2009 F1 tracks compared

F1 cars exceed 350kph on Monza's long straights

F1 cars exceed 350kph on Monza's long straights

After looking at the 2009 F1 cars from various angles many people have remarked on how different many of the designs are.

But if we take a look at the circuits alongside one another it seems F1 tracks are becoming increasingly similar.

2009 F1 tracks – top speeds

Venue – Top speed (kph/mph)
Monza – 351/218
Istanbul – 315/195
Interlagos – 314/195
Suzuka – 313/194
Spa-Francorchamps – 310/192
Shanghai – 310/192
Bahrain – 309/192
Catalunya – 308/191
Valencia – 306/190
Melbourne – 303/188
Nurburgring – 300/186
Sepang – 297/184
Singapore – 297/184
Silverstone – 294/182
Hungaroring – 291/180
Monte-Carlo ?ǣ 286/177

A few years ago the Hockenheimring would have been up there with Monza as one of two tracks where F1 cars are trimmed out for maximum speed.

But, besides the fact it is not on the calendar this year, it?s 2002 re-modelling by Hermann Tilke has drastically changed its character, and it?s no longer the flat-out forest blast it used to be.

2009 F1 tracks – lap length

Venue – Lap length (km)
Spa – 7.004
Suzuka – 5.807
Abu Dhabi – 5.8*
Monza – 5.793
Sepang – 5.543
Shanghai – 5.451
Valencia – 5.44
Bahrain – 5.412
Istanbul – 5.338
Melbourne – 5.303
Nurburgring – 5.148
Silverstone – 5.141
Singapore – 5.067
Catalunya – 4.655
Hungaroring – 4.381
Interlagos – 4.309
Monte-Carlo – 3.34

For proof that F1 circuits are becoming increasingly similar, look no further than this graph. In terms of length F1’s newest circuits are a homogeneous bunch, most measuring between 5-5.5km.

On the face of it this may not seem like too big a deal, but it seems like a requirement of the regulations that stifles creativity.

There are plenty of arguments for having a greater variety of circuit lengths in Formula 1. Longer tracks with more corners are more challenging to master, require more of a compromise in setup and, as drivers have fewer chances to reach the pits, can be more demanding in terms of strategy. On shorter tracks traffic is more of a problem.

But the bottom line is this: variety is good and by this measure F1 tracks are becoming much less varied.

*Construction not complete. See here for pictures of the Abu Dhabi circuit plans: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix launch pictures

2009 F1 tracks – longest flat-out section

Venue – Longest flat-out section (m)
Spa – 1,865
Shanghai – 1,370
Monza – 1,320
Suzuka – 1,230
Interlagos – 1,220
Istanbul – 1,200
Catalunya – 1,140
Bahrain – 1,050
Valencia – 930
Silverstone – 890
Sepang – 830
Nurburgring – 800
Hungaroring – 750
Melbourne – 735
Singapore – 650
Monte-Carlo – 510

Thanks to increased downforce on F1 cars and resurfacing at Spa-Francorchamps, corners such as Eau Rouge which once required a lift of the throttle are now comfortably flat. Though with downforce reduced this year, perhaps drivers will have to think twice about tackling them without lifting?

That could undermine Spa?s claim to have the longest flat-out blast in F1, just over 1.8km long. That?s slightly longer than half a lap of Monte-Carlo, by the way, another reason why greater variation between tracks is A Good Thing,

What is also curious here is that Shanghai, the venue with the second-longest flat-out section, has the third lowest proportion of the lap spent flat out.

2009 F1 tracks – full throttle

Venue – % of lap spent at full throttle
Spa – 70%
Monza – 70%
Suzuka – 67%
Melbourne – 65%
Sepang – 65%
Interlagos – 65%
Silverstone – 64%
Bahrain – 63%
Istanbul – 63%
Nurburgring – 62%
Valencia – 59%
Hungaroring – 58%
Catalunya – 57%
Shanghai – 55%
Singapore – 44%
Monte-Carlo – 42%

It would be fascinating to see how this data compares from F1 in the 1960s and 1970s, when laps of tracks like Monza, Silverstone and the Osterreichring were tackled with little deceleration at all.

Similarly, what about the superspeedway ovals of America like those used in the Indy Racing League? The percent of a spent at full throttle at track like Michigan must be in the high 90s.

Some might think this is heresy, but I?d love to see F1 take in a couple of oval tracks during a season, to bring more variety and a whole different discipline of racing to the sport.

