F1 Spanish Grand Prix: Memorable Races At Catalunya (& How To Recreate Them In AMS2)

F1-Spanish-Grand-Prix-Catalunya.jpg
The Formula One Spanish Grand Prix has called the Circuit de Barcelone-Catalunya home since 1991 – which is set to change from 2026 onwards. We look back at some of the highlights at the track and how you can recreate them in Automobilista 2, if possible.

The Spanish Grand Prix has been a mainstay on the Formula One calendar for most of the World Championship’s history. There were two notable gaps, namely from 1955 to 1967 and from 1982 to 1985, but usually, F1 visited Spain once a year for the most part.

While the early days saw the Grand Prix aces compete at Pedralbes, the 1960s and 1970s saw Jarama and Montjuïc alternate, until Jerez took over between 1986 and 1990. Since 1991, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is synonymous with the Spanish Grand Prix, and has been the go-to F1 test track for most of its existence.

From the 2026 season onwards, the track is going to be replaced by the Madrid Street Circuit as the Spanish Grand Prix venue - a decision many fans are not exactly fond of. An despite Catalunya usually not being regarded as the site of exciting races, it does not mean that the venue did not have its fair share of memorable contests. Here are some of our favorites.

And as Automobilista 2 features an unrivaled amount of representation for classic F1 seasons, we also look into how to recreate our picks - if possible. Of course, this requires some compromise occasionally.


1991 – Senna vs. Mansell Down The Main Straight​

The first-ever Grand Prix at Catalunya was immediately a memorable one. Already prior to the race, the driver shuffle of the late season continued, with Michael Bartels taking over from Johnny Herbert at Lotus again, while Roberto Moreno was out of his Jordan seat after just two races in favor of Alessandro Zanardi. The Brazilian had been parked at the team to make room for Michael Schumacher at Benetton, who had made his debut in a Jordan at Spa. Further down the grid, Gabriele Tarquini replaced Olivier Grouillard at Fondmetal.

The race itself started on a drying track, and with the World Championship battle between Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell heating up, all eyes were on the McLaren and Williams rivals. Mansell fell back to third early, but managed to claw P3 back from Schumacher, and gave chase to Senna.


The duo then went on to battle wheel-to-wheel down the main straight, creating one of the most iconic shots in F1 history. Two of the very best, side by side, sparks flying from their cars, vapor trails off the edges of their rear wings – a visual that is hard to beat. Mansell would later snatch the lead from Senna’s teammate Gerhard Berger to win the race.

Can you recreate it?​

Running your own version of the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix in AMS2 could hardly be any easier. The Formula Classic Gen 4 class features both Senna's McLaren MP4/6 and Mansell's Williams FW14 (as the Model 2). An extensive season livery pack by @Immersion Modding Group even lets you run a race-specific driver and team lineup.

Additionally, the 1991 version of Catalunya is in AMS2 as part of the Historical Track Pack Pt. 2, meaning you got all you need for a throwback to the first Spanish GP at the track within the sim.

  • Class: Formula Classic Gen 4
  • Track: Barcelona 1991
  • Date: September 29, 1991
  • Laps: 65

1994 – Hil’s Emotional Williams Victory, Schumacher Stuck In Fifth Gear​

Having moved to May after its initial late-season slot, Catalunya was memorable for a number of reasons in 1994. It was only the second race after the tragic San Marino Grand Prix weekend that claimed the lives of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna, so the events were still fresh on everybody’s minds.

In a hasty bid to try and reduce speeds through the fast Nissan chicane towards the end of the middle sector, a temporary chicane was created from tire stacks that were simply placed on the track. While it served its purpose, it looked far from professional. Considering Karl Wendlinger’s Monaco crash that put him in a coma two weeks earlier, too, the decision seems somewhat understandable.

Despite this, an enormous shunt looked like it would continue F1’s streak of catastrophic incidents. Simtek’s Andrea Montermini crashed heavily at the exit of the final turn – luckily, Ratzenberger’s replacement only broke is ankles, although the injuries were enough to keep him out of action for the rest of the season.


Race day looked to be an all-Schumacher affair once again at first, the German starting from Pole Position and pulling away initially. However, gearbox problems eventually saw him only have fifth gear available with the majority of the race still to go. Instead of retiring the car, Schumacher somehow finished the race, even securing second place. Note that he had to pit with the car in this condition as well, meaning it would have been very easy to stall during this.

Up front, Damon Hill took an emotional victory, Williams’ first of the the season and first since Senna’s death. Often overlooked in the immediate aftermath of Imola 1994, Hill suddenly had to carry the Williams team, having seen his teammate pass away just weeks prior. He dedicated the victory to Senna. Meanwhile, Mark Blundell scored Tyrrell’s first podium finish since 1991.

Can you recreate it?​

Unfortunately, running a 1994 Spanish Grand Prix in AMS2 is not possible in an accurate way. The 1993 cars of the F-HiTech Gen 2 class come closest to the 1994 cars, but feature a plethora of electronic aids - and there is no skin pack available. And the tire stack chicane at Nissan is also nowhere to be found, nor can it be inserted.

