Journeyer usually takes a look at the F1 history of each track on the calendar – but with Singapore new to the world championship his retrospective this week looks at F1’s best and worst street circuits.
The Singapore Grand Prix is coming up very soon and I’m going to be there; to say I’m very excited would be an understatement. Some people already think it will be one of the great street circuits before a car has even been driven at racing speeds around the track.
Street circuits have been a regular presence in Formula 1 for most of the championship. Here are 12 the more memorable street circuits in F1 history. And to make things more interesting, I’ve used F1 Racing’s ranking for the tracks and comparing their assessment of them with mine.
F1 Races: European Grand Prix (2008- )
F1 Racing says: Not applicable
Journeyer says: This is the one circuit that wasn’t in the F1 Racing list: the circuit wasn’t even finished when the list came out! The surroundings were par for the course for a street circuit, but it produced a well-below average race (won by Felipe Massa in the Ferrari). Given that there’s only been one F1 race held here, it’s no surprise I decided to put it at the bottom of the list. Hopefully, it will go up the rankings with some better races in years to come.
And just to remind you of how it went, here’s a summary video of the 2008 race.
Country: United States
F1 Races: US Grand Prix (1989-1991)
F1 Racing says: We’re scraping the barrel. Nobody liked Arizona’s offering, except perhaps Jean Alesi, who drove the wheels off his Tyrrell there in 1990 for second.
Journeyer says: Alesi’s battle for the lead with Ayrton Senna was just epic. It was Alesi’s coming-of-age party, and everyone had marked him out to win multiple races and championships. Alas, it did not turn out to be.
Note too, the yellow car starting alongside Gerhard Berger on the front row. It was driven by Pierluigi Martini starting second for Minardi. Minardi would never be as close to the front again until Sebastian Vettel did it in their current incarnation as Toro Rosso.
But the circuit just had too little charm and too little public support. F1 never returned there after 1991, and never came back to the US until Indianapolis in 2000.
F1 Races: French Grand Prix (1950-1951, 1953-1954, 1956, 1958-1961, 1963, 1966)
F1 Racing says: As well as racing through cornfields, this track used to pull a 90 right past Monsieur Henri Husson’s champagne warehouse. Class.
Journeyer says: Indeed, this circuit had quite a charm to it. With its fast straights and rural backdrop, it was one of the more memorable places to host the French Grand Prix (yes, a LOT better than Magny-Cours).
This first video is a quick introduction of the circuit.
This second video is a summary of the 1961 race, won by first-timer Giancarlo Baghetti.
But the circuit wasn’t making enough money to stay open. By 1972, it had closed permanently due to financial difficulties.
Country: United States
F1 Races: US Grand Prix East (1982-1984), US Grand Prix (1985-1988)
F1 Racing says: It wasn’t one of America’s most beautiful places to go, but it had a tunnel, a down ramp – and a funny knack of producing some really good racing.
Journeyer says: Not that it was very popular with the drivers. Most notoriously, in 1984, 20 drivers failed to finish, many having hit the walls.
The video below is from 1986, which saw Senna’s Lotus take an easy win from Jacques Laffite’s Ligier, who had just held off Alain Prost’s McLaren. And yes, our tribute to Clive James continues on with this video.
The circuit was to be moved from the downtown area to a larger space at Belle Isle, possibly wanting to follow the example of another street circuit (which I won’t name until tomorrow). But the organizers couldn’t reach an agreement with the FOCA, so F1 decided to leave for Phoenix for 1989. The Belle Isle circuit was eventually used for CART (ChampCar) races from 1992 to 2001, and is now being used again by the ALMS and IRL.
So there’s the bottom 4 circuits. I’m sure some of you have thought of circuits that should be on this list; what circuits do you think deserve a place? The 4 midfield circuits will come your way tomorrow.
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