Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Montreal, 2007

The drivers who excel on their ‘special tracks’

2012 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Montreal, 2007The final part which gets fitted to an F1 car is its driver.

But it’s a human element and, however professional today’s drivers may be, they are susceptible to preferences like the rest of us.

Although they may prefer not to admit it, a driver’s style at the wheel and how they like a car to be set up can lead them to produce slightly better performances at certain tracks.

Can we identify which ‘special tracks’ suit drivers best by looking at their previous performances? Here’s a few thoughts, starting with the next race on the calendar.

Lewis Hamilton: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve

4 appearances, 3 poles, 2 wins

Lewis Hamilton has always gone well at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, scene of his first F1 win five years ago.

Montreal’s combination of heavy braking zones, high speeds and imposing walls tends to bring out the best in him. He coolly led amid carnage in 2007, and won exciting battle with Fernando Alonso in 2010.

Hamilton being Hamilton, there have been a few ‘facepalm’ moments as well. In 2008 he piled into the back of Kimi Raikkonen’s car at the pit lane exit. Last year he had tangles with Mark Webber, Michael Schumacher and finally his own team mate before calling it a day after just a handful of laps in the rain.

But even on those two less-than-stellar showings he was one of the quickest drivers on the track up to the point of his retirement.

Schumacher’s record here should not be overlooked, with seven victories at the track.

Sebastian Vettel: Suzuka

3 appearances, 3 poles, 2 wins, 3 podiums

Vettel’s affinity for Suzuka is reflected in his near-total domination of the three F1 races he’s started there: three pole positions, two wins and a third place.

And he might have pushed Jenson Button harder for the win last year had he not also been busy wrapping up his second world championship title.

Vettel described the Suzuka course as “amazing” earlier this year, and singled out Japan as one of his favourite stops on the F1 schedule.

Fernando Alonso: Singapore

4 appearances, 1 pole, 2 wins, 3 podiums

Yes, his 2008 win was anything but kosher. But remember how well he was going in a generally uncompetitive Renault that weekend before being sidelined with a technical problem during his qualifying.

On his subsequent visits to Singapore, Alonso has demonstrated a special talent for the peculiar demands of the long, slow track. The hopeless R29 made its single visit to the podium courtesy of Alonso in 2009, and he snatched pole position and victory from under Vettel’s nose the year after.

Another driver who revels in the unusual challenge of Singapore is Timo Glock. Fourth in 2008, he equalled his best career result with second in 2009.

The year after that he dragged his Virgin to the improbable heights of 11th, holding off Adrian Sutil, Nico Hulkenberg and other better-equipped rivals for a remarkable nine laps.

Felipe Massa: Interlagos

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Interagos, 20068 appearances, 3 pole positions, 2 wins, 3 podiums

Massa must regret the loss of the Istanbul Park circuit from the F1 calendar, where he scored his first win in 2006, beginning a streak of three consecutive wins from pole position at the track.

But his home record is something to be envied as well. Indeed, he would have had an identical record of consecutive wins from pole had he not been required to let team mate Raikkonen win in 2007 to clinch the world championship.

In 2004 Massa served notice of his potential by qualifying an excellent fourth for Sauber. Although there’s not been much to shout about since his return from injury in 2010, he did equal his best result of the season there last year with fifth.

Nico Rosberg: Shanghai

7 appearances, 1 pole, 1 win, 2 podiums

Something seems to have clicked for Rosberg at Shanghai: since his move to Mercedes, he’s led the last three races there. Rosberg was on the podium in 2010, finishing behind the two McLarens having led 16 laps.

He was on course for a podium finish or better last year before he had to back off and save fuel. This year he finally got the job done with an emphatic maiden victory at the Shanghai circuit.

It might be too early to call him a ‘Shanghai specialist’ on the basis of that, but he’s definitely one to keep an eye on here in the future.

Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher: Spa-Francorchamps

Michael Schumacher, Spa-Francorchamps, Benetton, 1992Raikkonen: 7 appearances, 4 wins
Schumacher: 15 appearances, 6 wins, 9 podiums

Two drivers on the grid today can make good claims on the title ‘King of Spa’.

While Schumacher was en route to his sixth and final win at the circuit to date in 2002, Raikkonen was making a name for himself for different reasons. In qualifying he blasted through a cloud of smoke left by Olivier Panis’s BAR on the Kemmel straight without even a hint of a lift.

Two years later the pair battled for victory, Raikkonen coming out on top as Schumacher settled for a second place that guaranteed his seventh world championship title.

Raikkonen won on his next two visits to Spa and led much of the way in 2008 before crashing out while under attack from Hamilton as rain fell late in the race. His last F1 victory to date came at the track in 2009.

Schumacher’s F1 debut came at this track 21 years ago and he stunned the pit lane with a lap good enough for eighth on the grid, which became seventh after Riccardo Patrese was penalised.

He scored his first win at the track 12 months later and one of his very best victories in 1995, scything through the field to win from 16th. Had he not been disqualified from victory due to a technical infringement in 1994, he would be a seven-times winner here too.

Circuit preference

There are many other examples of driving liking or disliking particular tracks. Jarno Trulli was a Monaco specialist and scored his only win there.

So too was Ayrton Senna, and he enjoyed even greater success at the track. But Nelson Piquet famously disliked the track and never won there.

The slow, twisty Detroit track was famously hated by Alain Prost.

Which other tracks on the calendar do you think particularly suit today’s drivers? Have your say in the comments.

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169 comments on “The drivers who excel on their ‘special tracks’”

  1. On my database I have Button & Melbourne and Webber & Silverstone

    1. Webber and Monaco, as well.

      1. er … legal or illegal, or both?

        1. As illegal as Alonso’s second championship was ;P (mass damper episode)

      2. Agreed. How can that not be mentioned? Apart from the ‘*** was going on in 2011’ moment Webber could typically push a donkey cart to a podium at Monaco.

