Up to then, Formula 1® had visited four Spanish circuits: Pedralbes, Jarama, Montjuich and Jerez, adding up to around 20 grands prix in total. This was still nothing like France, which has hosted F1® at seven different venues: Reims, Rouen, Clermont Ferrand, Le Mans, Le Castellet, Dijon and Magny Cours. But there was at least still a wide geographical spread, as well an ample variety of circuits in Spain.
And then, suddenly, Barcelona arrived. Or, to be more precise, Montmelò. Think of Catalonia’s principal city (or, as the locals call it, the capital) and what springs instantly to mind are Las Ramblas, elegant boulevards, and the stunning coastal boardwalk.
Montmelò isn’t quite the same. It’s fair to say that the area actually hosting the venue for the Spanish Grand Prix, far from the city centre, is less appealing. Rather than Gaudi’s architectural conceits, the hills around Montmelò showcase extensive and obviously productive industry. The track is next to the motorway coming down from the south of France, but there the glamour stops. The closest real town to the circuit, Granollers, doesn’t have a huge amount to offer the tourist either. So how come Montmelò has been the king of Spanish Formula 1® since 1991, with no pretenders to its throne? It all comes down passion in the end, rather than politics or industry. Catalonia was very much the economic powerhouse of Spain in the 1990s, helping the Montmelò circuit to make its mark in the rarefied world of Formula 1®.