In 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Formula One wasn’t able to visit many of its usual circuits, like COTA or Suzuka. To fill in these gaps we visited a lot of circuits we don’t usually see, such as Mugello, Portimao, and the Nurburgring. So we at Divebomb got thinking, what tracks would we each like to see join the F1 calendar full-time.
Written by Olly Radley, Tanishka Vashee, Thomas Bergamo, Morgan Holiday, Danny Jones, and Janvi Unni
Edited by Harshi Vashee
F1 is a “world” championship, but can we really call it that if we don’t even race in every continent (bar Antarctica for obvious reasons). That’s exactly why I’ve chosen the Kyalami Circuit in South Africa. South Africa has a long history with Formula 1, with their own race from 1934-1985, as well as being the birthplace of 1979 world champion Jody Scheckter. Kyalami itself has a history as well, hosting the race on the original circuit from 1967-1985 and then again on the modern version in 1992 and 1993. A few more tweaks were made in 2015, giving the circuit FIA Grade Two status, meaning just a few more upgrades will be required to host an F1 race.
The track is 2.8 miles in length, so a short lap time wouldn’t be a surprise. The track begins with a long straight before a hard braking zone at T1. The cars then wind uphill in a fast but tricky and technical section before a mini-straight and a flat out uphill right-hander. Another medium speed braking zone sets up a very tight and undulating left-right section followed by another braking zone at the top of the hill that leads the circuit onto a long downhill straight as the lap begins to reach its end. A medium-low speed right-hander marks the end of the straight before another fast right-hander. Finally, an uphill left-hand hairpin leads us back to the start-finish straight. The circuit is a classic fast ‘90s motorsport circuit, like Donington Park or Imola.
With Stefano Dominicali, the new F1 CEO, confirming we will be returning to Africa within 5 years, there is actually a very strong possibility Kyalami will be back in F1. For the meantime, the track is used for endurance racing. There was supposed to be a 6 hour race in the World Endurance Championship in February but it was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but back in 2019, it hosted the finale of the Intercontinental GT challenge, in a 9-hour race, suitably titled “The 9 hours of Kyalami” and we’ll see the event again in 2021 in just under a month.
The departure from South Africa in the ‘80s was because of the apartheid segregation system in operation in South Africa during that time. For the final outing at Kyalami, both French teams, Ligier and Renault, boycotted the event due to France banning sporting events down there. Only days after the ‘85 race, FIA president Jean-Marie Balestre announced that F1wouldn’t return to Kyalami. The return in the early ‘90s was prompted by the track being sold, but as costs rose, the organisers decided it better to not keep the event going. Now under new ownership, Porsche South Africa, the circuit looks very open to hosting a race in the new era of Formula One, so let’s hope that the South African Grand Prix returns to F1 as a regular fixture.
My pick is extremely biased (but hey! Who’s isn’t!) – the Buddh international circuit. Designed by German Designer, Herman Tilke, Buddh is India’s only Grade One circuit. Despite having a five year contract, the circuit only hosted three races because of tax disputes.
Located on the highway connecting Agra and Delhi, the circuit could have been the perfect place for tourism promotion. While the sport was at its peak of popularity in 2010-2012, a similar craze is igniting again.
The circuit has great flow, which makes it a visual delight to the spectators. The turns require precision and the last sector needs stable aerodynamics, making it the perfect challenge for drivers as well as engineers. However, there is a lack of overtaking spots, which a little upgrades in the design can definitely fix.
The dispute happened because the government refused to acknowledge F1 as a sport and treated it as entertainment. Thus, levying heavy entertainment taxes on Grands Prix. As a result, the tickets were quite expensive in comparison to other popular sports like cricket. The heavy price tag discouraged spectators, as a result of which the fanbase died down.
The government finally recognises motorport as a sport and not entertainment, with the arrival of new fans thanks to Drive To Survive and a revival of the old fans, the domestic market for Formula One is booming. Just one Grand Prix will be enough to capture the audience and enable growth much faster.
I’ve chosen to talk about a circuit we all miss: the Hockenheimring. Born in 1932, it’s situated in north-west Germany, more precisely near the Hockenheim city and at thirty five kilometers to Heppenheim, Sebastian Vettel’s home town.
