time around the rest of the circuit. That’s the balance that every team needs to take into account.
          Of course, it doesn’t help that so many set up options have been restricted in F1 in recent decades…

          This circuit simply isn’t really designed well for car racing – certainly not modern fast cars that incorporate loads of aero downforce.
          The faster F1 goes, the worse the track seems.
          We can take the easy option and blame the chicane (which has it’s own positives and negatives) but that neglects the fact that the rest of the circuit offers nothing at all for close racing either.
          To those who call for F1 to use more permanent, traditional, flowing circuits – I’d say be careful what you wish for. This is one of them.

          Also can’t wait until Domenicali’s bonehead idea of giving DRS to everyone on the straights come in. Then there’ll be even less drag to draft along in.

          1. If one car gets off slow corners better, then its designers did a better job in that area, right? That’s a big part of what people argue F1 should be about. Different cars with different strengths and weaknesses.

            Absolutely, that was so great about the heydays of LMP1. All the cars had different pros and cons. Crucially though, they were each able to exploit those advantages at pretty much every track because the main differences were in the deployment of the available electric power.

            In F1, with so much being standardized, a lot characteristics are built in to the designs of the car and these don’t change throughout the season. So when you get a chicane like at this particular track, there are going to be cars who handle it better than others and there’s not a whole lot that can be done about that set-up wise. When that one corner then becomes the major decider of potential overtakes, it becomes an issue.

            They can either get rid of the chicane, or adjust the track elsewhere to make a corner that gives an advantage to cars with the opposite characteristics of those required for the chicane. The latter might be more interesting, but would probably require a far more expensive rework of the track layout.

            The faster F1 goes, the worse the track seems.

            It’s definitely true that F1 cars are responsible for a lot of alleged circuit issues. Even the much maligned Sochi track had some good races with slower cars.

  3. So basically it would be a 2nd Austria? Would they be able to go full throttle throughout Turn 16, on the map it seems quite tight, never seemed so tight on TV.
    Does someone know a sim-racing video with the proposed changes?

    1. Austria T9 isn’t flat.

    2. You can just watch any F1 onboard from 1991-2006 to see the proposed final two corners in action

      1. Or watch MotoGP which still uses the old Grand Prix layout.

  4. If F1 says it can race safely around the tracks in Miami, Jeddah, Baku etc. then the pre-chicane layout in Catalunya should definitely be possible too. Perhaps, as noted in the article, with some new barriers.

    Chicanes – actual ones, not the mislabeled fast left/right or right/left corners around various circuits – can sometimes be necessary when there is no physical space to make proper corners that serve the purpose of limiting cars’ speed, but there’s probably not a single track that’s better because of them.

    1. Monza without chicanes would not be a Grade 1 circuit.

      1. @wsrgo True, by breaking up the straights they’ve kept the speed under control and thus remained a viable venue. To Monza’s credit, despite these somewhat crude alterations to the track they’ve managed to hold out longer than other similar high speed tracks, almost all of which have either been abandoned or reworked. It now has a bit of a special historic status not unlike Monaco. Races there are usually pretty poor though. Modern F1 cars do much better around tracks like Silverstone, which isn’t actually a whole lot slower on average.

        1. the cars achieve terminal velocity, especially during the race, well before they arrive at the chicane at monza. removing the chicane would have no effect on top speed.

          1. Quite so, but that’s only a part of the speed issue. It’s never been particularly useful to make F1 cars that reach 400 km/h in a way that it was at Le Mans, where that became an issue that the ACO wanted to stamp out (and did quite successfully). The chicanes at Monza are mostly there to prevent them from going into the already fast corners at that top speed. As an aside, there are some great clips on YouTube of the Audi LMP1 skipping the chicane and doing just that during test runs.

  5. Please, do this as the chicane has always been dreadful.
    However, I disagree with the view that overtaking would become easier.
    Lap flow would definitely improve by returning to the pre-2007 level, but overtaking is another matter.

    1. My feelings exactly. That chicane was definitely not installed only for safety reasons, at that time everyone complained that the two fast right handers made it difficult for cars to follow, hence diminishing opportunities for overtaking into the first corner. Sounds familiar? It is the circuit that is overall not suited for racing. Pre-2007 Catalunya was already bad, the 1999 race had the grand total of 1 on-track overtake.

    2. Yeah, I would still take a better circuit over more overtaking in most cases

  6. They should have done this by 2018. 2018-2021 cars would have demolished the old last two corners and it would have been a great view. But the chicane allows more driver errors due to it being more technical.

  7. Perhaps they can do both and keep the chicane in place for slow lap penalties similar to what they do in MotoGP.

    1. I’ve often wondered about having the long lap penalties in F1, for Irresponsible Riding etc…
      Could be better than the current you-decide-whether-to-give-the-place-back nonsense or 5-second penalties that deny us a race.
      The 7km long lap at Spa, out to Burnenville, Masta and Malmedy, would be spectacular!

  8. ‘Fans seeking approval to run calendar without Circuit de Catalunya’

    It’s a small test track and F1 cars are too big and fast for it. Slower series (and thus old F1) look OK there.

    Although it might improve a poor show, all we will get is drivers waiting for the free overtake zone – or the end of the train..

  9. Yes this! I have driven both, and without the chicane last turn is mighty.

    Speeds would be so high that DRS would have time to work..

  10. Would be interesting to know what effect this would have on tyre wear. The front left already takes quite a bit of punishment through turn 3, and would presumably take more if the chicane was removed. Barcelona has always been quite a tough circuit on tyres – remember the 2013 race in particular – so this change would presumably tip the scales towards more pit stops.

  11. I’ve driven the track in those track days you do with Ferraris and stuff. They let you go as fast as you want, but it’s tricky because the track is much tighter than it looks on the telly! and that chicane is the narrowest thing ever… so awkward and slow. Even the entrance to it, the biffurcation from the old track, it’s downhill so you need to go even slower… it’s a whole 15 secs of going way slower than the car can

  12. Oh god yes

Comments are closed.