The Circuit de Catalunya, home to the Spanish Grand Prix is the first European race on the F1 Calendar. It is also the race where teams bring in major upgrades from their factories all over Europe. The circuit also hosts the 2 tests held over the winter break ( pre-season testing ) before the start of a new F1 season.
Moto GP races are also held here, albeit in a slightly different configuration.
The circuit is a true test for any racer, be it on two wheels or four. Shortcomings, if any, are all revealed here!
I had the privilege of seeing Max Verstappen won his first race ( on debut ) with Red Bull Racing ( youngest race winner in F1 )( in 2016 ) after the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton & Nico Rosberg took each other out on the opening lap. Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel completed a double podium for Ferrari that day.
The race in 2017 had a more disappointing outcome for the Iceman but he won the hearts of one and all by meeting the 6-year-old Thomas Danel, the kid who was shown weeping trackside after Raikkonen's retirement due to a collision in the race.
My experience from 2017 is shared here :
The Circuit Layout :
Official Website :
The Circuit is located in the town of Montmelo, about 30 km from Barcelona. Built by the legendary circuit designer Herman Tilke, the race is considered one of the biggest sporting events on the nation's calendar. Its one of the easiest circuits to get to, one reason being its proximity to a big city and other being the ease of access via road, rail and even air! The sunny Mediterranean weather also makes a visit to the circuit quite appealing!
Closest Airports :
Barcelona El-Prat International Airport ( BCN ) is the nearest airport to the circuit and caters to a plethora of European low cost, Transatlantic and other International Carriers. Iberia Airlines, the nation's national carrier also offers multiple connections from their base in Madrid. It is the airport of choice for almost all visitors!
Emirates offers multiple services from Dubai to Barcelona every day.
My Emirates Flight Experience ( latest ) from Mumbai to Barcelona is shared here :
The city of Barcelona is also well connected by road and rail to other major European cities, the latter being used by many fans.
Where to Stay :
The accommodation options in Montmelo, be it Airbnb or Hotels are sold out quite early in the year. Most rates are non-refundable and a premium is charged over the race weekend. It is best to stay in the city of Barcelona. Barcelona has a wide range of accommodation on offer from Airbnb & Budget Hotels to ultra-luxurious properties like the Hotel Arts or The W. I recommend staying in areas like Avinguda Diagonal ( have stayed at the Novotel & Hilton ) or Via Laietana which are pretty lively and offer great options for shopping and dining. Many F1 teams stay in the Diagonal area with McLaren having their Annual Gala Dinner on a Saturday evening in the city!
There is never a dull evening in the city. Some fans opt to stay in the town of Girona which is further away, more peaceful and gives visitors a glimpse of life and architecture during the Medieval time.
There are multiple camping options near the track as well.
Circuit Access :
The Circuit is well connected by road, rail and air! The commute is pretty brisk and everything functions like a well-oiled machine every year.
One can refer to this link to explore the various options of commute :
By Road :
Taxis are readily available in Barcelona city and the commute time is about 40 minutes to the circuit. Those with VIP Passes get the option of a drop off right at the Paddock Club Entry, Paddock Access gates; one of the few circuits which offer such a privilege. There are other taxi drop-off points all over the circuit too and one must be prepared to queue in the evenings for the return journey. There is Uber as well, surge pricing applicable.
Many fans use a car hire service ( readily available at the city or airport ); its advisable to get a parking pass in the area closer to the selected grandstand. Thankfully there is ample parking space at the circuit.
offers Bus Services
from Barcelona City Centre
to the circuit. Price of the return ticket is about 12 Euros per day and tickets can be booked on https://www.sagales.com/en
Commute time is about 50 minutes but can get long on a Sunday morning and Evening.
There are also shuttle buses plying from Montmelo Station to the Circuit.
By Rail :
Spain has one of the best rail networks of Europe and is the preferred mode of commute for most of the fans over the race weekend. There are connections from both Barcelona and Girona to Montmelo Station from where one can either walk to the circuit ( a 30-minute walk ) or opt for a shuttle bus which drops off fans at the circuit entrance near Turn 1.
From Barcelona :
Hop on to the Rodalies Line R2 Nord ( Green line ) bound for Granollers Centre from Barcelona Sants or Passeig de Gracia or El-Clot Arago Stations and alight at Montemelo Station.
From Girona :
Hop on to the Roadlies Line R11 ( Blue ) bound for Barcelona and switch to the R2 or R8 line for Montmelo at Granollers Centre Station.
By Air :
Arrive in Style aboard a Helicopter, a commuting method used by the rich and famous throughout the weekend. Its an experience of a lifetime offered by almost all hospitality partners of the sport.
F1 Village, Fan Zones :
The F1 Village, situated behind the Main Grandstand has gone through a major revamp. Fans can purchase their favourite team gear from the respective merchandising outlets or even the Official F1 Store. Prices are more or less on par with other circuits of Europe.
The Avinguda dels Campions which has Plaques of World Championship winning racers ( on 2 wheels and 4 ) is also located in the village.
Competitions such as the Pit Stop Challenge, Batak Challenge and the Simulator races run throughout the weekend with prizes ranging from Paddock Passes, Hospitality experiences on Sunday or goodie bags.
There is also a stage erected in the F1 Village where Drivers' and Team Principals' appearances happen on Friday and Saturday ( in the evening ).
There are smaller merchandising and food outlets located behind other grandstands as well. The quality and the variety of food on offer is pretty poor. Thankfully, fans are allowed to bring food and drink into the track. Alcohol and Canned Drinks are banned.
Fan Experiences :
3 Day ticket holders are eligible for Pit Lane Walks on Thursdays. A Drivers' Autograph Session is also planned at the same time.
Like Suzuka in Japan, fans can enjoy views of the circuit from various grandstands, known as "Free Friday".
There is also a track run organised on Saturday evening. Details would be shared by the circuit organisers on their official website.
There is trackside commentary in English, French, Spanish and Catalan on the local radio.
Most of the Stands are uncovered, so it is advisable to wear protective headgear.
VIP Guests, Paddock Club Guests and Celebrities can purchase a Pirelli Hot Laps Experience ( pricing dependent on the type of car and the day ).
F1 Experiences offers fans the opportunity of a Guided Paddock Tour or a Guided Track Tour on a Parade Truck or a Guided Pit Lane Tour or a Photo Opportunity on the Podium with the Race Winning Trophies.
I also recommend visiting "PortAventura World", a theme park complex approximately 100 km from Barcelona featuring 3 Theme Parks - PortAventura Park, Caribe Aquatic Park and Ferrari Land!
Ferrari Land is a must-visit on the Wednesday of the race week since the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team host an event there with their F1 drivers!
One can also drive around the "Montjuic Circuit" which is in Barcelona and used to be the venue for racing for Moto GP and F1 in the 1970s. It was also the only circuit to see a female driver score Championship points.
Circuit de Catalunya has a charm of its own. Many fans prefer this over other classic tracks on the calendar. The sunny weather, proximity to a big metropolitan, ease of commute, great views from every grandstand gives it a different vibe altogether. It is been 3 years since I last visited this historical track..hopefully in 2021!!