Spanish Grand Prix: You need a strong neck to race here - Nico Hulkenberg

The Spanish Grand Prix marks the start of the European season
Spanish Grand Prix on the BBC
Dates: 12-14 May Venue: Circuit De Catalunya
Coverage: Practice, qualifying and race on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and online. Live text commentary, leaderboard and imagery on BBC Sport website and app.

The plane banks. The Mediterranean glistens on one side; on the other, Barcelona and its intoxicating mix of hedonism and history.

Touch down, and everything is reassuringly familiar, as it should be after a quarter of a century. Point the hire car north, through town up the Ronda Da Dalt, on to the A7 towards Girona, and soon, there on the left, is the towering silver pit grandstand of the Circuit De Catalunya.

The surroundings change little. Wooded hills, an industrial zone, some scrubby land, fields. Gravel road into the car park, walk over the bridge, under the tunnel.

Glimpse the Pyrenees in the distance, pass the medical helicopter, turn left into the paddock. Usually, Bernie's bus would be on the left. Will Chase Carey have one this year?

Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell memorably battled side by side at the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix.

What lies ahead? A weekend of intrigue and gossip, as ever. A packed media centre, probably - this race cheaper to attend than the 'fly-aways' that precede it. Lots of developments on the cars, for certain. A slightly dull race; quite possibly.

The track has many qualities - a superb mix of corners; some real challenges for the drivers; a comprehensive test of a car's capabilities. But overtaking has always been difficult, and that's hardly likely to change.

But so many memories, nonetheless. Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell side by side, millimetres apart. Michael Schumacher's genius in torrential rain in 1996. The rise in spectators numbers that coincided with Fernando Alonso's emergence. The roof coming off when he won in 2006. That bizarre win for Pastor Maldonado in 2012. Alonso again, overtaking Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton in one go around the outside of Turn Three on his way to victory in 2013.

What will this year bring? No matter what, like settling down with a favourite movie in front of a warm fire, a weekend here will always be something to savour.

BBC Sport's chief F1 writer Andrew Benson

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Rain in Spain? Spanish GP forecast

'You need a strong neck'

Arnold Schwarzenegger
The Circuit De Catalunya is the sort of circuit where having a neck as strong as Arnold Schwarzenegger's would be pretty handy

This is where those long pre-season spells in the gym really pay off.

The Circuit De Catalunya is a physically demanding track with fast corners that really test those neck muscles to the limit.

"It's a physical circuit with all the high-speed right-handers, so you need a strong neck," says Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg.

"You'll really know about it by the end of the race."

A quirky stat

Valtteri Bottas won his first race in Formula 1 at the Russian Grand Prix last time out. If he follows that with victory in Spain, he will become the 11th different winner in the past 11 Spanish GPs.

Can you remember who won which race? Take our quiz below.

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Since the pre-season change in ownership, F1 has moved to increase visibility of driver names and numbers on cars, as we will see in Barcelona...

Red Bull

Alonso all alone - the stats

  • Fernando Alonso is the only Spaniard to have won a grand prix.
  • Alonso (2006, 2013) and Raikkonen (2005, 2008) are the only current drivers to have won twice in Spain.
  • All but three of the past 16 Spanish GPs have been won from pole position.
  • The only drivers to win in Barcelona without starting on the front row are Schumacher (from third in 1996), Alonso (from fifth in 2013) and Max Verstappen (fourth in 2016).
So far in 2017 Hamilton has one race win, vettel has two and Bottas one, with Raikkonen on none
Race to the title: who has finished where so far
Spanish Grand Prix circuit

How to follow on BBC Sport

BBC Sport has live coverage of all the season's races on BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, plus live online commentary on the BBC Sport website and mobile app - including audience interaction, expert analysis, debate, voting, features, interviews and video content.

Spanish Grand Prix coverage details (all times BST)
DateSessionTimeRadio coverageOnline text commentary
Wednesday, 10 MayPreview22:00BBC Radio 5 live andpodcast
Friday, 12 MayFirst practice08:55BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and onlinefrom 08:30
Second practice12:55Online onlyfrom 12:00
Saturday, 13 MayFinal practice09:55BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and onlinefrom 09:30
Saturday, 13 MayQualifying12:55BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and onlinefrom 12:00
Sunday, 14 MayRace12:30BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and onlineFrom 11:30
Monday, 15 MayReview04:30BBC Radio 5 live, online andpodcast

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