F1 2007 Preview: The circuits

Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne, start, 2006In four weeks’ time the first official practice session of 2007 will begin. And so we kick off our countdown to the racing year with our 2007 season preview.

First up: the tracks. With a brand-new venue on the schedule, chopping and changing elsewhere and a couple of unusually long gaps in the calendar, there will be some noticeable changes to the season.

Out with the old: Imola, Hockenheimring and Suzuka dropped

Luciano Burti, Jaguar, Imola, 2001The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari Imola may have romantic appeal – but as a Grand Prix circuit the chicane-fest had little going for it. The Hockenheimring (perhaps the ultimate Tilke-drome) has gone too but, like Imola, may well return in 2008.

Most sadly the high-speed bends and challenging configuration of Suzuka is off the calendar. And the estimations of the track that has replaced it are mixed – at best…

In with the new(ish): Fuji Speedway

Fuji SpeedwayThe Fuji circuit is the original home of the Japanese Grand Prix. Only two Grands Prix were held there and the last, in 1977, was marred by tragedy when a collision between Ronnie Peterson and Gilles Villeneuve killed two spectators.

The new venue has been brought up to impeccable standards of presentation and safety by, who else, Hermann Tilke. It is set in a stunning environment in the shadow of Mount Fuji, boasts an enormous, overtaking-friendly straight… and that’s it.

The rest of the old circuit has been twisted into one tight bend after another. Not the showcase for the pinnacle of automotive technology that Suzuka was, surely?

And back with the best: Spa-Francorchamps

Fernando Alonso, Renault, Spa-Francorchamps, 2005The home of the Belgian Grand Prix makes a welcome return following its second absence in four years. Once again it features some changes with yet another new version of the bus stop chicane and a remodelled pit area.

Happily they’ve left the important bits alone – in Eau Rouge, Pouhon, Stavelot and Blanchimont Spa has more great corners than Tilke’s tracks put together.

The teams have not run their V8 cars here yet and it will be interesting to see whether the need for straightline speed will force them into running less downforce, making the fast corners even trickier. And, of course, it could rain.

Tweaked tracks

Giancarlo Fisichella, Renault, Barcelona, testing, 2007The penultimate bend at the Circuit de Catalunya, Europcar, has been tightened into a chicane for safety reasons. Drivers have given mixed reactions to the corners depending on whether they thought it better to have a fast or safe bend.

But regrettably none of them so far seem to think it will create an opportunity for overtaking by slowing the passage of the cars through the final bend, New Holland.

The only change to the Nurburgring is to its title – it will hold the German Grand Prix this year as that country will only have one race. The ‘European’ Grand Prix is dropped, as is the ‘San Marino’ race. Italy will also have a single race this year for the first time since 1980.

Back-to-back races – and gaps

There will be three gaps of longer than two weeks between races in 2007, giving the teams more time to test but, irritatingly, disrupting the regularity of racing action for the fans. Rounds one and two are separated by three weeks; rounds three and four by four weeks; and rounds eleven and twelve by three weeks (the now-traditional August break).

Back-to-back rounds will be Malaysia and Bahrain, Canada and the United States, France and Britain, Italy and Belgium and China and Japan.

Events under pressure

The competition for Grand Prix slots remains fierce, and additions for 2009 (Abu Dhabi) and 2010 (South Korea) are already confirmed.

Nico Rosberg, Tiago Monteiro, Indianapolis, 2006At least three Grands Prix are under threat. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway only agreed a on-year extension on its Grand Prix contract last year. And Magny-Cours and Silverstone have been urged by Bernie Ecclestone to consider sharing their round – a suggestion that has been (surprisingly) welcomed by the French and (unsurprisingly) rejected by the British…

However at 17 races long the calendar is shorter than it was at its peak in 2005 (19 races) and there are clearly gaps in the schedule waiting to be filled. So get cracking, Ecclestone!

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2 comments on F1 2007 Preview: The circuits

  1. It’s such a shame that Suzuka is gone, because Fuji Speedway (Tilke version) is just about the worst circuit in the world. I’ve only experienced it through Gran Turismo 4, but even from just looking at the map layout you can tell it’s a dizzying blend of boring, slow corners. What I really hate though, is the thought of Toyota gaining this kind of political power in F1…

  2. I hope the new Fuji won’t be a success because the tarmac run-offs are being overused now, and they are way too big as well.

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