F1 circuits history part 16: 2008 and beyond

Singapore F1 Grand Prix street circuit track mapThe final part of the guide to F1 circuits looks at the new street circuits in Valencia and Singapore set to join the calendar this year.

And there are three more new venues set to host F1 races in the next two years – Abu Dhabi, India and South Korea.

The Formula 1 calendar could look very different – and much longer – in a few years’ time. Here’s how.

Valencia Street Circuit, Spain

In recent years new Formula 1 venues have generally been purpose-built facilities near major cities. This allows the race promoters to attract crowds from major urban areas, but not worry about noise restriction regulations limiting the number of events they can hold ?ǣ a problem today for old venues like Brands Hatch and Zandvoort.

But both the new F1 venues for 2008 will be street circuits, and more are planned for coming years. What has prompted this change in philosophy?

Street races certainly make it easier for promoters to attract a crowd. And the fact that existing roads are used can reduce the investment needed ?ǣ although the expense of building, dismantling and rebuilding temporary circuit constructions is not to be underestimated.

Racing through a city has undeniable appeal as a spectacle ?ǣ and in Valencia and Singapore F1 has gone for something much more impressive than the old right-angled courses at Pheonix and Detroit.

The new Valencia circuit runs by the city?s harbour. It will host the European Grand Prix, which from 1995-2006 was held at the Nurburgring to better capitalise on the popularity of Michael Schumacher. Now Spain is the flavour of the moment following Fernando Alonso?s back to back title wins.

The nearby Valencia racing circuit, used by F1 teams for testing, was considered as a potential venue. But the fact that a temporary circuit was chosen over a permanent track (though admittedly not one really big enough for an F1 race) indicates how keen Ecclestone has become on bringing F1 to cities.

Pity the poor Finns, who have had three world champions (including last year?s), four world championships, and no F1 track. Perhaps a street circuit in Helsinki should be next? It has been done before, for touring cars…

Singapore Street Circuit, Singapore

Singapore will hold its first F1 Grand Prix on a street circuit around the capital this year. Raising the bar even higher, it will host F1?s first ever night race.

This present a significant logistical challenge for the organisers. Not only do they have to construct a safe street circuit, but illuminate it well enough for drivers, spectators and TV viewers to see everything.

Surely this is a sign that, after the traumas of 1994, the sport?s governing body is content that its safety standards are up to scratch and it can begin adding more varied and challenging circuits to the F1 calendar?

Hosting a race in the far east at night allows it to be broadcast at a more convenient time in Europe, where the majority of F1?s television audience is. Other eastern venues including Sepang are believed to be considering holding night races in the future.

Abu Dhabi

Slated for a debut in 2009, Abu Dhabi will host its first ever Grand Prix on a purpose-built facility on the man-made Yas Island.

The plans for the venue are highly exotic, mixing a road course with a street section to create a hybrid circuit with an unusual combination of fast and slow corners. The organisers have already signed a seven-year deal for the event and the race will be sponsored by Etihad Airways for the first three years.

India and South Korea

Two more new venues are expected to join the F1 calendar in 2010.

India has already experienced a massive upsurge in interest in F1 in recent years. Narain Karthikeyan became the first Indian to race in F1 in 2005, for Jordan. Now the country has its first F1 team, Force India, owned by Vijay Mallya. Mallya is believed to be eyeing GP2 racer Karun Chandhok for a race seat in time for the first Indian Grand Prix in 2010.

Less is known about the plans for a South Korean Grand Prix in 2010. In October 2006 Bernie Ecclestone announced a deal with the Korea Auto Valley Operation to build a 5.45km (3.39 mile) track in the south west of the country. The track will be designed by Hermann Tilke at a cost of $264m (??134m).

It is Ecclestone’s second attempt to bring F1 to South Korea. A deal struck in 1996 to hold a race in Kunsan City from 1998 collapsed.

If these three new tracks arrive in 2010 and no other tracks are dropped, then F1 will have a 21-race calendar in two years? time??

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16 comments on F1 circuits history part 16: 2008 and beyond

  1. Nathan Jones said on 20th January 2008, 8:26

    if we need to drop races, then drop barcelona, hungary and magny cours, simply because all races there are boring! still an 18 race calendar then!
    u can drop barcelona and have Valencia as the spanish GP

  2. Magny-Cours could exit the F1 Championship in 2009. It would not have hosted the race in 2008 actually: the French GP still remains in the Championship this year because (Bernie said) “there were no other places”, but the contract expired last year and it has been extended only for this year.

  3. frecon said on 20th January 2008, 11:48

    I hope in 2009, with the new aerodinamic rules, some of the impossible-to-pass tracks will become exciting circuits again

  4. frecon said on 20th January 2008, 11:55

    By the way, in this website you can watch a virtula lap to the Valencia circuit. Designer said that there was three points to overtake, but i’m not really sure about which ones could be the points. There is five zones over 300 kmh.

    http://www.f1valenciaf1.com/Circuitos/Valencia/circuito_valencia_f1_02.htm

  5. Eric M. said on 20th January 2008, 12:18

    “Magny-Cours could exit the F1 Championship in 2009. It would not have hosted the race in 2008 actually: the French GP still remains in the Championship this year because (Bernie said) “there were no other places”, but the contract expired last year and it has been extended only for this year.”

