This year, Barcelona (or rather Montmelò, to be strictly accurate) hosts Formula 1 for the 29th time. It’s an impressive track record. And it hosts its grand prix with the pride of being the spiritual capital of racing in Spain.
The love story between Spain and grand prix racing is a long one. And it has deep-seated roots. Until just a few years ago, when Formula 1 was somewhat less established than it is now, the parallel between the driver and the matador was not a purely abstract one. It all started with the Pedralbes circuit in the 1950s, which was desired by none other than Generalissimo Franco, who at the time held a vice-like grip on the nation. The race also subsequently took place on a street circuit on top of the hills of Montjuich Park, which offers a stunning view of Barcelona and its coast. What Montjuich wasn’t was a paragon of safety. In 1975 the drivers undertook what amounted to strike following free practice. The guardrails hadn’t been properly secured and plenty of overnight work was needed to fix them and ensure that the race went ahead as planned. But it was a fateful year: in the race, a rear wing from one of the cars ended up in the grandstands, claiming five victims. Those picturesque park roads overlooking Barcelona would never see Formula 1 again.