During the United States Formula One Grand Prix this weekend, a little twitter debate kicked off about the best racetracks in the world, so we thought we’d put on record out thoughts. Some obvious, some perhaps not so much. Question is – what do you think?
For my mind, the top five is clear-cut, here they are, and here’s why.
While the bottom end is boxy at best, the length of this track, the climb required to get to the top, the stunning series of corners across the mountain then the race down the hill make Mount Panorama one of the tracks drivers around the world consider one of the bucket-list must-drive circuits in their racing careers.
After the tragic death of Mike Burgmann in 1986, the addition of “The Chase” in 1987 could have been seen to take away from the amazing Conrod Straight but it didn’t, in fact, it added to the place. That right-hand kink at 300km/h is one of the many outstanding visuals in motorsport.
At the top of the mountain the crest at “Brock Skyline” which offers up a blind corner twisting right after the drop off is amazing in a road-car at 60km/h, and on TV in a V8 Supercar, so imagine the thrill and challenge it presents to those who drive for a living. Hard to match.
In many ways the Laguna Seca raceway is defined by the extremely challenging “corkscrew”. After an up-hill run at speed you are faced with a hard left to right kink which starts with an extreme drop-off. The gradient and the turn together make for a sensational computer simulation, and a fantastic challenge for the drivers.
While the rest of the circuit is seemingly nothing out of the ordinary, some of the corners push for speed where normally it would seem excessive which provides an additional challenge for fast-paced and close racing through many corners.
Circuit of the Americas
Having designed the Sepang, Bahrain, Shanghai, Valencia, Marina Bay, Yas Marina, Korean and many other international race-tracks, Herman Tilke is a name synonymous with Formula One. None of those tracks make my list though. One of his more recent creations most certainly does.
The Circuit of the Americas. In Austin Texas, the “COTA” has played host to V8 Supercars, but is more commonly known as the location for the United States F1 Grand Prix.
From the opening corner this circuit is a delight for drivers and fans alike. The wide expanse of the first turn leads to multiple angles of attack on both the opening lap and during the lap, then a series of twists and turns forces the cars left and right and subjects the drivers to lateral G-Forces which challenge the best for those extra hundredths of a second.
Combined with a couple of decent straights, and some amazing undulations across the length of the track, I for one would love to fang something fast around the Circuit of the Americas.
I have two words for you. Eau Rouge.
Downhill off the first corner into a sweeping left to right into left going up the hill, Eau Rouge alone puts Spa into any list of great tracks. Again, it’s a place drivers talk about and that’s the best indication you’ll get of a great track.
The modern track is 7km long and while there is a lot of history in the area and in different iterations of the track, the modern layout still packs a powerful punch and makes for some great racing.
Off the start you’ve got almost the complete opposite of the Circuit of the Americas, with a tight right turn onto the old home-straight into Eau Rouge. That turn is almost always the place where carbon-fibre goes flying on the opening lap of an F1 race.
There is something majestic about the Monaco Grand Prix circuit. There’s not a lot of passing there, if any, but when you see the drivers put their lives in the hands of the engineers and designers who are building cars that can grip through corners and race along straights at such speeds on such a tight circuit you have to respect not just the drivers, but the track itself.
Impossible to change given it’s built on the roads of a tightly packed principality, Formula One will forever visit the streets of Monaco despite the move to vast open spaces and long sweeping bends. You could tell from the Joy a Monaco victory brought to someone like Mark Webber that this place was special. And it is. Take a ride on-board with any F1 car and you’ll see why.
Perhaps more debatable?
Ayrton Senna’s home track – that says enough right? There are two very special parts of this track in my view.
Firstly, the Senna S’. The first turn, and the subsequent right hander make for an awesome start, and a great passing opportunity mid-race. We also tend to see a great dash through the turns from drivers looking for a pass while a competitor dashes out of the pits.
Secondly, the main straight, or more specifically the lead-up to it. A couple of gentle left kinks including the fast pit entry make this an amazing bit of race-track.
It’s getting on in years, and the place could do with a bit of a spring clean, but as a racetrack, it’s got the goods.
We’ve all put our Scalextric into a figure eight right? Where else do you see that these days? Suzuka of course. The cross over makes the track map look awesome, but on the track itself there are a series of challenging corners which make it one of the best.
The first turn isn’t as straight forward as it might seem, and is then followed by a series of “s” bends which also come follow some undulations along the way. Add to that a tight hairpin, and a less than simple “spoon” onto a long straight, into a super slow right left back onto the main straight.
While the new layout is still taking time to grow on me, the overall concept and layout of Silverstone retain the charm of the original place. Long straights based around an airport layout, with some great curves and high-speed corners Silverstone is a circuit for both drivers and cars.
Plus, with corners like Maggotts, Becketts and Stowe, I just can’t leave it out.
Still drivable, but not quite race-ready
If you’ve driven a racing simulation, you’ve seen the Nordshleife. 20km of racetrack which is nothing short of challenging at almost every turn.
While the modern-day Nurburgring is great, the Norshleife is simply special. As it’s still driven today, but amateurs and car companies alike to set strong and solid times to prove themselves or their car.
It’s on the bucket list – that’s enough to qualify it.
Sadly the best is behind it
In 2002 the Hockenheim track changed forever. It’s still fast, it’s still got a great feel to it, but it’s not the top-ten track that it was.
The original circuit was long and insanely fast. With the highest speeds in motorsport, stilted only by some small chicanes it’s one of those tracks I always loaded on the original F1 computer games.