The original layout, designed by Enrst Christ, was one of the longest tracks of the whole history (12,045 kilometers) and it was similar to a triangle. After the construction of the Ost-Kurve, the circuit took the form of an oval and they ran in an anti-clockwise sense. In addition to this, the circuit length was reduced to 7725 meters. But, due to Jim Clark death, the layout was made safer by adding some chicanes between the straights and into the Ost-Kurve and new turns have been introduced. The circuit length passed from 7725 meters to 6825 meters. The last change was done in 2001 when, after various pressures from the Formula 1 organ, Hermann Tilke re-designed the circuit, taking off the part which passed in the forest. This was done because Formula 1 complained they couldn’t expose, in the wooded area, sufficents billboards.
The fans complained about it, but the last races that were disputed here weren’t boring. Indeed the German track has given us beautiful races and even surprising moments: from the Massa’s 360 to the one of the craziest races of the last decade, passing from the 2018 edition with an unexpected finale.
But the real question is: What makes this circuit different from the others? I personally found Hockenheimring a circuit you can try to overtake in almost each turn. Apart from this, it’s a complete circuit, the first sector presents two long straights and two DRS zones. They are separated by an “almost 90 degree” turn. Turn 2 is a low-speed corner that prepares you for turns 3-4, a flat-out chicane. After that you can find the third DRS zone: as you go along the Parabolica turn, a very long left hand turn, you can activate the DRS. The Hairpin, turn 6, is surely the best overtaking spot in all the circuit; a 180 degree corner that is the slowest of the track. Then you have a straight and after that, you enter in the “Mercedes Arena”, which includes turns 7-8-9-10. Turn 7 and turn 8 are great places for trying to overtake. The third sector is the most technical of the circuit but that doesn’t mean you can try an overtake in the Mobil1 turn (turn 11) or in Sachs hairpin (turn 12). The remaining four turns are a sequence of medium-speed corners.
Another important thing that characterizes the German Grand Prix is the crowd: indeed the German people are very attached to Formula 1 and know a lot of things about it and all the minor leagues. So when there was the German GP, they demonstrated their support for F1 by buying tickets and therefore they gave financial support to the circuit.
Unfortunately, in 2020, the Hockenheimring didn’t renew their contract due to financial problems for hosting other German GPs. But the dream of all the Formula 1 fans is a comeback to the German track for another crazy and beautiful race.
I’ll go with the Circuit de la Sarthe, and no, not the 13.626 km circuit used for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but instead the 4.185 km Bugatti Circuit. The Bugatti Circuit hosted F1 in 1967, but was dropped after drivers found it too dangerous and boring. However, safety standards have clearly increased since then, and with the circuit currently hosting a grade 2 license, few upgrades would be needed for Formula 1 to make a return to one of the world’s most famous motorsport venues.
Currently, the Bugatti Circuit is most known for the annual French MotoGP race, which is set to become a night race in 2022, something F1 could replicate, in making a European race under the lights. It has previously hosted DTM and Formula Renault 3.5, and could be suitable for the 2022 cars.
The circuit incorporates the stunning Dunlop Curve, into the Dunlop Chicane, where the circuit’s primary overtaking spot is. The Circuit then breaks away from the endurance circuit at La Chapelle before a twisty section of the lap, before another potential DRS zone between Garage Vert and Chemin aux Boeufs, before a set of esses and 2 sharp corners to complete the lap.
A lap would take just over 1 minute and 15 seconds, and would have the 2nd shortest lap length of the calendar, only behind Monaco. An F1 race would have 73 laps around the circuit. Notably, the Bugatti circuit has a shorter pitlane, with the entry cutting out the final 2 corners, and meeting back onto the circuit on the entry to the Dunlop Curve, which could open up strategy if a race was held there.
With the Circuit Paul Ricard regularly being labelled as boring – in addition to the contractual issues between the circuit and FOM, whilst Magny-Cours doesn’t want to host F1 races due to its scarce location and low proximity to major areas, the Bugatti Circuit could be a realistic option if upgrades are made, and would certainly be welcomed on the F1 calendar.
