The Spanish Grand Prix has called Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya home ever since it was completed back in 1991, but this is not the first track that Formula 1 has raced on in the Catalan capital.
Wind the clock back to 1969 and F1 was racing around Montjuïc mountain, right in the centre of Barcelona. The Spanish Grand Prix was held four times on Circuit Montjuïc, in 1969, ’71, ’73 and ’75 before the event moved to Jarama full-time. It is most distinguished for both the fatal crash that led to its departure from the F1 calendar and for holding the only F1 race to date in which a female driver scored World Championship points.
Last month, I travelled to Barcelona for the 2017 Spanish Grand Prix and was able to walk around the streets of the classic Circuit Montjuïc and see what it looks like today.
I began at the Palau Nacional and cut through the serene parkland to reach the site of the 1992 Summer Olympic Village, the highest part of the old circuit. I knew that the old track comprised of normal roads but it took a while to realise that I was actually in the right place.
Parked cars lined the twisting road on either side and made it difficult to tell where I was. The pit buildings had long been demolished, yet the road that ran alongside it still followed pretty much the same path as what it used to.
Instead of F1 cars roaring up the pit-straight, tourists flock to see the 1992 Olympic Village while cars and coaches border the pavements on each side of the road.
Instead of Emerson Fittipaldi’s black and gold Lotus 72, black and yellow taxis now corner around the hairpin at El Angulo de Miramar (Turn 1).
Rosaleda (Turn 2) is just as steep as it used to be and that same lamppost is still there, near the apex.
The area around Teatro Griego (Turn 4) has barely changed in almost half a century. The main differences being that the small trees aren’t very small anymore and that bollards have replaced the barriers.
The buildings around Vias (Turn 5) haven’t changed a bit, although the lack of a grandstands these days make it impossible to get that angle.
The drivers would blast past the beautiful Palau Nacional and begin the climb back up the mountain.
They would then have to negotiate the fast left-right bends at La Pergola and Pueblo Espanol (Turns 7 & 8)…
before taking the roundabout at Avenguda de l’estadi and roaring up to the start/finish line once again.
Circuit Montjuic is the personification of the phrase “The more things change, the more they stay the same”, because although it appears that the area hasn’t altered much since the 60’s, it’s the fine details that have.
That, coupled with the work that was completed for the Olympic Games, make parts of the area unrecognisable today and nobody would ever guess that there was once a Grand Prix track here.
The thing that struck me most, however, was how difficult it was to find information on the circuit in general. There was no memorial to the five who were killed in 1975, nor any mention of the track ever existing while I was there.
In addition, I couldn’t find any archive images of Turns 6 to 11, it’s as if they never existed. It is truly a disservice to the circuit that it has become so lost to time and to Formula 1 history.