    2. I thought more Webber and Nurburing. Debut win and pole in 2009, and pole and podium in 2011 (only race he really had it over Vettel all season). Also has amazing qualifying performances with underperforming Williams with 3rd in 05, 10th in 06, in addition to a 6th and 7th in the Jaguar in 2003 and 2004 respectively.

    3. Hmm, he was certainly good there last season, but possibly more a case of “only race Vettel really had it under Webber all season”…

    4. Of course Hamilton’s on the list and Button isn’t! Never mind that he has won at one track more times than any other driver has in the last 4 years – what does that matter, after all, we are only talking about driver success at particular tracks!

      Yes, I realise that he has raced there a lot more times than the others mentioned for their ‘special’ tracks, but it’s only been the last 4 years that he has been there with a car that has been REALLY competative.

      3 wins out of 4 appearances with an actual competative care – I believe this should be at the top of the list!

      1. Yes but it’s not all about results. He was out qualified by his teammate 2 of those 4 years and had the quickest car by some margin in 09. Yes he’s worth a mention but I can see why keith has chose not to.

        1. Carl Craven
          4th June 2012, 21:38

          by the same margin, Vettel had the quickest car by an incredible margin for 3 years and only managed 2 wins at Suzuka. Who beat him there last time round? Oh wait, it was Button!

          1. Of course, Vettel hasn’t been outqualified at Suzuka, and that’s despite the RB not looking quick compared to the Mclaren in Japan 2011.

  2. Narain Karthikeyan likes Brands Hatch. He has done well there whenever he has participated for various series. His victory A1GP at Brands Hatch being the most recent.

    1. I have a suspension that you might draw criticism, but not only do I think that you are completely spot on, I think that is quite an impressive piece of recollection.

    2. Actually his recent win at Brands was in Super-league F1 series in 2010.

      And its true the Indian driver has always excelled on that circuit. Brands Hatch is a drivers circuit, very challenging and dangerous as well, so given that the Indian driver has always fared well on that circuit, my respect for him has always been notch above the drivers who excel on modern circuit with wide run off areas and where driver error is not punished.

    3. Excellent shout for the underdog!

    4. If we are going to talk about different categories then you would have to say Casey Stoner and Phillip Island. He was won the last five seasons at his home track. Outstanding record.

      1. @mike @splittimes Its a real shame that KAR didnt hv a good car when he made his debut in 2005. Thats the time when he was at his peak. Karthikeyan entered F1 on merit, having won races in all the series he has ever participated in

        1. Hmm, I agree only to an extent, You can say Pic has entered F1 on Merit on those grounds as well, but I doubt many will try to say that other guys like Wickens probably deserved the shot more… And that’s not to say that Pic hasn’t had good results, I’m just saying that the money certainly hasn’t hurt their promotion aspirations.

          1. @splittimes @mike u know, as an Indian its difficult to get into motorsports. Even nw good karting circuits are very few and even leisure karting is expensive. I am lucky to hv a good one 100km away. But nobody cares for F1 in India and nobody wants to sponsor our young drivers. I got taunted in college for following F1. And hardly 2 of my frnds in my city follow the sport.

          2. @splittimes @mike Karun Chandhok said in a recent intvw tht he had to mortgage his house thrice to fund his career

          3. I think Karthikeyan deserves the shout as much as Pic. Good results stand for themselves, and as someone who doesn’t get a lot of press (good or bad) in the U.K., its good to hear Nahrain’s name linked with success. My estimation of him rocketed after he called Vettel a crybaby, I must admit.

          4. Getting into motorsport is difficult wherever you are. And I don’t think him mortgaging his house has anything to do with it.

      2. I think we are talking four wheels, openwheel racing. Only exception maybe Gilles driving on three wheels ;-)

  3. Not todays drivers, but Clark excelled at Spa and Silverstone, and Graham Hill was brillaint at Monaco

    1. And Clark was absaloutely terrified of Spa: he loathed it.

      1. I’m not certain of this, but I think that on his first ever race at Spa (Belgium 1960), he had to swerve to avoid the decapitated body of Chris Bristow.

    2. @xjr15jaaag – Clark was exceptional at all the British GP venues, not just Silverstone. He has obatined 5 British GP wins (equaling Prost for the most wins of a British GP), four of which were successive.
      He has won at Silverstone 3 times; in 1963 (where he obtained pole position and won by 25 seconds), 1965 (also obtaining pole) and 1967 (yet again obtaining pole).
      He also has an incredible record during British GP’s: from 1962 – 1965 he set the pole position time and won the race (and at 3 different venues) and led a staggering 314/317 of the laps. The only other driver to lead was Jack Brabham, who led the first 3 laps of the ’63 GP – afterwards Clark never lost the lead until the end of the 1965 GP at Silverstone.

  4. Button a Melborune specialist – 3 wins in the last 4 years. I’m sure he got pole their in the Honda too.
    Webber a Monaco specialist – 2 wins in 3 years and a podium in the Williams in 05?

    1. And in contention for the win in 06 when his Williams blew up.

      1. I had just wanted to add that, Webber really does do well in the principality.

    2. Correct @Brum55 , Button was on pole at Melbourne for Honda in 2006.

  5. +1 to Keith for properly using the word “facepalm” in a sentence.

  6. Alonso and Malaysia – 3 wins, 5 podiums.

  7. Mark Webber and Monaco must surely rate a mention.

    He won the Formula 3000 support race in 2001.

    In 2002 he finished 11th for Minardi, retired in ’03 and ’04 due to mechanical failure, 3rd for Williams in ’05, retired due to mechanical failure in ’06 and ’07.

    Since then he has finished no worse than 5th and has won twice and has 2 poles.

    Surely earns an honourable mention..

  8. F1F is like a good wine – the older the website gets, the better it tastes, I mean, reads…

    Mika Salo usually performed well at Monaco, too. The Finn spent most of his F1 career driving for relatively weak teams. With the exception of the points earned during his short time with Ferrari, he scored a total of 23 points during his F1 years. 9 of them (that is, almost 40%) were from Monaco Grands Prix. Moreover, Salo finished among the first six every time he finished the Monaco GP.