1996 – Schumacher’s Rain Masterclass​

After taking two successive titles with Benetton, Schumacher made the switch to Ferrari for 1996. Unfortunately, the F310 was not on par with the superior Williams FW18. In the hands of Hill and rookie Jacques Villeneuve, the car had won five of the six races ahead of the Spanish GP, the only exception being the chaotic Monaco Grand Prix won by Ligier’s Olivier Panis.

Catalunya was the stage for one of Schumacher’s best drives, though, up there with Senna’s 1993 European Grand Prix at Donington or Jackie Stewart’s German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring in 1968. Initially, it was not off to a good start, however. Schumacher lined up third on the grid behind the Williamses, and dropped back to fifth once the lights went out.


The German recovered, though, and by lap 13, he passed Villeneuve for the lead. Amazingly, he continued to run laps three seconds faster than anyone else, and while Hill spun three times and eventually retired, Schumacher dominated the race right until the checkered flag for his first-ever Ferrari victory.

He was joined on the podium by Benetton’s Jean Alesi and Villeneuve – the only cars he had not lapped. In total, the race only saw six cars finish, with accidents and spins accounting for most of the retirements.

Can you recreate it?​

While the 1997 season is featured as the Formula V10 Gen 1 class in AMS2, 1996 is not. However, the rules were relatively stable between the seasons, so you can get an approximation using the 1997 cars and livery pack that are available at Catalunya's no chicane version. La Caixa may have had a slightly different profile in 1997 than today, but most of the track is accurate.

Modern Catalunya is part of the Premium Track Pack.

  • Class: Formula V10 Gen 1
  • Track: Barcelona no chicane
  • Date: June 2, 1996
  • Laps: 65

2000 - Coulthard Survives A Plane Crash And Takes P2​

The 2000 season was again shaping up to be a titanic battle between Ferrari and McLaren, with the win tally at 3-1 in favor of Ferrari ahead of Catalunya. David Coulthard had taken the first win for the British team at the previous round at Silverstone, and would be looking to continue this upward trajectory.

Instead, he was lucky to survive a plane crash just five days before the race.


Flying to Nice, the private jet Coulthard was on suffered an engine failure, subsequently crashing on the attempted emergency landing in Lyon. While Coulthard as well as his girlfriend and personal trainer survived, pilots David Saunders and Dan Worley did not.

Nursing bruised ribs and light injuries to his arms, the Scotsman incredibly decided to race, and while the race itself was not all that spectacular, Coulthard finishing in second behind his teammate Mika Häkkinen was an impressive feat. In the post-race press conference, the McLaren driver called the result “the best thing that could have happened for the team and myself”.

Can you recreate it?​

Throwing it back to the 2000 F1 season is fairly easiy in AMS2. The Formula V10 Gen 2 cars may be based on the 2001 season, but switch off traction control, launch control and auto shifts and you got a great representation of the year 2k. Add in IMMERSION Modding Group's excellent livery pack, and you will be right back in the Ferrari vs. McLaren era of the 2000s.

  • Class: Formula V10 Gen 2
  • Track: Barcelona no chicane
  • Date: May 7, 2000
  • Laps: 65

2012 – Maldonado’s Upset Win​

A powerhouse in the 1980s and 1990s, Williams’ glory had somewhat faded by 2012. Its final victory at that point came in 2004, courtesy of Juan Pablo Montoya at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Since then, the BMW partnership had ceased, and the team had slid down the order considerably.

For 2012, Williams used Renault engines for the first time since 1997 (technically since 1999, since the Mecachrome engines used that season were old Renault units), bringing back the iconic Williams-Renault name, and even the Senna name was back, with Ayrton’s nephew Bruno in one of their cars. The combination was nowhere near its glory days, though.

Ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, the car’s best result was Senna’s sixth place in Malaysia. As a result, you can imagine the disbelief when Pastor Maldonado stuck the FW34 on Pole Position, beating Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean.


The Venezuelan lost the lead to Alonso at the start, but stayed with the hometown hero and retook the lead during pit stops. A slow stop later on meant the Williams would fall to third, but again, Maldonado rallied and overtook Alonso again, keeping him behind until the checkered flag for an unlikely win – the final one for Williams to date.

The victory proved to be immensely popular in Maldonado’s native Venezuela, and it came just a month after Frank Williams’ 70th birthday. Spectacularly, the Williams pits caught fire about 90 minutes after the race, although contrary to popular belief, Maldonado’s car was not involved. In fact, the fire had started when the remaining fuel was drained out of Senna’s FW34.

Can you recreate it?​

You most certainly can! The F-Reiza car is actually based on the 2011 Red Bull Racing RB7, but that did not stop @AFry from uploading a 2012 livery pack for sim racers to relive one of the most exciting seasons in the modern era of F1.

Note that F1 used the version of Catalunya that featured the chicanes in the final sector at the time. La Caixa was also tighter, but the more flowing version of the corner should prove more popular anyway.

