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F1 Announces Street Circuit in Madrid to Replace Spanish Grand Prix in 2026

Written by Traber Burns, Edited by Hugh W

While the rumor mill had been spinning for a while, today marked the official confirmation of the Madrid Grand Prix. Beginning in 2026 and running through to 20XX, the Spanish Grand Prix at Catalunya will be replaced by a street circuit in the Spanish capital.

(Insert some sort of comment from F1 or Spanish Grand Prix organization or Madrid city council here)

Fans have given the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya a rough reputation. For one, the races themselves have been lackluster in action. In the past decade, drivers have struggled to overtake, and even when they did, the vast majority have been the result of breezing by a driver with older tires via DRS.

Cutting out the final chicane was a necessary and successful step which resulted in overtaking increasing by 35% from 2022, but it still didn’t change the fact that nearly all overtakes were on the DRS-assisted front straight.

That’s not to say there haven’t been exciting races. The Spanish heat has created some intriguing strategy drama at times, but for some, it’s still not enough.

Credit - Darren Heath/Getty Images

Another issue that’s plagued Catalunya is the fact that it’s been F1’s pre-season testing ground for quite a few years. This usually resulted in teams having so much data that the sessions turned out rather predictable, even if Friday was a washout. The less unknowns for the constructors, the more uniform the results tables look.

Most notably in 2022, there were major issues exposed at the track, outside of the layout itself. After many years of declining attendance, the Grand Prix sold out. On top of that, temperatures on the Sunday reached up to 37.2°C (98°F), which was unusually high for the area. It became clear post-race that the track organisers hadn’t prepared for the heat and increased attendance.

Fans reported long queues for public transport, parking queues as high as two hours, a lack of food and water amenities, and extraordinarily long lines for bathrooms of questionable quality. 2023 saw a fix to a lot of these issues, but the traffic and public transportation still need some work. Even if these get fixed, 2022 certainly did not help the reputation of the Catalunya circuit.

What about the new proposal? Well, the race has not even had a official commencement before the proposed layout went through a change. The original layout cut through the middle of a roundabout, but the new layout included said roundabout which will force drivers to navigate a tight right-left-right chicane.

The second sector originally had a long, sweeping, 180-degree right hander, but this has been removed for a 90-degree left followed by an esses section. Overall, organisers believe the new spectacle itself will create more excitement for F1 in Spain.

The race is following the Las Vegas approach, as it’s been proposed to take place at night, which would mark F1’s first European night race. It also follows F1’s latest trend which has been creating apprehension amongst and long-time fans: Replacing traditional racetracks with street circuits.

While Catalunya isn’t at the top of the list of too many, it’s still worrisome for those who don’t want to see a loss to traditional venues like Spa, Silverstone, Monza, and more.

It’s not totally out of the blue however, as the city was the first hosts of “The Exhibition,” a museum which, most famously, holds what remains of Romain Grosjean’s car from his 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix crash. Get ready Madrid. Starting in 2026, you’ll have the eyes of the F1 world upon you.

Image Credits - SOPA Images/Getty Images

“Madrid is an incredible city with amazing sporting and cultural heritage, and today’s announcement begins an exciting new chapter for F1 in Spain,” said Stefano Domenicali, President and CEO of Formula 1, speaking at the launch of the new race in Madrid.

“I would like to thank the team at IFEMA MADRID, the Regional Government of Madrid and the city’s Mayor for putting together a fantastic proposal. It truly epitomises Formula 1’s vision to create a multi-day spectacle of sport and entertainment that delivers maximum value for fans and embraces innovation and sustainability.”


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