    1. @girts

      the better it tastes

      I learnt not to lick the screen years ago… but don’t worry, you’ll get there :D

  9. I remember Gerhard Berger was usually pretty high up in Hockenheim.
    He won his last GP there in 1997 in the rather hopeless Benetton, he would have won in 1996, too if it wasn’t for the Renault engine blowing up and he won 1994 in the Ferrari.
    He was 3rd in 1995, 6th in 1993, 3rd in 1992, 4th in ’91, 3rd in ’90…

    1. I just checked on my feeling that Rubens Barrichello always had a nice hand in Silverstone.
      I’m on the fence with this one. He seemed to perform better than average on that track usually if you compare the other results of the seasons.

      2011 – 13th
      2010 – 5th (his best result of the season)
      2009 – 3rd (Button only on 6)
      2008 – 3rd (best result of the season, only podium that year)
      2007 – 9th (best result of the season)
      2006 – 10th
      2005 – 7th
      2004 – 3rd
      2003 – 1st (one of only 2 victories for him that year)
      2002 – 2nd
      2001 – 3rd
      2000 – ret (after starting from Pole Position)
      1999 – 8th
      1998 – ret
      1997 – ret
      1996 – 4th (tied best result of the season with Argentina)
      1995 – 11th (but retired late in the race)
      1994 – 4th
      1993 – 10th

      1. Already forgot about monza? He had 2 wins and lots of podiums!!

        1. Indeed, however, was he usually better there than anywhere else?
          He once said he liked fast tracks better than slow tracks and that one point where Senna was definitely quicker than him was in the slow corners, because he found them boring.

        2. Aditya Banerjee (@)
          5th June 2012, 8:03

          3 wins: 2002, 2004, 2009.

    2. This was the first example that came to my mind on reading the article’s title. I still find it amazing that he won there in ’97. There can’t be many drivers who have ‘over-performed’ (compared with their overall career results) at a circuit more than Berger at Hockenheim? (At least since c.1983 when I first started following F1).

      1. Fernando Cruz
        5th June 2012, 11:48

        Berger was very good at Hockenheim while Alesi (his team mate in Ferrari and Benetton) was very good at Monza. However Alesi was very unlucky, he would have won Monza/94 and Monza/95 but every time he had technical problems while in the lead. In 1996 and 1997 he was second there in the Benetton. He was also very good at Suzuka and should have won there in 1995 – he recovered from far behind till second under the rain and was about to overtake Schumacher to the lead when he suffered a technical problem once again…

  10. kowalsky is back
    4th June 2012, 11:01

    nigel mansell at silverstone. I saw him win there in 1987.

  11. Arguably Vettel at Singapore: Would have got pole in 2010, and therefore the race win, as he pushed Alonso to the end. Won in 2011, and got pole, and he also did well in 2009, and in 2008, I believe he got 6th in the Toro Rosso

  12. kowalsky is back
    4th June 2012, 11:07

    prost at paul ricard, not even senna could get close to him there, and i am a senna fan.
    But it is undeneniable he was the master at le castellet. I saw him win there in 1989. First race for jean alesi in the tyrrell.
    I thought he was jonathan palmer, and remember thinking when he finish fourth, jee palmer was on top form today. Then i realise when i got home and bought autosprint.

  13. dysthanasiac (@)
    4th June 2012, 11:10

    Interesting is Vettel’s domination of a track where the car means nearly everything to performance.

    1. @dysthanasiac Suzuka is not as driver-determined as a lot of people like to believe. It’s very much a circuit where drivers can actually make a difference.

      1. I don’t understand that comment, as you seem to contradict yourself

        1. Oops. Thanks for that @xjr15jaaag – I meant Suzuka is not as car-determined.

    2. @dysthanasiac – Garbage. I thought when Robert Kubica did well in the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix race, people were putting that performance alongside those he had at Spa and Monaco, claiming these were tracks were those where drivers made the difference.

      1. Exactly.

        1. To back up the point of Suzuka being a driver track is the 2000 Suzuka race where Schumacher and Haikenen humiliated their team mates as such was the difference between them and team-mates Barrichello and Coulthard.

          1. +1 for this. that was one hell of a race

      2. dysthanasiac (@)
        4th June 2012, 15:33


        Kubica retired on the second lap of the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix. Are you sure you’re not thinking of someone/somewhere else? Otherwise, Vettel and Webber, who qualified less than 0.1 seconds behind his teammate, were well ahead of the rest. The same would have been true in 2009 had Webber not crashed out of qualifying and run into just about every demon imaginable during the race.

        The quality of RB8 makes it rather pointless to discuss last year’s race.

        1. @dysthanasiac – No, I was thinking about the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix. Kubica qualified 3rd and was running second when his wheel fell off. His performance up until that point was considered an example of him performing well on a driver’s circuit, since Suzuka is considered such, like Spa and Monaco.

          There is simply no reason for you to single out Vettel’s section in the article and put his success down to the car, unless you’re looking for an argument.

          1. dysthanasiac (@)
            4th June 2012, 17:04


            Kubica qualified 4th, but was bumped up because of Hamilton’s gearbox penalty, and, frankly his performance is immaterial to this discussion. I genuinely thought you were mistaken when you cited him, because I simply do not know how two laps could possibly be considered representative.

            Admittedly, the instant defensiveness of the Vettel Brigade is quite amusing, because it reflects quite a bit more than the average, everyday hero worship inherent to many F1 fans. For some unique reason, Vettel fans are offended whenever anyone fails to genuflect when discussing his talent, or when anyone questions his ability to walk on water. But that’s not at all why I mentioned Finger Boy.

            First and foremost, I did so because I can. Freedom’s a bitch like that. And second, there are legitimate reasons to question his place within F1’s pecking order.

          2. @dysthanasiac

            Your post stated “Interesting is Vettel’s domination of a track where the car means nearly everything to performance”, when Suzuka is considered by the drivers to be one of the most popular and challenging on the calendar. So again, why do you state that it is “a track where the car means nearly everything to performance”, any more than you would about Montreal, Shanghai or Marina Bay?

