F1 circuits history part 13: 1995-8

Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Williams-Renault, Melbourne, 1997 | Williams F1 MediaThe after-effects of the traumatic 1994 season were felt throughout the Formula 1 calendar. Circuits that had made temporary changes to slow down high speed sections now had to find ways of making those alterations permanent.

And new courses would have to either be much slower or built with even larger run-off spaces.

The man who would be responsible for most new F1 tracks, Hermann Tilke, arrived on the scene at this time. He designed the A1-Ring, and the enormous difference between it and the Osterreichring it was built on the site of was a clear indication of the direction F1 tracks were now heading in.

Buenos Aires No. 6, Argentina

After a 14-year absence, Argentina returned to the Grand Prix calendar in 1995, back at the Buenos Aires circuit that had first been used in the days of Juan Manuel Fangio. The track had now been renamed after the Argentine’s great road-racing rival Oscar Galvez, but the new configuration could not have been less worthy of the name.

The old, fast section was lopped off and a new, tight sequence of bends added inside the track. An existing fast chicane was tightened, and the end result is something that in aerial view looks a lot like a kart racing circuit.

The castrated Buenos Aires track held four races and was dropped after the 1998 event.

Imola, Italy

After the horrors of 1994 it was inevitable that Imola had to change. But the new circuit was so appallingly choked with chicanes it barely recognisable as the track it had been.

Tamburello became a chicane. Villeneuve became a chicane. The Variante Alta and Variante Bassa chicanes were re-configured. Acque Minerali, at least, reverted from being a chicane into a corner.

The new track was conspicuously lacking in any likely spot to make an overtaking move. Ironically, that was probably what made the last two races there so compelling. In 2005 Fernando Alonso desperately kept Michael Schumacher at bay in the closing laps, and Schumacher returned the favour the following year.

Imola held its final Grand Prix in 2006, with one revision to the Variante Alta chicane. What had previously been a fairly quick bounce across high kerbs became a much slower chicane, in the hope that drivers might be able to overtake each other into the following corner, Rivazza.

It didn’t seem to make much difference. The circuit was dropped after that race and has since been renovated to enlarge the pits and remove some of the chicanes. But as yet there is no indication whether Italy will get its second Grand Prix back. With so much competition for F1 Grands Prix coming from outside of Europe, it seems unlikely.

Circuit de Catalunya, Spain

The fast Nissan chicane was removed from the Catalunya circuit in 1995, the organisers tightening the Campsa bend and lengthening the subsequent straight.

Albert Park Melbourne, Australia

Although Melbourne is every bit as good a season opener as Adelaide was a season finale, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Albert Park is not as good a venue. The setting is attractive, but the track largely comprised of tight bends is a little unspectacular.

It has a habit of throwing up unpredictable races, however. Jacques Villeneuve nearly won on his debut in 1996 and Eddie Irvine triumphed against the odds in 1999. In 2003 David Coulthard won a hectic race and Fernando Alonso prevailed despite several safety car interruptions in 2006.

The run down to turn three has proved troublesome Martin Brundle was lucky to escape unhurt from a sizeable crash there in 1996. Five years later track marshal Graham Beveridge was killed when he was struck by a flying tyre after a collision between Villeneuve and Ralf Schumacher.

Doubts have arisen over the future of the race, particularly in the last year. There have been suggestions that the Australian round may move to Phillip Island, and the regional government is known to be losing money on the race.

Montreal, Canada

Like Catalunya, Montreal had taken temporary steps in 1994 to slow down the cars through some of the fastest corners. By 1995 those corners were removed, and the track from the Casino hairpin to the pits became a straight line.

Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Monte-Carlo had long been a street circuit in the truest sense, in that it was completely bordered by solid barriers with precious little run-off, ready to punish the slightest mistake.

In 1997 the process of easing Monte-Carlo began with a slight change to the first part of the Piscine complex. The chicane was eased, making it slightly quicker, and the barriers were moved back giving the drivers rooms for error.

Not that it helped them much in the 1997 race, when it rained heavily and many drivers crashed out. Michael Schumacher won, typically confining his only mistake to one of the few parts of the track where he had room to get away with it.

A1-Ring (formerly Osterreichring), Austria

In 1997 F1 followers became familiar with a new name – Hermann Tilke. The circuit designer’s work would gradually take over the F1 calendar, beginning with the revised Osterreichring.

Every corner on the track was changed, which largely involved converting the old, long, sweeping bends into new, short, tight ones. This produced a track with long straights and big braking zones, and if it wasn’t a patch on the original it at least produced some good races.

The large run-off at the first corner was faintly ridiculous, however – it was so wide that a car on a fast lap didn’t go anywhere near the track as the route off the circuit was clearly quicker.

The new A1-Ring didn’t last long, however. It ran out a standard seven-year contract with Bernie Ecclestone and then disappeared from the calendar.

Photo: Williams F1 Media

More on the 1995-1998 F1 seasons

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4 comments on F1 circuits history part 13: 1995-8

  1. For all that it was derided the A1 Ring invariably produced a good race, and compared to many current tracks had some major elevation changes

  2. Rohan said on 17th January 2008, 9:04

    I quite liked the A1-Ring. It’s an awesome track to drive on GP4.

  3. The A1 Ring is a bit like Hockenheim and Bahrain, functional, but unlovable. Some tracks, like Spa, have heart. The A1 Ring just doesn’t.

  4. gideon said on 18th March 2010, 15:09

    why tilke why eccelstone why todt they destroyed whole f1 boring races from 1999 to 2010 stupid and boring only stupid electronics no mehanics procession like in church stupid old bernie love boring and safe circiuts like bahrein abudabi valencia singapore china barcelona and stupid korea next year in india where next in vietnam or in filipini bring back f1 in austria where belong, this year is be most boring in history why dont drive 16 laps then drive 2 hours to fall asleep stupid idiots americans is smart people than england beacuse indy 500 is better than f1 . ia m engry with whole f1 system.

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