    I have to say I’m puzzled by Bernies comments about the French GP. Why can’t they race at Paul Ricard, a circuit that Bernie coincedentally owns? It was generally a popular track back when F1 used to race there, as the drivers liked it’s fast layout. As it is right now the circuit is fully up to FIA standards. Of course proper pit facilities and grandstands would have to be constructed, but I’m sure Bernie could persuade the French government to provide some of the funding for that.

  6. Robert McKay said on 20th January 2008, 13:12

    Those new street circuits still look very angular. That’s not to say I’m not looking forward to them.

    But F1 has to make sure the street circuit race is still a relative novelty. People watch Monaco for the challenge the race presents and it’s relative uniqueness on the calendar: few people watch it for overtaking (having said that, I will maintain that over the past 5,6 years the Monaco GP has been most consistent in providing a good dramatic race).

    If you have 6, 7 street races then that novelty will be lost, unless you can guarantee the space to actually be able to overtake.

  7. Robert McKay said on 20th January 2008, 13:17

    Oh, and just to add, it’s hard to imagine how the street circuit design could ever be better than that of a purpose-built road course. With the street circuit you are more or less forced into the routes and the corners of the circuit. There isn’t anything like the scope to design interesting features like Istanbuls quadruple apex turn 8. You are more or less relying on the pretty sights around the track to distract you from the fact there’s not many truly imaginative corners.

  8. Hi Robert,
    The great thing about Street circuits is that they have no rooms for error, the walls are right there. Little mistakes that would go unpunished on other circuits (running off line, understeering through a hairpin etc) end up with a busted nose!

    Following on from this, I have been thinking about Senna running offline at Poitiers in 1988. He was out of the race he had dominated all weekend and devestated. He went off and steeled himself and became even stronger and more focused then he was before. Do you think he would have had the same awakening if he had run off line and got dirt on his tyres but been able to rejoin and go on to win the race?? What do you fellows (and ladies) reckon?

  9. I think the point is, with a new, purpose-built course, you could have sections where the barriers are right next to the track if you wished, and perhaps have more variety than is possible on a course that has already been laid out, but not laid out for racing.

  10. Robert Mckay said on 21st January 2008, 12:34

    “The great thing about Street circuits is that they have no rooms for error, the walls are right there. Little mistakes that would go unpunished on other circuits (running off line, understeering through a hairpin etc) end up with a busted nose!”

    True. But as we’ve seen, they’ve started moving the barriers back in places like Monaco (the reprofiled St. Devote is really a pale imitation of what it once was, to me). I suspect that the new street circuits will be designed in such a way that the barriers aren’t actually as ultra-close as they might be (partly because of safety, and partly for the need to try and “create” overtaking opportunities), but I could be wrong.

    “I think the point is, with a new, purpose-built course, you could have sections where the barriers are right next to the track if you wished, and perhaps have more variety than is possible on a course that has already been laid out, but not laid out for racing.”

    Exactly.

  11. carldec said on 21st January 2008, 17:31

    I dont think your ever going to have to worry about the uniqueness of Monico. The history and drama and glitz of the place will keep it unique. These new street circuits all seem to have a lot of character and I am really looking forward to seeing them run at night!

    Thanks for this series.. its been terrific. I love learning about all the old tracks and you comments on the new ones have been fun too.

  12. If the new street courses are anything like Monaco, are we in for less passing than we have now? I remain open minded, but the probability of narrow streets, close barriers and short chutes sounds like “no passing chances” to me.

  13. And let me add my thanks for the series, as well as your latest videos.

    Well done!!

  14. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st January 2008, 20:53

    You’re welcome George. As for whether the new street circuits will be too narrow for overtaking, try zooming in on the southernmost part of the Singapore track, where it crosses the water, turns sharp left, and crosses water again. The track is really wide at that part, and even if they only use half the width as race track and have the rest as run-off there will still be a lot more space to pass than they have at Monte-Carlo.

    Whether the F1 cars can get close enough to try is another matter…

  15. Simon said on 2nd April 2008, 0:20

    Street circuits have less run-off, are more claustrophobic, are (generally) more dangerous, and for that reason – bring out performances from those capable of producing them. I believe that a lack of fear in a driver can also set him/her apart. Although it is difficult to prove conclusively, a less fearful driver would logically have an edge over more fearful drivers, skill allowing (although it is arguable that more skill may reduce fear). In that respect, I believe that circuits, such as street circuits, or circuits which really pose risks, or a challenge to a driver’s bravery (eg. Spa Francorchamps) have the capacity to distinguish and flatter the high quality drivers. I don’t mean to sound overtly partial – but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Ayrton Senna performed so outstandingly at circuits like Monaco, and Spa Francorchamps. 

    Simon   

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