            Nobody said he can walk on water. But if you’re going to post stuff on a public forum “because you can”, you ought to have some evidence to back it up.

          3. dysthanasiac (@)
            4th June 2012, 17:53


            I said “because I can” in response to “There is simply no reason for you to single out Vettel’s section in the article and put his success down to the car,” which to me reads a lot like, “because I said so.”

            Still, I’m sorry for being flippant.

            As for my evidence, please name for me the last driver to win at Suzuka in a bad car.

          4. @dysthanasiac

            I said “because I can” in response to “There is simply no reason for you to single out Vettel’s section in the article and put his success down to the car,” which to me reads a lot like, “because I said so.”

            It’s not really “because I said so”, when the likes of Schumacher, Webber and Button consider Suzuka to be ne of the most demanding tracks of the year. It’s more like “because top F1 drivers say so”.

            As for my evidence, please name for me the last driver to win at Suzuka in a bad car.

            How often does a bad car win at any circuit? For what it’s worth, Piquet won in an uncompetitive Benetton in 1990.

          5. @dysthanasiac
            Look at my post below.
            Hardly a bad car, but that RB7 was not even on the same page as the McLaren in terms of front end grip, which is hugely important around there with those long sweeping corners.
            Looking through the winners of Monaco I can only see Oliver Panis who won there in ’96, before that it was also dominated by the best cars for years.
            Spa is another, which seem to have been won by the best cars for decades, except for the single win by Damon in his Jordan in ’98, but in fairness that race would have been won by Schumacher anyway, had DC not gone between him and the checkered flag.

            Both circuits are considered real drivers circuits, but nearly every race on those tracks has been won by cars on, or very near the very top of the championship standings.
            Drivers winning in bad cars happened very rarely even back in the golden age of F1, and as close to never these days.

    3. One could also argue that he is the best at utilising that performance; Webber hasn’t been able to preform as well as him at such tracks and Mclaren have been relatively close in terms of performance yet Vettel prevails.

    4. @dysthanasiac
      If it was as much down to the car as you suggest, then Vettel would have had no chance of getting pole position there last year as the RB was visibly slower then the McLaren, yet he did.

      1. At the same time, you could argue that Webber’s gotten the best of Vettel at Monaco, another driver’s circuit.

        1. @kingshark
          Yeah sure he has, but i’m just trying to argue that doing well at Suzuka is not just down to the car like he seem to suggest.

    5. People who doubt Vettel’s driving ability irritate me; they seem to forget that he achieved a pole position and a race win in his first full season, and unlike many Toro Rosso drivers was promoted to Red Bull after just one season due to his excellent performance there. Sure, he has had his moments, colliding with his teammate in Turkey for example, but he is still a very young driver, he is still learning and maturing as a driver.

  14. Webber seems to be a bit of a Monaco man, and his results would be better if not for car failure in the early years. But relative to the car he’s been in, and the results at other tracks, he’s always very competitive there.

    He won there in F3000, was running best of the rest in 03 until hydraulics failure, third in 05 with Williams (his teammate passed him by being called in a lap early), qualified second there in 06 and was on track for another podium before car failure, qualified high (relative for the RBR03) in 07, finished 4th in 2008 (his best position of the year), and pole + wins in 2010 and 2012. Even in 2011, he qualified time-wise pretty close to Vettel (which was closer than he got most races that year). That’s why I’m not reading too much into his win at Monaco, he’s always done well there.

    1. Another would be Alesi and Canada. Not only the place of his only win, but 5 podia in 6 seasons, and points with the Prost team in 2001.

  15. Button clearly likes Hungary but hates Korea. The number of circuits he tends to run poorly at outnumbers the number he likes, I feel. It’s telling that he runs badly at the high pressure home race at speedy silverstone, but runs well at suzuka, a track with similar characteristics which doesn’t have the same emotional pressure.

    1. Arguably a different kind of pressure… his long term girlfriend is Japanese, and he often says Suzuka is like a second home race for him. He has LOTS of supporters in Japan, more than most drivers.

      1. @hairs @graigchq Perhaps he runs better because he has less pressure from the press (no pun intended), but similar support from the fans? He no doubt has less sponsor commitments too.

        1. less pressure, certainly. I’m not sure about fewer commitments, though I’d imagine it’s a lot fewer than the Honda days.

  16. You could also add Alonso (3 wins, 3 podiums) or Massa (2 wins, 3 podiums) at Bahrain.

    1. Also Singapore 2008, wouldn’t really say it was a win due to Alonso either, more like a team effort.

      1. @libertywho haha “team effort” yeah i wouldnt count 08 for alonso at singapore. travesty.

      2. Yes, but Alonso was quite fast in practice, and has justified his place with good speed there in following years – who knows how fast he would’ve actually gone in 2008 without the qualifying problems.

        How about Alonso at Hockenheim? :P

        1. How about Alonso at all tracks :P

  17. Surely Schumacher should have some notice for Malaysia as well? Has been quicker then Rosberg there the past few years and in his first career managed to outqualify the entire field by a second after comming back from his injury.

    1. Think the problem is you could put Schumacher as a master of virtually every track on the calendar from his original career but then Keith’s article would start to look a bit ridiculous!

      Quotes from Schumacher’s debut race at Spa.

      1. I don’t know.. There are at least a few tracks where Schumacher was never really good at. Shanghai is one example, he won once thanks to tyrewoes at Renault but never did anything impressive otherwise.

        Anyhow his malaysian record continues in his second career as he seems to outperform Rosberg there. There haven’t been a lot of tracks we see that.

  18. Not that it is a very high accolade to have bestowed upon a driver, but Vettel at Abu Dhabi. He won in 2009, 2010 he won his world championship there from pole position and in 2011 he looked set to win again before his puncture.

