These are my top 10 favorite Formula 1 circuits. First off, I want to point out that I’ve only been watching the sport since 2009, so I didn’t include any circuits that have not held races since then, like Imola or Paul Ricard for example.
If this goes well, I might create another map featuring non-F1 tracks like Le Mans or Laguna Seca.
Also, this is my personal list. Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments.
1. Suzuka Circuit
Home of the Japanese Grand Prix. This used to be the final race of the season leading to some epic showdowns. The most famous are the title deciding races between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in 1988, 1989 and 1990.
The Honda-owned track is beautifully laid out, crossing over itself and making a figure eight if viewed from above.
There are so many wonderful corners such as the S curves or the fast right-hander Degner curve, but none can match 130R, the nearly flat-out 130-meter radius turn 15. The speed drivers pull through this corner is astounding. One slip-up and they’ll end up in a fence, just like Allan McNish in 2002.
Watching drivers master this circuit is something else. It amazes me when someone manages to do it so right, like Sebastian Vettel has done in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013.
I’ve played enough Gran Turismo to know this course like the back of my hand. Of all the races on the F1 calendar, the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka is the one I want to see most.
2. Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps
Spa is home to the Belgian Grand Prix. This is the longest circuit on the F1 calendar at 7.004km, which is down from the original 14.1 km layout.
This is also one of the fastest tracks out there. Sebastian Vettel’s record lap of the current circuit in 2009 had an average speed of 235 kph.
The racing is almost always amazing. With the long layout, it can be raining on one end of the course while the sun is shining on the other. This leads to some interesting car set-ups and great overtaking.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention Eau Rouge, one of the most famous and difficult corners in the world. Drivers will take this corner flat-out, going downhill before suddenly turning right and going uphill. If you fail to take this corner correctly, you won’t be set up for the long straight that follows.
This is a speed comparison between F1 cars and FIA GT cars at Eau Rouge.
3. Silverstone Circuit
Home of the British Grand Prix and the second longest circuit on the calendar at a distance of 5.901km.
Of historical note, in 1950 Silverstone hosted the first race in the first Formula One World Championship. Before that, the track was actually an RAF airfield. The original track was essentially just marked out with barrels around the airfield that first year.
The track has changed a lot in the past 64 years, but it still produces some of the best racing out there. The technical, high-speed corners favor drivers willing to push the limits of their car’s grip.
4. Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace – Interlagos
Interlagos, home of the Brazilian Grand Prix, sits in the middle of Sao Paulo and has been both the first and final race on the calendar.
This is a short-circuit, coming in at only 4.309km long. The track rests on a hill, giving it a bit of an uphill/downhill feel.
Sebastian Vettel’s drive in the 2012 race led me to fall in love with this course. Dropping down to 22 in the order and fighting the rain, Vettel came back to finish fourth and clinch his third consecutive title. The look in Fernando Alonso’s eyes after the race are something I’ll never forget. That season he fought tooth and nail with Vettel, only to be lose out in the end.
5. Autodromo Nazionale Monza
The land of Ferrari.
That should sum of the feel of Monza, home of the Italian Grand Prix.
This track has held an F1 race every year from 1950 to now, save 1980 when the track was being revamped.
This is the fastest track on the F1 calendar, with an average speed of 250 kph and the drivers at full throttle for 74 percent of the lap. This leads to some clever engineering on the cars, the goal being to reduce drag and gain top speed, which is about 340 kph.
While there are only eight corners, a driver must attack each one perfectly in order to get on the power early and maximize the use of the long straights.
Rubens Barrichello’s 2004 lap record still stands 10 years on, unlikely to be broken in this age of downsized engines and focus on efficiency over outright speed. It is a must-watch video.
6. Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
The Canadian Grand Prix takes place on a man-made island in the St. Lawrence River in Montreal, Canada. The circuit is named after Canadian Gilles Villeneuve, widely considered one of the greatest F1 drivers to never win a championship, who passed away in an accident in 1982.
