x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

A modern circuit heavily influenced by the wind

Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari, who was brought up in Barcelona and still lives there, takes us around the Circuit de Catalunya for tomorrow's Spanish Grand Prix.

The Circuit de Catalunya is probably the circuit I know better than all the rest on the Formula One calendar, but it's a bit ironic as it's one of the few on which I've not driven an F1 car around in a race.

I tested in an F1 car there before the start of this season and I was at the race last year as Toro Rosso's reserve driver. But the idea of actually racing there for the first time in an F1 car gives me the jitters. It'll be a thrilling experience. There's some pressure to do well here, especially as my family and lots of friends are coming to the racetrack, so of course I want to do them proud. I have to try to forget about that emotion and keep as focused as usual, concentrate on the job I have to do and do my best to deliver a good performance to the team. Whether I do that or not, you'll have to ask me on Sunday evening!

Although I've not raced at the Circuit de Catalunya before in F1, I've been going there since I was very young. I don't exactly remember which was the first F1 race I watched there - there have been a few - but I vividly recall racing there in other junior formulae. I made my debut in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 in 2007 and finished second to Jon Lancaster in both races. Most recently, I raced a Formula Renault 3.5 car there last season and was fifth in the first race and ended up retiring from the second one.

It's always a special moment competing at your home circuit, but to be doing that in F1 is the ultimate. I'll have a relaxed feeling, as I can stay at home if I want and have all my things there. Plus, Barcelona comes alive for the race weekend. There's lots of parties and music, although sadly not for me. As for the circuit itself, it's a pretty modern circuit that allows you to adjust to the European part of the season pretty easily. Every driver knows it very well as we always drive here in preseason testing, so there aren't really any major surprises.

It helps that I know it as it's my hometown and my home circuit, plus the fact that preseason testing went pretty well there. I've got a better feeling for this race than any other so far this season. There are some overtaking opportunities here, although maybe there won't be so much overtaking here as everyone knows it very well so there tends to be fewer mistakes made by the drivers. But you really have to adjust when you come here. It's the European part of the season and the track feeling is very different. The temperature is a lot more manageable than some of the other circuits. Another way it's different is that the wind can be really changeable here.

F1 cars are really affected by any wind changes, so getting your set-up right can be difficult as the wind direction can be totally different from one session to the next. That also has a bearing on tyre wear and tear. As I said, there are overtaking opportunities here. The best is almost immediately going into the right-left-right combination at the end of the home straight. Just before here, you get to your top speed of the lap - about 315kph - and you need to get your braking point just right to keep your track position. It's three corners in quick succession, the last one you can take quickly and the g force is really heavy on the driver.

It's flat out from there to turn four, a long right-hander where it's important to get exactly the right line coming out of before turn five, which is a harder corner. A lot of drivers lock up here. After it, you pull on to another straight with a slight bend in it, but that's flat out before a sharp left and a slight adjustment to the right before it's flat out again to turn nine. You're a bit blind when it comes to braking here, but it's a fun corner and leads to the next longest straight on the racetrack before the hairpin, which is the slowest corner on any lap, usually in first gear.

There's a quick burst to a left at turn 11 and then a long right-hand turn at 12 which is very slow. Then comes turn 13, which is also slightly blind braking and then comes a succession of quick corners. Turn 14 is hard to the left and 15 is hard right and then you can nearly go flat out at 16 which brings you back to the main straight and the grandstand finish. motoring@thenational.ae