    1. Hamilton has also been impressive at Abu Dhabi. Pole by a huge margin in 09 and was looking good until he started having problems, very close to pole in an inferior 2010 mclaren, and the win last year

      1. I’d argue the McLaren was quicker in the 2010 Abu Dhabi event, judging by their onboards. But then again that’s no guarantee either. Both are very impressive in Abu Dhabi. Each lost a win prematurely through no fault of their own.

        Is it too early to say Vettel and India? :P (Tongue in cheek)

        1. @raymondu999 – I’m not sure yet either, but he did look very good there last year. Maybe he has a knack for some of the new Tilkedromes, he was quick in Korea as well…

  19. It will be interesting to see how Vettel does this year at Suzuka, where his car may not be the dominant force it has been.

    1. @jleigh I reckon it will still suit them. They still employ a high dependancy on downforce. I guess some other team might as well though!

      1. Indeed, but I think Barcelona will be a good guide because of the high speed layout. Hamiltons mclaren should prove to be a contender so hopefully we can have a good tussle between the two of them to see which is better around Suzuka.

    2. @jleigh
      The McLaren’s were clearly ahead in terms of pace in Suzuka last year. The RB’s simply couldn’t hold a candle to the turn-in on those silver cars.
      Yet he still did perform reasonably well, by snatching pole position.

      1. Of course Hamilton didn’t get in a quick lap and would surely have taken pole. He was also quick there in 09 and put an extraordinary quali performance in 10 after not really having any practice running.

        1. @jleigh – And it was his inattention that meant he didn’t get that flying lap in (and it’s not guaranteed it would have been perfect), and his error that meant he didn’t get much practice running in 2010.

          1. Of course you are right, and that’s what makes Hamilton Hamilton. But that doesn’t change that he’s been very quick there, just as his idiocy in Canada doesn’t change that he is immense there.

          2. Right, so Button deserves to be left off this list for Melbourne because he was out qualified in 2 of the 4 years regardless of winning 3 of the last 4 years, but Hamilton is the bomb in Suzuka and would have DEFINITELY gotten pole if he hadn’t forgotten the clock, even though his team were on the radio giving him the hurry up! Right, and I guess he DEFINITELY would have beaten Button in Canada last year if he finished too!

          3. @nick101 I take it you are referring to my earlier comment. The point I was making was that I understand why Keith left button at Melbourne off the list. I wasn’t taking anything away from buttons achievements, I was simply saying that it’s not a track at which his driving style makes him go particularly faster than at others. Here I never said Hamilton would defiantly get pole, but it was very likely given the pace he showed earlier in the session, just as his pace in Canada suggested he probably would have finished ahead of button if they had both finished. But the didn’t because Hamilton messed up, just like he did in Suzuka, but that doesn’t change that they are two tracks he has been relatively quick at compared to other tracks, which is what the article was discussing.

          4. @nick101

            Jake did acknowledge that it wasn’t guaranteed LH would have had pole at Suzuka, and also didn’t say he should be considered a Suzuka specialist. @jleigh ‘s point was just that he has been quick there, maybe a bit moreso than the end results have showed.

            And let’s be fair, Hamilton has had 2 wins and 3 poles at Montreal, despite a couple of errors, so he’s definitely somewhat of a specialist there. I agree that Button should be a Melbourne specialist with his 3 wins there, and ’06 and ’09 poles.

          5. @Jake

            I take your point, but I disagree with something else you just said. In no way shape or form would Hamilton have beaten Button in Canada last year – NO WAY. Button was in a class of 1 at Canada last year – 2 seconds a lap quicker than everyone else. Saying that Hamilton or anyone else would have beaten that performance is just plain rude! That was one of the greatest wins in F1 history – so say all of the experts and former f1 greats.

            And if you want to talk about tracks that suit particular drivers styles, then I would say ANY wet to drying track on the calendar is BUTTON’s domain. Given the conditions in Canada last year and Button’s superior pace – Hamilton didn’t stand a chance.

            Yes, I’m a Button fan. But it drives me up the wall when, regardless of how fast or spectacularly Button wins, people always give it ‘Hamilton WOULD have beaten him, but…(insert any number of excuses here)!

          6. @nick101 of course you are right about button on a damp track, although Hamilton has also showed similar pace in similar conditions; Australia 10, china 10, silverstone 11 and Monaco 08 to name just a few. When I say Hamilton would likely have beaten button in Canada, I am basing that on the fact that he was quicker than button in the early stages by a considerable amount. Buttons drive was brilliant, there is no doubting it, but I honestly believe that, based on his earlier pace and his previous form in those conditions, Hamilton could have matched him in the only other car that was set up for a wet race. But then I suppose with you being a button fan and me being a Hamilton fan this is one of those unknowns that we will disagree avout till the cows come home!

  20. Juan Pablo Montoya was always good around Interlagos. It was there were he first really caught everyone’s attention in 2001, before Verstappen ran into the back of him. After that he got pole there in 2002, and then won there in 2004 and 2005 (his last win in F1).

    Michael Schumacher was very good around Indianapolis with five wins there, and it would have been six if he wasn’t being silly in 2002.

    Webber doesn’t seem to be a fan of a few circuits, I’ve heard him say before that he finds driving around Monza, Valencia and Yas Marina boring. I somehow think that there are a few more tracks he finds boring.

  21. Damon Hill always seemed to go well at the Hungaroring.

    1. I thought that too, see my comment below.

  22. Vettel is a fan, and does well at, Valencia. Two wins in the last two years – first guy to get two wins there. Ditto for Hamilton in China.

    1. He’s probably the only fan of the Valencia circuit.

      1. @toro-stevo haha, god I hate that track.

  23. Massa – King of Istanbul, Turkey !

  24. Alonso in Spain always seems to have a bit extra.
    Just like Sato and Kobayashi at Suzuka.
    For some, there really is that homerace advantage.

  25. Scuderiaexxon
    4th June 2012, 12:05

    Vettel at Abu Dhabi: 3 Appearances, 2 wins (maybe 3 if his wheel had not exploded in 2011), 2 or 3 pole positions

  26. Larry Perkins
    4th June 2012, 12:06

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned Maldonaldo and his Catalan domination.