This track has produced some spectacular racing. My personal favorite is the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix.
This race was the longest race in F1 history, due to a long rain delay. Winner Jenson Button’s final time was 4 hours 4 minutes 39.537 seconds.
Button fought through tire punctures, five pit stops, an accident that knocked his teammate out of the race, and serving a penalty that put him in last place to make 27 on-track overtakes and win the race on the final lap.
7. Istanbul Park
While Istanbul Park and the Turkish Grand Prix are no longer part of the F1 calendar, the track made quite a mark in its short history.
The final few laps of the 2010 race were some of the most stressful both Red Bull and McLaren fans have ever experienced. One team won out, the other ended up in a feud that didn’t end until Mark Webber retired at the end of 2013.
Istanbul Park features one of my favorite corners, the four-apex turn 8. Drivers must hit every one, every lap in order to get around faster than the other guy. The on-board footage here is fantastic. I count every apex aloud as the driver flies through this sweeping left-hander.
It saddens me to know that great tracks like Istanbul are dropped in favor of newer, flashier circuits.
8. Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit – Albert Park
OK, so I know the Australian Grand Prix might not be the favorite of a lot of F1 fans, but the 2009 race was the first grand prix I ever watched.
Late in 2008, I decided I wanted to start watching Formula 1. I can’t recall what prompted it. Maybe I was bored of NASCAR. Maybe I just wanted to be that one guy who talks about that one thing that no one else is into, but doesn’t notice so he keeps on.
Well, I’ve accomplished my goal.
The 2009 Australian Grand Prix was the start of something wonderful, both for me and for F1. Brawn GP, the team built from the ashes of the former Honda F1 outfit, made a turnaround that people still talk about to this day.
The team wasn’t even sure they could make it to the grid. They had no money, no sponsors and no engine supplier. Brawn essentially retrofitted a Mercedes-Benz engine in the place of the Honda motor and sent it out.
Jenson Button went on to win six of the first seven races and the 2009 World Driver’s Championship, while Brawn GP captured the World Constructor’s Championship. At the end of the season, Button was signed by McLaren and Mercedes-Benz bought out Brawn GP and turned it into a factory works team.
Now, I don’t recall many details of the race, other than Button won, but I don’t think it matters. It piqued my interest, and I’m still watching races today, always looking forward to the next.
9. Circuit of the Americas
This is supposed to be the race that saves F1 in the United States. We’ll see in a few years time. Maybe if Gene Haas’ team works out and NBC continues to give coverage, it could finally work.
While they’ve only been racing on this track since 2012, the potential is there. The racing has been exciting, the location seems great and the drivers seem to enjoy it while still finding a challenge.
My favorite feature has to be the steep uphill climb to turn 1.
From the bottom.
From the top.
Imagine trying to judge a braking point while going uphill. You lose speed in the climb, so you’re forced to accelerate harder to make up for it. Your braking distance is shortened because of the speed loss, but because of the way the track widens, there is no “proper” racing line to take, making it difficult to judge when and where to brake.
Brake too early and you let the other guy pass you. Brake too late and you’ll run off the track.
10. Marina Bay Street Circuit
Home of the Singapore Grand Prix and F1’s first night race.
This track gets a lot of flak. It’s understandable. The race is long, the track is hot and because it uses public roads, it can be a bit of a rough ride for the drivers.
I don’t care. I really enjoy watching this race. I feel it’s the closest thing I’ll get to an endurance race in F1. Driving these cars isn’t supposed to be for the faint of heart.
This circuit is really stunning at night. Watching the cars go around this track is like nothing else. You can see blue flames spitting from the exhaust and the red glow of the brake discs. The drivers’ eyes are visible through their thinly-tinted visors. Drivers who don’t watch themselves and take too much curb pay the price.
Singapore is a race I’ll show to a friend who has never watched F1. The sights and sounds distract from the occasionally bland racing, but if you really want to see a driver work, watch Singapore.