Ten worst… chicanes

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Trees get Dutch Elm Disease. Rabbits get myxomatosis. F1 circuits get Chicane Blight. And the original victim was Monza, the next stop on the calendar.

Happily, Monza has still remained a decent track where the teams trim the cars for top speed and they reach almost 350kph on the run to turn one.

But Chicane Blight has caused some grotesque distortions of fine circuits around the world. Here’s ten of the worst offenders – feel free to add your own.

‘Beirut’, Circuit de Catalunya, 1994

The tragedies of 1994 were forced by a frantic scramble to toe down the fastest corners on the F1 calendar.

The Grand Prix Drivers’ Association demanded a special tyre chicane to slow the cars before the fast right-left flick Nissan at the Circuit de Catalunya.

It looked like a security checkpoint which earned the nickname ‘Beirut’. The following year Nissan was straightened and the tyre chicane was also gone.

Ostkurve Schikane, Hockenheimring, 1982-89

The approach to the Ostkurve at the original Hockenheimring certainly needed slowing – it was the scene of Patrick Depailler’s fatal crash in practice in 1980.

But the first effort at building a chicane was terrible – basically two separate lanes of track crudely joined together with some vicious kerbs and a tyre chicane. It was most famous as the scene of Nelson Piquet and Eliseo Salazar’s kung-fu fight in 1982. The corner was later widened and improved.

Eau Rouge, Spa-Francorchamps, 1994

Damon Hill, Williams-Renault FW16, Spa-Francorchamps, 1994Another corner to get the chicane treatment in 1994 was Eau Rouge.

The following year the corner was back to normal as if nothing had ever happened, but Eau Rouge has since been given more run off and resurfaced for better grip.

Chicane, Pescara, 1934-57

Just to prove that adding chicanes to slow cars is not a new invention. One was added to the 25km Pescara road course in 1934 to slow the cars before they reached the pits.

But the wide corner didn’t do very much to slow the cars down. Two more chicanes were planned for the 1957 race – the only world championship event on the track – but they weren’t built, and as a result several teams found themselves with the wrong gear ratios when they arrived.

Saca-Rolhas, Estoril, 1994-6

Built to slow the cars before the fast Esses and quick Parabolica corner, Saca-Rolhas would have been a slow corner at Monte-Carlo, never mind on a road circuit.

Nevertheless it was the scene of Michael Schumacher’s excellent pass on Damon Hill in the 1995 race. At the last Portuguese Grand Prix the following year McLaren team mates David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen ran into each other.

Chicane, Magny-Cours, 1991

Given the enormous amount of money preparing Magny-Cours for its first Formula One Grand Prix in 1991, could they not have come up with a better penultimate corner than the chicane before Lycee?

The strange, high-kerbed chicane led drivers into the tight right-hander before the pits. It was scrapped in 2003 by Hermann Tilke, who left an equally pointless chicane in its place. Sometimes it’s as if they just can’t help themselves.

Villeneuve, Imola, 1995-2006

Having already installed a chicane at Tamburello in 1995, why was a second chicane needed a few hundred metres down the road at the former Villeneuve kink?

It guaranteed there would be no overtaking between Tamburello and Tosa at Imola, and reinforced the track’s status as the worst suffered of Chicane Blight. From 1995-2006 (when it was renovated despite having lost its spot on the F1 calendar) it had four chicanes out of nine corners.

Woodcote, Silverstone, 1975-85

Another great corner chopped in the name of safety, this time following the multi-car crash triggered by Jody Scheckter in the 1973 race.

The chicane used from 1975 was fairly quick and featured sharp, high kerbs that threatened to launch cars into the air. Niki Lauda remarked that he wouldn’t want any of his loved ones sat in the grandstands.

A different chicane was used from 1987 that interrupted the flow of the old, fast Silverstone but nevertheless provided a useful passing place. But that too was dropped in 1991.

New chicane, Circuit de Catalunya, 2007-present

A chicane was inserted between the Europcar and New Holland bends at Barcelona this year to improve safety.

But hopes that the corner might aid overtaking were dashed – this year’s Spanish Grand Prix was just as processional as the last.

Turns 9 and 10, Indianapolis, 2000-6

I’m calling this a chicane because although it is named as two separate corners it has all the properties of a chicane and is surely the worst corner ever built on an F1 track.

The ugly, slow double hairpin would be an embarrassment on any circuit, least of all one at the temple of speed that is Indianapolis.

The only good thing about F1 not going to America this year is that we’ll be spared the sight of seeing F1 drivers crawl through these bends at maximum lock.

It did catch out Schumacher while leading in 2000, though. He was probably bored.

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10 comments on Ten worst… chicanes

  1. I really didn’t like the Bus-Stop chicane that was used from 2004-2006. There was no point of that chicane at all except to reduce overtaking and overuse tarmac as a run-off.

    Oh, and I forgot about that Montreal chicane that used in 1994-1995. Again, to increase safety. I just didn’t like that

  2. Journeyer said on 30th August 2007, 9:27

    I like Saca-Rolhas! It’s not just any chicane, it’s a tricky chicane that allows great racing opportunities, if you’re good enough. But the degree of difficulty allows me to give it a thumbs-up.

    In its place, I’d suggest any one of the anonymous chicanes at Budapest. :)

  3. I’m glad James mentioned the Bus Stop chicane at Spa. It was universally loathed when it was first introduced but gradually became accepted and then we actually began to like it. There was something dramatic in the way the drivers had to bounce the car over the curbs to maintain any speed at all through the tight first section. And let us not forget that it was also the scene of some very brave (or foolhardy) overtaking maneuvers (American spelling, sorry).

    Now its gone and we wait to see how its replacement affects the races. I never thought I’d have even a slight feeling of regret to see a chicane disappear…

  4. My first thought was of the tyre chicane at Suzuka that killed a Moto racer.

    I’m trying really hard to resist saying that the worst F1 chicanery happens off the track…

    Compared to the artificial concrete curbs that ChampCar install in their street circuits, I think the chicanes of F1 are fairly tame, even if they are contrivances.

  5. Eric M. said on 31st August 2007, 2:05

    The chicane before new holland at Barcelona annoys me the most right now. I couldn’t believe it when I first saw it. Turns 9 and 10 and Indy are equally terrible, and I’m surprised they were never revised. The new Fuji circuit looks like it has an odd series of tight, slow, probably unecessary, bends as well.

    My favorite chicane would probably be the previous version of the final turn at Montreal, where good drivers used to get their cars within centimeters, even millimeters, of the concrete wall at the exit to get maximum speed. Great stuff!

  6. Anthony K. said on 29th October 2007, 7:07

    What about that ridiculous chicane at the exit of the Adelaide hairpin at Magny Cours 1991?

  7. Seb Carter said on 16th January 2008, 11:41

    i have to say that a circuit that is littered by chicanes would be albert part in Melbourne. there are chicanes at turn 1, 3 and 7, and they all are pretty similar, although they do provide good overtaking. i still think that the chicane at the turn 6 at Fuji is pretty horrifying…

  8. Bazil said on 24th January 2012, 8:22

    You seem to have forgotten Takuma Sato, 2002-08.

  9. JP (@jp1987) said on 3rd June 2013, 12:41

    And if we get Mexico at some point we will have to add Peraltada in this list of ruined tracks :(

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