    1. He needs to score consistently well there in order to be recognised. One victory isn’t enough.

  27. Schumacher and Monza?

  28. Didn’t Schumacher make 17 appearances at Spa?

  29. Schumacher at Magny-Cours is another, 8 wins in 15 races.

    1. And at Indianapolis, 5 wins and 2 second places in 7 races.

  30. Regarding Schumacher at Spa, he was also looking set for a comfortable win in 1998 before crashing into DC whilst lapping him.

    Another driver that is worthy of a mention is Fisichella in Canada.

    1. What a classic that race was, and was only recently Coulthard admitted he was in the wrong and had lifted.

      1. And some people still blaming Schumacher for that incident, bias :)

  31. With regards to Schumacher, he appears to have performed well at many circuits as he has gathered multiple wins at a variety of venues, although that could be as much to do with Ferrari’s years of total domination as driver skill.

  32. Maldonado at Monaco if you are including pre F1 experience. Mansell and Silverstone strikes me as one too.

    Damon Hill at Hungary is a good one. He won his first race there in 1993, the followed that up with another win in 1995. He was second in 94, 96 and famously for Arrows in 97 and finished 4th and 6th there for Jordan in 98 and 99. He was on pole once too.

    1. Hungary really suited D.Hill, he was also very strong on Spa..

  33. I remember Mika Hakkinen used to dominate at Catalunya when I was a kid. Won three years in a row and would have been 4 if his engine hadn’t blown up on the last lap in 2001. Coulthard always went well at Monaco, and I remember Eddie Irvine being a bit of a dab hand around Suzuka as well due to his experience in Japanese F3000. He never won but as Suzuka was at the end of the year he was usually helping Schumacher’s title bid by then! Damon Hill was always good in Hungary as well, two wins and getting that Arrows to second in ’97.

    Be interesting to see the Spa magic is still there for Kimi this year, he really should have 5 wins out of 7 having led most of the way in 08. And when you consider one of those years was in a uncompetitive Sauber he’s basically been up the front every time he’s had a competitive car.

    1. Eddie was pretty handy around Monaco too putting a junk Jaguar on the podium.

  34. Alonso’s track (no pun) records at both Sao Paulo and Kuala Lumpur are just as impressive as his Singapore CV once you factor in the number of career starts.

    1. Aditya Banerjee (@)
      4th June 2012, 18:33

      Sao paulo? He’s never won there…

      1. True.

        2001 – Outqualified Button and a Prost in only his third career GP.
        2003 – P3
        2004 – P4
        2005 – P5
        2006 – P2
        2007 – P3
        2008 – P2 (a completely overshadowed performance, probably just as notable as his 2008 Japan victory.
        2010 – P3
        2001 – P4 (best of the rest)

        2009 was a first lap retirement.

        But the more I think about it, the less I think of Alonso’s record at Sao Paulo significant, it’s probably this way for most tracks.

        1. 2005 – P3*

        2. Aditya Banerjee (@)
          6th June 2012, 11:52

          Well I guess in that way Massa’s performances at Germany(both Hockenheim and Nurburg) also deserve a mention, although he’s never won there.
          2002 Nurburgring- 6th
          2002 Hockenheim- 7th
          2004 Nurburgring- 9th
          2004 Hockenheim-13th
          2005 Nurburgring- 14th
          2005 Hockenheim- 8th
          2006 Nurburgring- 3rd
          2006 Hockenheim- 2nd
          2007 Nurburgring- 2nd
          2008 Hockenheim- 3rd
          2009 Nurburgring- 3rd
          2010 Hockenheim- 2nd
          2011 Nurburgring- 5th

  35. matthewf1 (@)
    4th June 2012, 13:24

    Hamilton can hardly be called a Canada specialist with a 50% balls-up rate there.

    1. @matthewf1 doesn’t he have that pretty much everywhere? :D
      At least he usually does show that he is massively quick around there, until he finds something to run into.

  36. Let’s do the opposite,

    I’m pretty sure no driver would like to become Valencia expert, the most boring and without any kind of glamour circuit of F1.

    1. I disagree: you get to be very competitive at another GP track

    2. @idr It might not be everyone’s favourite circuit, but there are plenty of walls worth avoiding, which I’m sure is satisfying when you do avoid them!

    3. Barrichello fared quite decently there: winning in 2009, almost making the podium in 2010 and hauling the awful Williams to 12th in 2011.

  37. Coulthard always seemed to have a certain affinity with Melbourne I think.

  38. Rubens at Monza. He won in 2004, 2009 and few other times too I think.

  39. I’d say Vettel’s best tracks are:
    Suzuka- regardless of the car being useful around there, record says it all, especially that qualy lap last year.
    Singapore- good result for STR, 2nd to an inspired Alonso in 2010 and dominant winner last year (despite the SC and backed off at the end). Only ballsup was a dodgy speeding penalty in 09 when he took a shorter line to his box not for actually speeding
    Melbourne- Always been quick there, if the reliability hasn’t been (08,09,2010)
    Abu Dhabi- (3 front rows and 2 wins- could’ve been 3 as well. Amazing pole/win under big pressure in a title decider in 2010)
    Valencia- Learned how to be fast in 2008 (according to Ascanelli), 09 put the RB way higher than Webber (not his track though) until engine/fuel rig failures and pretty dominant pole/win in 2010/11

    Maybe too early to judge but Korea/India who can forget the grand chelem in India last year? and the engine blowout in Korea, which actually would’ve been a wet race win, something he’s not done since China 09)
    Always been quick at Hungary in qualy (except STR debut in 07) but races haven’t gone his way.

    For me his worst tracks are
    Nurburgring (even though he had a double win in F3) particularly compared to Webber
    Spa- last year aside, they’ve tended to be messy weekends there.
    Spain- 2011 race aside, never really pulled any trees up there

    Maybe some of those are in comparison to Webber but thats where I feel he’s good/not so good at.

