F1 circuits history part 17: 2008-2012

F1 historyPosted on Author Keith Collantine

Five years ago F1 Fanatic ran a series looking at every F1 circuit which has appeared on the world championship calendar and how they had changed.

It’s time to bring the series up to date including the six most recent additions to the world championship calendar and the revisions at Silverstone.

Valencia Street Circuit

Spain appeared on the world championship calendar as early as 1951 and the race moved between several homes over the following decades. But the sport enjoyed a lukewarm reception even after it found a permanent venue at the Circuit de Catalunya from 1991.

That changed when Fernando Alonso arrived on the scene and won back-to-back world championships in 2005 and 2006. Suddenly the Circuit de Catalunya was building more grandstands to meet demand and a second round of the world championship in Spain seemed a viable prospect.

It arrived in 2008 in the shape of a street circuit in Valencia, a short distance from an F1-standard circuit where teams have often gone testing.

The venue had a lot going for it: great weather and beach-adjacent. But the stop-start track failed to inspire and produced a succession of dull races. Last year’s race was an exception, with Alonso climbing from 11th to take a popular home win.

However that may prove to be the last race at the circuit. The recession bit hard in Spain and both its tracks have suffered poor attendance. The circuits are supposed to be sharing the Spanish Grand Prix as of this year, but it remains to be seen if F1 will make a return to Valencia’s little-loved street course.

Singapore Marina Bay

Jarno Trulli, Toyota TF108, Singapore, 2008Singapore broke new ground for F1 by becoming the first venue to hold a race under floodlights at night. The ambitious project brought F1 into the heart of one of Asia’s major business cities.

Unfortunately the inaugural 2008 race became infamous after it was discovered Alonso’s victory for Renault had been aided by team mate Nelson Piquet Jnr deliberately crashing his car.

While the track may fail to capture the imagination it stands out as one of the longest and most gruelling races of the year, held in punishing temperatures even after night fall. Last year’s race failed to go the distance and was stopped when the two hour time limit was reached.

Each passing year brings questions over whether it would be possible to race at night in wet conditions, but aside from a few damp practice sessions this remains an unknown.

Singapore’s contract was recently extended to 2017 and the race organisers have raised the prospect of altering the circuit with an eye on removing the inelegant turn ten chicane.

Yas Marina

Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari, Abu Dhabi, 2009Yas Marina has given plenty of ammunition to critics of modern track design. Despite being built on a man-made island at a reputed cost of $1bn the circuit is conspicuously lacking in imagination with far too many slow corners and chicanes.

The facilities themselves can’t be faulted, nor can the impressive architecture. And the spectacle of a race taking place as night falls is impressive. But Yas Marina has generally not produced great races.

The difficulty of overtaking at the track was demonstrated in the 2010 season finale, when Alonso became stuck behind Vitaly Petrov’s Renault and sensationally lost the world championship to Sebastian Vettel.

However last year finally produced a race to remember thanks to Vettel’s demotion to the back of the grid following a technical infringement in qualifying. Even so it’s hard to view the track as anything other than a missed opportunity.


Sakon Yamamoto, Nico Rosberg, Silverstone, 2010The track which held the first round of the world championship in 1950 looked set to disappear from the Formula One calendar when Bernie Ecclestone announced a deal to take the race to Donington Park. That fell through and a new 17-year deal was duly signed with Silverstone.

In the meantime the track had secured a deal to host Britain’s round of the Moto GP championship, which prompted a change in track configuration to excluded Bridge, which was deemed too dangerous for bikes.

Silverstone is one of few recent examples of F1 track design work being carried out by anyone other than Hermann Tilke. Architects Populous tried to retain as much of Silverstone’s high-speed nature as possible and introduced a quick pair of bends in place of the Abbey chicane. This feeds into a pair of slow corners.

In 2011 a new pit building was opened on the old Club straight and Silverstone became one of few tracks to relocate its start-finish line. The old pits remain in place for lesser events.

Korea International Circuit

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Korea, 2010Just weeks before the first Korean Grand Prix was held there were still doubts over whether it would actually go ahead. Late-running construction work meant the track was barely ready in time for its first race.

That was then thrown in jeopardy by a race-day downpour which caused a lengthy interruption. The race eventually finished as night was falling.

Twelve months later the teams returned to find the track had seemingly been untouched in the intervening period. Grand plans for buildings to spring up around the final part of the lap failed to materialise.

Little had changed in 2012 either, though the promoters raised their game by bringing in Korean pop star Psy. But the fundamental problem remains that the circuit is a long way from the South Korean capital Seoul and has difficulty attracting spectators.

The track itself is a by-the-numbers modern affair enlivened by a few quick corners in the latter part of the lap. It will hold its fourth race this year but the promoters have already lost over ?ι?ϊ100m on the venture and you have to wonder how long they will continue tolerating that. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see this track go the way of Istanbul’s F1 circuit.

Buddh International Circuit

Indian representation in Formula One began with Narain Karthikeyan in 2005 and was followed by the arrival of Silverstone-based Force India three years later.

The Buddh International Circuit was built as part of the Jaypee Greens Sports City in Greater Noida, south-east of New Delhi. The track proved a popular addition to the calendar when it held its first race in 2011, but neither of its first two races produced much in the way of spectacle.

But the sport received a warm welcome and hopefully has a bright future in this vast and rapidly-growing country.

Circuit of the Americas

Start, Circuit of the Americas, 2012The USA has had more Formula One tracks than any other country yet failed to find a permanent home for its race.

That may be set to change. The Circuit of the Americas became the tenth in 2012 and proved an instant hit, drivers lauding the track and teams enjoying a friendly Texan welcome.

The opening sequence of fast bends is modelled on Silverstone’s sequence of Maggotts, Becketts and Chapel. It provided the dramatic moment of the inaugural race as Vettel was briefly delayed by a backmarker and Lewis Hamilton pounced to pass him for the win.

Tavo Hellmund drew up the original plan for the race in 2007, but was no longer part of the project by the time the race was finally held. He is now working on a plan to bring F1 back to Mexico.

The run-off areas were given a suitably American look with a stars and stripes motif, but they were removed before the F1 weekend on the instructions of Bernie Ecclestone.

Over to you

What do you think of the six most recent additions to the Formula One calendar? Have your say in the comments.

You can find all of the F1 Circuits History series here.

F1 circuits history

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