The 2020 Formula 1 season saw the addition of many circuits to the calendar that were unusual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Changes had to be made, as races were cancelled right and left, and in an effort to create a legitimate Championship, the FIA searched for tracks that could be used as alternatives. One of those circuits had never held a Formula 1 race before, and that was Mugello,
Autodromo internazionale del Mugello is situated in Tuscany, Italy. It is a grade 1 circuit that is 5.245 km long and has 15 turns throughout that length. Historically, the road races held in Mugello were held on a street circuit in the town of Scarperia e San Piero from 1920 to 1970. The current circuit was opened several years later in 1974, and continued to host races for Formula 2 and Formula 3 until 2000.
In 1994 MotoGP began hosting the Italian Motorcycle Grand Prix at the Mugello Circuit and has continued to do so ever since. Valentino Rossi holds the record for most MotoGP wins at the circuit, taking seven victories from 2002 to 2008. The current lap record in the series was set by Johann Zarco in the 2021 Grand Prix, a 1:46.810.
While Scuderia Ferrari has used the track for testing cars, Formula 1 didn’t see any action at the Mugello circuit until 2012… when it was used for an in-season test. All the same, accredited drivers such as Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber praised the track greatly for it’s high speed corners and the satisfaction of driving around it. But still, no race was hosted there.
Enter the 2020 season, the FIA are in desperate search of tracks that Formula 1 can safely travel to for hosting a Grand Prix. And so the circus traveled to Tuscany to finally give Mugello its first Formula 1 race. The support races that weekend immediately made the case to put the track on the permanent calendar, with Formula 3 seeing an dramatic finale to the title battle where Oscar Piastri ultimately won out over his Prema teammate Logan Sargeant.
The inaugural Tuscan Grand Prix was record-breaking, albeit not in the most ideal way. It became the first and thus far only Formula 1 race to have two different red flags called in the same race. The first came after a safety car restart where the drivers at the back resumed racing speed before the drivers in the lead, resulting in a multiple car pileup on the start-finish straight. The wreckage was significant, with Haas’ Romain Grosjean calling it the worst thing he had ever seen. The second red flag was called after Lance Stroll’s Racing Point had a tyre failure, went into the barriers, and caught fire.
Although the race ended with a Mercedes 1-2, a staple of the turbo-hybrid era, the race was anything but boring. Red Bull’s Alex Albon scored his first podium in Formula 1, and the drama throughout ensured it was a captivating race to watch. I have confidence that I will not be alone in calling for Mugello to be instated as a permanent part of the Formula 1 calendar.
The track I think Formula One should definitely race more at is the Nurburgring. Set in the Eifel Forests of Nurburg, Germany, the Nurburgring-Nordschleife (meaning ‘Northern Loop’ in German) has a reputation of being one of the more trickier tracks to drive. Located at an altitude of 1000 feet above sea level, the circuit is 13 miles of twisting asphalt with around 160 corners and most turns being blind on entry. 3-time Formula One world champion Jackie Stewart gave the track the nickname ‘Green Hell’.
The track is divided into two parts; the Nordschleife and the GP-Strecke, the latter of which was used at the 2020 Eiffel Grand Prix. The 2 circuits, when driven together, combine to a length of about 26 kilometers, making the Nurburgring the longest permanent circuit in the world.
The best known event that takes place at the Nurburgring today is the ADAC Zurich 24-hour race, taking place on the entire length of the circuit with more than 200 cars taking part. When not being used, the track is open to the public as a one-way road with no speed limit.
Despite not being used for major motorsport events nowadays, the Nurburgring’s legacy will never be forgotten. It was at the Nurburgring-Nordschleife where Phil Hill beat the 9 minute mark in 1961, and later Niki Lauda became the first person to complete the entire track in under 7 minutes. At the Eifel Grand Prix in 2020, Lewis Hamilton described the circuit as “a fantastic track that hasn’t lost the feel of a classic circuit”. It will always be remembered as one of the most thrilling tracks in Formula One’s history.
Well those are our picks, let us know in the comments which tracks you’d like to see on the F1 calendar in the new era and regulations. From me, though, it’s bye for now.