  40. Surely Webber and Monaco is a notable driver/track combination. Aside his good record in poor cars prior to ’09 and a win in the support class in ’01 his record in a potential winning car is impressive;
    2009 – 5th (ahead of team mate)
    2010 – 1st
    2011 – 4th (race ruined by terrible pit stop)
    2012 – 1st

    1. 2011 – 4th (race ruined by terrible pit stop)

      IIRC, he was 4th before that pitstop, well behind Alonso in 3rd. The pitstop just meant he had to pass people like Kobayashi to get 4th back. Your other examples are decent enough.

      1. But there’s no doubt that the stop was a disaster, (tyres not even ready) plus no running in FP1 never helps.

      2. @David-A

        True. I’m an Aussie and love to see Mark do well, but there is no way Webber would have been able to get past Button in 2011. Button was massively quicker than anyone else on the grid during that race and was completely ROBBED of the victory by the red flag. If that red flag hadn’t come out, I would wager the house that Button would have done both Alonso and Vettel and taken the win.

        1. @nick101

          I wouldn’t say Button was “robbed” of the win. Vettel led away from pole and had a poor pitstop as well. Webber’s pitstop meant he lost more time than Vettel, and a heap of positions that he did well to recover. Vettel’s pitstop was the reason he lost the lead to Button and Alonso, and was forced to try going to the end on one set of tyres.

          1. Not to say that if there wasn’t a red flag the race would have ended behind the SC. Vettel was not robbed, his competitors were given an oppertunity to still fight.

        2. I’m not saying Webber would have got better than 4th, necessarily but it clearly affected his race and in that respect 4th was a good effort.

  41. some others would be:
    Montoya and Interlagos
    Montoya and Monza
    Kubica and Monaco
    Vettel and Abu Dhabi
    Vettel and Valencia
    Heidfeld and Malaysia
    Hamilton and China

  42. Hamilton – Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
    Button – Albert Park
    Alonso – Singapore
    Massa – Interlagos
    Vettel – Suzuka
    Webber – Monte Carlo
    Rosberg – Shangai
    Schumacher – Magny Course
    Raikkonen – Spa Francorchamps

  43. A very interesting article, with plenty of examples to choose from to comment!

    Alesi in Monza comes to mind. From the top of my head, qualified 6th and ran up to 3rd in 1990 (in an underpowered – in MONZA! – Tyrrell), scored a podium in the uncompetitive Ferrari of 1993, had a bad habit of retiring when leading (and unfortunately always for Ferrari, what a nice story it would have been for him and the tifosi in 1994 / 1995), led a few laps before claiming 2nd in 1996 and repeated the performance in 1997. This with at best the second best car in the two last examples, and most of the times the 3rd or even 4th best like in 1993.

  44. I’ve always thought that Coulthard was very strong at Monaco.

  45. Wan’t Senna pretty quick on the M1?

  46. Nuno Moreira
    4th June 2012, 18:29

    Nigel Mansell and Silverstone.
    He always was in a class of is own.

  47. Aditya Banerjee (@)
    4th June 2012, 18:30

    Raikkonen’s turnover rate is the best(he has always finished the Belgian Grand Prix on the top step of the podium). Who knows what could have happened if races at spa were held in 2003 and 2006. He might have had six wins by now! Alonso isn’t really a specialist in anything, he is a specialist in everything. After all, throughout all the races he has started in his career, the only place where he never got a trophy was at the A1-Ring, and there too he never started with a car competitive enough to get podium.

  48. Nelson Piquet famously disliked the track and never won there.

    Interestingly, if i’m right and i quote from Martin Brundle on a ITV track guide around Monaco that Massa doesn’t like Monaco either.

    I’m sure this is mentioned already but the Hamilton-Shanghai combination shouldn’t be overlooked as well

    2007- present
    6 Appearance
    4 Podiums
    2 Wins

    Taking his outstanding chargers through the field into account in 2010-2012 races as well as him having a very fine drive in 2009 in the wet conditions in a under-developed McLaren, a well-controlled, dominant to an extent first victory at the track in 2008 & a highly likely podium if not race win in 2007 had he not famously beached his McLaren.

  49. I remember Jacques Villeneuve saying that he really enjoyed driving around the Hungaroring. That didn’t translate well into his latter results, but still, for a track most drivers loathe it’s quite interesting.

    I’d avoid making comments about drivers who have only half-performed at relatively new tracks like Abu Dhabi and Valencia. For me, a specialist is someone who has proven that they have an edge at that track over several years (5+).

    As for Schumacher, I think he seems to thrive at the typical “driver” circuits; Monaco, Spa, Monza etc.

  50. My idea is Vettel-Abu Dhabi. There Seb got the pole 2 times and won 2 times in three races. Last year he would have probably won if he hadn’t had that problem on his car at the first turn.

  51. A-Safieldin (@)
    4th June 2012, 20:55

    Massa and Istanbul

  52. Malaysia is where Alonso really shines. If I recall well he’s got three wins on three different cars (Renault, McLaren and Ferrari) and I would say two podiums. He always says he loves the circuit

  53. Damon Hill – Hungaroring

  54. Massa at Bahrain: 3 podiums, 2 wins and 1 pole.

  55. Alonso at Bahrain as well, 3 wins and podiums.

  56. Schumacher 7 wins in Canada, Monaco 5 wins, could be 6 in 2012 if no penalty

  57. I can’t contribute – I simply do not have enough F1 knowledge – but what a great idea for an article and brilliant additional information from F1F readers. Kudos, everyone!

