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Top 10 greatest circuits in Formula 1 history

Top 10 greatest circuits in Formula 1 history


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Top 10 greatest circuits in Formula 1 history

Top 10 greatest circuits in Formula 1 history

Over 70 circuits have hosted Formula 1 grands prix, and there is a considerable split in the opinion between fans over which are the best.

GPFans writers Sam Hall and Ian Parkes put their heads together and came up with their own ultimate top 10.

In creating this list, the criteria considered were the number of iconic moments seen at a circuit, the history of the track and the level of challenge that a venue presents the driver with.

10. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada

If ever there was proof a circuit does not require a modern-day mix of corners of varying degrees and speeds to produce thrilling racing, then the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is it.

Named after Canada's racing hero, who spent six seasons with Ferrari and who was tragically killed during qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder at the age of 32, the track is set on semi-permanent roads on the Île Notre-Dame in the middle of the St Lawrence Seaway.

Home to the Canadian Grand Prix since 1978, the simple design features a hairpin, two decent straights, a couple of sharp turns and a chicane that has become home to the 'Wall of Champions' where many famous names have ended up crashing.

Jean Alesi en route to his only F1 victory - Canada '95

9. The Circuit of the Americas, Austin, United States

The Circuit of the Americas is the newest track to figure on this list by some distance. First on the Formula 1 calendar in 2012, the Texan venue may not have the history of many of its predecessors, but it features due to the pure driving challenge it presents.

Borrowing heavily from Suzuka, Istanbul, Silverstone and others, the steep 133-foot climb from the grid into turn one is something that is truly unique to COTA.

Race starts are often chaotic as a result of the extremely late braking the climb allows for, and the sharp turn-11 hairpin onto a kilometre-long back straight, again ending with a heavy braking zone, ensure that overtaking never comes at a premium.

Hamilton leads the charge up to turn one

8. Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Imola, Italy

Named after Ferrari's founder and his son, but more accustomed to simply being known as Imola due to its proximity to the Italian town. Although racing was first staged in 1953, it was not until 1980 that F1 paid a visit.

The circuit initially staged the Italian Grand Prix that year, but after that race returned to its spiritual Monza home, Imola became the venue for the San Marino Grand Prix from 1981 until 2006.

The high-speed nature of the track made it a favourite, but its renowned Tamburello curve drew infamy due to the number of incidents and ultimately led to tragedy with the death in 1994 of Ayrton Senna.

Senna leads the 1986 San Marino Grand Prix

7. Hockenheim (1970-2001), Germany

Hockenheim first hosted the German Grand Prix in 1970 before becoming the regular event venue in 1977.

Although many will regard the 2019 German Grand Prix as one of the most entertaining races F1 has ever seen, it is the older version of the circuit that features on this list.

Cars would scream through from the stadium section into the forest, with drivers able to max their cars on the long straight punctured only by three tricky chicanes. This was Germany’s answer to Monza, and it was every bit as iconic as it’s Italian counterpart.

Jochen Rindt leading Clay Regazzoni at Hockenheim in 1970

6. Silverstone (1997-2009), United Kingdom

The Northamptonshire venue has undergone numerous transformations over the years, but it is the one that was reprofiled in 1997 and ran to 3.194miles (5.14km), with Copse and Priory altered to make them quicker, that gets our vote here.

Silverstone has always been a mecca for motorsports fans, from its days after being transformed from an old airfield base, right up to the present day and its attraction of around 350,000 fans across the three days of a race weekend.

The Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel complex of sweeping bends, leading into the Hangar Straight and on into Stowe are long-held favourites with virtually every driver. Its current guise, from 2010, is still exciting, but arguably not as enjoyable for the drivers.

David Coulthard heads through the old Vale complex at Silverstone

5. Interlagos, São Paulo, Brazil

Interlagos is the long-term host venue of the Brazilian Grand Prix. After staging seven races in eight years from 1973, the track returned in 1990 and has never left.

In the early 2000s, Brazil more often than not hosted the season finale and, as such, has numerous memories attached. Lewis Hamilton’s dramatic final-corner pass to win the 2008 title; Jenson Button celebrating by singing ‘We are the Champions’ on his team radio, and Fernando Alonso sealing both of his titles in 2005 and 2006. In fact, from 2005 to 2009, Interlagos provided the backdrop for each title decider.

The two most iconic moments are easy. Felipe Massa standing a broken man on the podium in 2008 after winning the race, but losing the title by a single point, and Ayrton Senna winning his first Brazilian Grand Prix in 1991.

4. Suzuka, Japan

Bar a two-year break in the mid-noughties, the circuit has been the home of the Japanese Grand Prix since 1987, and it has proven to be one of the most captivating on the calendar for both drivers and fans.

It is a rare track in F1, given the penchant in recent years with new venues to incorporate vast run-off areas, as it punishes mistakes, while its unique figure-of-eight configuration, and with famous turns such as 130R and Spoon, still poses significant challenges.

Complete with its iconic Ferris wheel, it has also been the setting where 11 world champions have been crowned, arguably none more infamously in 1989 and again the following year when Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost twice collided. Prost took the title in '89, Senna gained his 'revenge' in '90.

3. Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Monza, Italy

Italy is Ferrari. Italy is passion. Italy is Formula 1.

Whether looking through rose-tinted glasses at black and white images of F1 cars from the 1950s running around the steep-banked oval section of track or watching the fastest-ever modern cars eat up the hallowed tarmac, Monza oozes everything that is F1.

A place where loving Ferrari is not optional, it is obligatory, this high-speed cathedral is every bit as iconic as the Ferrari rosso or Senna’s yellow-banded helmet. Monza may not be the trickiest track in F1, but it is the circuit to have featured most on the calendar – missing in 1980 only when the Italian round was run at Imola.

Stirling Moss leads at Monza in 1957

2. Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Spa, Belgium

Only Monza, Monaco and Silverstone have held more grands prix than the drivers' dream that is Spa, enchantingly set in the middle of the Ardennes, and providing a challenge like few other circuits in motorsport.

The track predominantly used country roads through its first incarnation up until 1970. It was brutally fast, but it also became increasingly dangerous and feared as the speeds of the cars increased, leading to a boycott of the '69 event as 10 deaths had occurred during the 1960s.

It was not until 1983, and following significant modifications, that Spa returned to the calendar, albeit retaining some of its renowned corners such as Eau Rouge and La Source. The downforce levels of modern-day F1 cars means the track is not as demanding as it once was, but it remains a highlight on the calendar for all drivers.

1. Nordschleife, Nürburg, Germany

The Green Hell. Over 14 miles of twisting, undulating asphalt. 160 corners, each with its own story. Five Formula 1 drivers lost their lives at this behemoth, and that number remains incredibly low when you consider the speed-first, safety-second attitude of the era when this track was a grand prix venue.

The most famous incident of all came in 1976, when Niki Lauda crashed his Ferrari, barely escaping with his life, before returning to claim two further world championship crowns.

Sadly, the race in ’76 would be the last time that Formula 1 cars would compete in an official grand prix around the Nordschleife, although GT cars do still frequently race on this most testing of all circuits.

Comments (1)


Yep. COTA at 9 looks just about right. Tavo Hellmund did a helluva job with the layout there. He wanted it to be even more challenging, but the FIA tamed a few corners before construction even got underway.

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