2009 F1 tracks – tyre wear

Lewis Hamilton has had tyre trouble on both his visits to Istanbul Park

Lewis Hamilton has had tyre trouble on both his visits to Istanbul Park

Venue – Tyre wear
Suzuka – high
Istanbul – high
Silverstone – medium/high
Hungaroring – medium/high
Spa – medium
Shanghai – medium
Interlagos – medium
Catalunya – medium
Bahrain – medium
Valencia – medium
Sepang – medium
Nurburgring – medium
Singapore – medium
Monte-Carlo – medium
Melbourne – medium/low
Monza ?ǣ low

Tyre wear is likely to change dramatically in 2009 as F1 makes its long-awaited switch back to slicks from grooved tyres.

Early tests on Bridgestone?s slick rubber suggest drivers will struggle with high wear particularly on the rear tyres. But much of the off-season testing has taken place at lower temperatures than those usually seen at Grand Prix weekends, so it remains to be seen exactly how the tyres will work.

That said, a high tyre wear track will still be a high tyre wear track, just as there will always be some drivers who dish out more punishment to their equipment than others. Step forward Lewis Haimilton, who?s borne the brunt of tyre wear trouble at Istanbul for the last two years. This year Suzuka, another high tyre wear track, returns to the F1 calendar for the first time since Hamilton arrived in the sport – so make a note to keep an eye on the state of Hamilton?s Bridgestones there.

2009 F1 tracks – brake wear

Venue – Brake wear
Singapore – very high
Melbourne – high
Hungaroring – high
Bahrain – high
Nurburgring – high
Monte-Carlo – high
Monza – high
Suzuka – high
Shanghai – medium
Valencia – medium
Silverstone – low
Spa – low
Interlagos – low
Catalunya – low
Sepang – low
Istanbul ?ǣ low

For years Montreal was renowned as the most punishing track for brakes. Sadly, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is not on the 2009 F1 calendar.

Taking its place as the most tortuous track for brake discs in Singapore. Each 5km lap has 23 corners, most of them quite slow, and high ambient temperatures won?t help. The track is being mildly revised for the 2009 race, but expects its brake-munching tendencies to remain.

2009 F1 tracks – downforce level

Venue – Downforce level
Singapore – very high
Hungaroring – very high
Monte-Carlo – very high
Valencia – high
Silverstone – high
Catalunya – high
Sepang – high
Melbourne – high
Shanghai – medium/high
Interlagos – medium
Istanbul – medium
Bahrain – medium
Nurburgring – medium
Spa – low
Suzuka – low
Monza – very low

Singapore joins the Hungaroring and Monte-Carlo in the maximum downforce club, where top speed is sacrificed for maximum cornering grip.

One of the talking points of the off-season has been whether the new aerodynamic regulations will actually reduce downforce. If they have been successful, differences in the performance of the cars at high downforce tracks versus low downforce tracks should be visible.

2009 F1 tracks – gear changes

Venue – Gear changes per lap
Singapore – 76
Valencia – 74
Sepang – 60
Melbourne – 60
Bahrain – 58
Nurburgring – 58
Monte-Carlo – 54
Shanghai – 52
Spa – 52
Hungaroring – 50
Monza – 46
Catalunya – 44
Istanbul – 42
Suzuka – 42
Interlagos – 40
Silverstone ?ǣ 40

Before semi-automatic gearboxes arrived the number of gear changes per lap was especially crucial. A mis-timed gearchange could let a chasing driver slip by or, worse, over-rev an engine causing a DNF. This was a particularly worry at Monte-Carlo in the days when the race was 100 laps long, and some drivers would reach the chequered flag with the skin missing from their right hand.

Data: BMW, 2006-8

What do you think of the 2009 F1 tracks? Does the F1 calendar need more variety? Leave a comment below.

Read about every track used in Formula 1:

2009 F1 calendar

Images (C) Ferrari spa, Daimler

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46 comments on 2009 F1 tracks compared

  1. Robert said on 22nd November 2009, 20:17

    I’m curious about some things here.

    As far as the (relatively) current tracks go, do we have the data in these categories for Fuji, Hockenheim, Montreal, Indianapolis, and perhaps Imola? If so, could someone please post it?

    Also, it would be nice to know just what these figures were for Catalunya (before the chicane and tightened hairpin), as well as the Nurburgring (before the Mercedes Arena was added) and Hockenheim (before 2002).

  2. Adam said on 28th July 2010, 11:57

    Are the top speeds on here the speeds recorded in speed traps or the actual top speeds reached during laps?

    Cause I’m pretty sure alot of them are incorrect, f1 cars should easily be hitting 200mph on most of those long straights

  3. MrLobster said on 26th April 2012, 21:50

    Is there any updated data for 2011 and 2012?

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