  58. William Brierty
    5th June 2012, 12:38

    I can summarize this entire article –

    Alonso is good at: Singapore, Monaco, Barcelona
    Hamilton is good at: Canada, Shanghai, Monaco, Abu Dhabi, Spa
    Vettel is good at: Suzuka, Silverstone, Valencia, Abu Dhabi
    Button is good at: Australia, Hungary, Monaco
    Rosberg is good at: Sepang, Shanghai, Monaco
    Webber is good at: Barcelona, Monaco, Sao Paulo, Silverstone, Nurburgring
    Schumacher is good at: Spa, Nurburgring, Monaco, Hockenheim
    Raikkonen is good at: Spa

    1. Aditya Banerjee (@)
      6th June 2012, 12:06

      I would disagree on:
      Hamilton at Monaco: We’re talking f1 here, not feeder series. Hamilton’s only solid race was in 2007, he was lucky to win 2008, and has since been lacklustre.
      Hamilton at Spa: 2007, 2009 and 2011 races are there to contradict you.
      Button at Monaco: nothing special, all his points finishes there have come with good cars: BAR006, BGP001 and MP4-26.
      Rosberg at Monaco: Just a podium??
      CONCLUSION: From your list, I can construe that the best drivers do not have special track”sss”(I stress multipe plural): Webber with 8 wins has five special tracks, while Schumi with 91 wins has 4, Alonso with 28 has 3, and Raikkonen with 18 has 1!!!!

  59. Alonso & Hungary
    He won his first GP there
    He made a remarkable race in 2006, maybe the best of his career.
    And then we have 2007… that I still think that cost him the title.

  60. @splittimes @mike u know, as an Indian its difficult to get into motorsports. Even nw good karting circuits are very few and even leisure karting is expensive. I am lucky to hv a good one 100km away. But nobody cares for F1 in India and nobody wants to sponsor our young drivers. I got taunted in college for following F1. And hardly 2 of my frnds in my city follow the sport. In a recent intvw Karun said that he had to mortgage his house thrice to fund his career

  61. For me the all-time best example of “track specialist” was Berger at Hockenheim. Nobody could get close to him there apart from Senna but this was the closest track he was to Senna as tem-mate. He was within 2 tenths of Senna in qualy on all 3 occasions while usually the gap was half a second or more.

    Jean Alesi had always excelled at Montreal and Monza but if I’d pick a track where he was specialist it’s definitely Monaco. He was never beaten by a team-mate there and even if he or the team-mate retired he was always in front when it happened.

    Schumacher had dominated at Magny Cours, Spa and Montreal but was most impressive at Suzuka IMO.

    Alonso is always impressive at the Hungaroring and in Malaysia

    Fisichella was mega-fast at Montreal and Spa(he finished 3rd there with a rubbish Benetton in 2001 and also IIRC a 2nd with a Jordan in 1997

    Mark Webber is mega fast at Silverstone and Monaco but his best track is the Nurburgring IMO

  62. Robert Kubica and Monaco. 4 starts 2 podiums one in uncompetitive Renault and in 2008 he would certainly win if the race had dured only 5 circuits more, because Hamilton was struggling with his tyres. Nevertheless Kubica was always fast in Monaco and always showed his full potential. His qualifying lap in 2010 was like one of Senna’s.

  63. Alain (@paganbasque)
    6th June 2012, 7:53

    When the driver makes the difference Schumacher always has a good peformance. This clearly explains his victories in Spa, Monaco and Montreal for example. He also likes a lot Suzuka and Monza.

    Lewis is very good too in Montreal, Alonso in Singapur, Webber loves Monaco and Nico Shangai.

  64. I remember that Damon Hill was excelent in the Hungaroring.

  65. A bit late into the party, but what I recall:

    Alonso: his bests are Melbourne, Malaysia, Singapore, Hockenheim… he is good everywhere though. his leasts are Canada and Indianapolis (RIP)

    Hamilton: Canada, Shanghai, Hungaroring and Singapore are excellent ones for him. He is nothing special at Interlagos, and Monza (despite his win this year)

    Vettel: Valencia, Abou Dhabi, Suzuka, maybe Interlagos. He prefers the autumn races. He is not good in Nurburgring.

    Webber: as said, he is great in Monaco, Nurburgring, Silverstone, and I should add Interlagos. He looks ordinary at many tracks sadly.

    Button: Melbourne is a classic track for him. He likes the soaky Hungaroring, but less impressive in the dry one. His other bests are Suzuka and Hockenheim and maybe Sepang. Silverstone is totally loss along with Nurburgring.

    Massa: anti-clockwise tracks (Interlagos, Istambul, Singapore) are good for him. I would add Bahrain as well. He is pretty weak in many others though.

    Raikkonen: Spa definately. But also good in Suzuka, Barcelona. He usually do badly in Canada, Singapore. And has a very unlucky record in Nurburgring.

    Rosberg: Shanghai for sure. He drove his best there for 3 years in a row. I don’t remember a weak one though.

    Schumacher: he WAS good almost everywhere, exceptions were Hockenheim, A1 Ring and Shanghai. Particularly great tracks were: Imola, Monza, Magny-Cours, Spa, Canada.

    Former chaps:

    Trulli: Monaco specialist, but I remember he was driving very well in Indianapolis, Barcelona, Bahrein, and Sepang. He was like a spring driver. He hated every track at the tail end of the season.

    Barrichello: Monza and Silverstone were his bests. He also enjoyed A1 Ring, remember 2001-02. Low points were Melbourne, Imola, Monaco.

    Fisichella: Spa, Canada, Monaco, maybe Interlagos, Melbourne. He scored almost all of his podiums at these tracks. Weak in Magny-Cours, Hungaroring.

    Coulthard: Monaco, Silverstone, Australia suited him well. He generally liked street circuits. No particular bad I can think of though.

    Montoya: he was a Silverstone specialist, and enjoyed Interlagos as well. I remember him as very good around Monza too, scored his 1st win there. Least were Monaco and Canada maybe.

    Hakkinen: Barcelona, 3 wins in a row, and could have been a 4th in 2001, but ended his WDC dreams sadly. Other notable ones were Spa, Hungaroring, A1 Ring.. He wasn’t that good around street circuits.

    Heidfeld: Sepang was his best, but had some good results in Melbourne and Canada as well. Shame he never won. Don’t remember any weak ones though.

  66. +1

    Ralf Schumacher: he was very good at Magny-Cours, Hungaroring, Montreal, maybe Melbourne as well. He disliked Suzuka with passion.

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