  • Class: Formula Reiza
  • Track: Barcelona chicane
  • Date: May 13, 2012
  • Laps: 66

2016 – Max Verstappen wins on Red Bull debut as Mercedes rivals crash out​

The hybrid era had brought a new era of domination with it, as Mercedes had been the team to beat since the regulations came into effect in 2014. 2016 was no different: Nico Rosberg took all four race victories prior to the Spanish Grand Prix, either him or teammate Lewis Hamilton had been on pole on each occasion. Anything but a Mercedes win at Catalunya would have been a surprise as a result.

The major talking point ahead of the race was Max Verstappen’s move from Toro Rosso to Red Bull, however. The Dutchman, at just 18 years old, would make his debut for the team, replacing Daniil Kvyat with whom he effectively switched cars. Verstappen qualified in fourth behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo, while the front row went to Hamilton and Rosberg – as expected.

Max-Verstappen-2016-Spanish-Grand-Prix.jpg

Image: Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images

And as expected, the Silver Arrows ran away at the front once the race was underway – but not for long. Rosberg and Hamilton battled for position, and heading into turn four, they collided. The favorites were out of the race, creating one of the most controversial moments between teammates in recent history. Hamilton would go on to win every Spanish GP from 2017 to 2021.

In 2016, however, a future World Champion took his first win on his debut for Red Bull: Verstappen managed to take the lead via pit stop strategy, but the Dutchman also had to fend off Kimi Räkkönen and Sebastian Vettel at different stages of the race. He held on to take the win – his first of 60 as of the 2024 Canadian Grand Prix.

Can you recreate it?​

Unfortunately, AMS2 does not cover the first few years of the hybrid era as of writing this article. The oldest hybrid F1 car is based on the 2019 season, that being the aptly-named Formula Ultimate 2019. No V6 hybrid cars with narrower track and high rear wings as you would have seen in 2016 are in the sim.

What is your favorite Spanish Grand Prix at Catalunya? Let us know on Twitter @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!
About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D

Comments

Automobilista 2 features an unrivaled amount of representation for classic F1 seasons, we also look into how to recreate our picks - if possible. Of course, this requires some compromise occasionally.

"unrivaled" 1!! What if there was an other title with virtually all the complete grids, with the classic cars, not just generic with different skins, also with 99% of the tracks, historic no less. That would be something. :D

"this requires some compromise occasionally", more like you need to be very conciliant, and if you squint your eyes very hard, from far, it looks almost real. :roflmao::roflmao::roflmao:

Very fond of what Reiza does with AMS2, in conjunction with some great "modders" efforts, within the very limited ability to mod the SMS engine, grateful for all the efforts, but other title out there have much, much, more to offer in that department. Why keep putting the light on AMS2 when we have access to much better.:unsure:
 
OverTake
Premium
Depends on your point of view. I know you're implying that Assetto Corsa is better suited for this, but the difference is that apart from the season packs, you have all of these cars and tracks in AMS2 available already. So instead of hunting for these potentially for hours, struggle with varying quality, etc., the first-party content is much more approachable.

I'm not trying to knock on AC modding in the slightest - it's simply amazing and has created scenarios that most probably never thought to ever be in sim racing (like the Prinzenpark track in my hometown), the average user is normally just not too keen with tinkering for quite a while until things are good to go.

Now, if the good ol' days of full season packages with cars AND tracks were to return - now that would be a dream :)
 
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Premium
"Much better" depends on your point of view. I know you're implying that Assetto Corsa is better suited for this, but the difference is that apart from the season packs, you have all of these cars and tracks in AMS2 available already. So instead of hunting for these potentially for hours, struggle with varying quality, etc., the first-party content is much more approachable.

I'm not trying to knock on AC modding in the slightest - it's simply amazing and has created scenarios that most probably never thought to ever be in sim racing (like the Prinzenpark track in my hometown), the average user is normally not to keen with tinkering for quite a while until things are good to go.

Now, if the good ol' days of full season packages with cars AND tracks were to return - now that would be a dream :)
I agree, and I play both AC and AMS2. AMS2 is far less hassle and far more consistent quality.
 
"Much better" depends on your point of view
I agree, not sure why you mention it in reply to my post, since I did not wrote "much better".
It is about what someone prefers, all good.
Still, it is as if AMS2 is "unrivaled" when the truth is, as far as having the ability to get historic and accurate content, it is absolutely rivaled.
Easier to get something in AMS2, yes, requires less efforts, yes. Can we get more with some efforts in other titles, yes.
Is it worth mentioning, in an article about that subject? I think so.
AC is not just about roller coaster, complete, high quality, historic content, of any type and any period, is also there for the taken for those who do not mind a little work, all worth it in my book if just a little bit more than casually interested.
 
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And that's the final straw. Full page adverts that pop up between pages.
 
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Fun project for the weekend. Go back to when Max first had a front row start. Then find out how many times he reached turn one first. I imagine Lewis would have a very good ratio for that stat as well.
 
OverTake
Premium
We are working on the ads as some of their behavior was not intended, apologies for the inconveniences!
 

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