This should have been the weekend when Formula 1 made its hugely-anticipated return to Zandvoort for the first Dutch Grand Prix in 35 years.
Only a few years ago, the idea of Zandvoort ever hosting F1 again – at least without a huge revamp that would change its character – seemed unthinkable. But amid the colossal popularity of Max Verstappen in the Netherlands, a way was found to make it happen, and with relatively limited track alterations.
With that in mind, we tasked our writers with thinking about other circuits that we wanted to see back on the F1 calendar.
The main rule of the debate was that Zandvoort was our benchmark for practicality – the circuit had to still exist and be theoretically capable of being adjusted to an acceptable 2020s F1 standard. Here’s what we came up with
Last hosted F1 in 1995
Few had any complaints about Melbourne’s Albert Park track when F1 switched Australian homes back in 1996, but most still pined for Adelaide and wished there had been a way to keep both circuits on the calendar.
For the purposes of this feature, I’m casting aside any ‘can this country justify having two grands prix?’ practicalities and declaring that there’d be nothing wrong with a season starting in Melbourne and finishing in Adelaide – where a truncated version of the old F1 circuit still hosts Supercars.
That season-closing slot is important: despite having the finale role for 11 years, Adelaide was only twice a title decider and frankly a track this fun and challenging deserved better than to be stuck in an era of early-clinched championships. After all, the two deciders it did hold – 1986 and 1994 – were unforgettable.
And if the championship’s settled early, then by the actual finale the ‘end-of-term, not much to lose now’ vibe can mean a gloriously messy race if the venue allows for it. Abu Dhabi, frankly, doesn’t. But classically nutty Adelaide races such as its 1985 and 1995 events in particular showed how unpredictable things could get when a ‘school’s out’ F1 field hit the Australian streets. – Matt Beer
Last hosted F1 in 1986
OK, pushing the ‘Zandvoort rule’ of practicality now… I’ve been pondering at length how to make a modern F1 paddock/pitlane arrangement squeeze into Brands Hatch and can’t think of any solutions that don’t make me wince at the consequences for the character of the home of the Formula Ford Festival.
But it was Zandvoort that made me think of Brands – beautiful, fat-tyred, flame-spitting F1 cars sweeping through the barrier-lined Dutch dunes or going wheel to wheel into Tarzan are as iconic an image of classic F1 as those cars plunging over the crest into Paddock Hill bend or charging off onto the Grand Prix loop. So if Zandvoort can have some of that back, it feels unfair if Brands Hatch can’t.
So I’ve convinced myself that the combined mass public appeal of Lewis Hamilton breaking F1’s remaining records, George Russell’s rise and Lando Norris’s Twitch following getting into real-world motorsport will make it viable for the UK to host two GPs per season again (and to accept a bit of traffic chaos in Kent) and a way will be found for Brands to return with only a ‘Zandvoort 2020’ level of renovation. – MB
Last hosted F1 in 2013
This Tilkedrome outside Delhi only staged three grands prix, none of them classics, so in the mists of time many have forgotten that it was one of the better modern circuits to have appeared on the F1 calendar in the 21st century.
Lewis Hamilton made comparisons to Spa, while Jenson Button suggested one section resembled Suzuka – recommendations from two great drivers that make this track worth re-evaluating.
It was a pretty quick track too, presenting a wide variety of challenges for the driver. But perhaps the most memorable corner was the Turn 10/11 double-right hander that Button likened to Spoon Curve. This is a long, challenging corner with plenty of scope for gaining or losing time.
A return to India would also be welcome. While certainly a country of contrasts – Hamilton commented on the very obvious poverty – there’s a lot to like about it and going back there would add lustre to the world championship.
It’s a shame F1 didn’t take root when the Indian Grand Prix ran from 2011-2013, which makes a return a remote possibility – much as it’s an appealing one. – Edd Straw
Last hosted F1 in 1998
Carlos Reutemann thrashing a 1994 Ferrari around the Circuito Oscar Galvez ahead of the free practice sessions upon F1 returning to Buenos Aires in 1995 was perhaps the most visceral memory of the last Argentinian Grand Prix era.
His generation-spanning appearance stirred up some much-needed nostalgia around Argentina’s return after a 14-year absence because the track was, as feared, severely emasculated from its previous iteration (known as No.15) that hosted grands prix from 1974-1981. And that’s the layout I’d want F1 to use if it came back.
The track would actually need only a little work to revive the No.15 layout and most of it is still used for the local Turismo Carretera series that features former F1 backmarkers Gaston Mazzacane and Norberto Fontana.
The defining challenges of this 3.6-mile layout featured a sweeping right/left to begin the lap. It was here in 1979 that John Watson was given the scapegoat tag and a hefty fine thanks to a pugnacious Jean-Marie Balestre for being deemed to have triggered a race-stopping pile-up.
After the sweeps came a long straight to a parabolic curve that linked onto a returning straight that ran parallel to a local lake. From there the track became more conventional and sinuous and for sure is the only track that featured a corner named after the Argentinian percussion instrument – the Cajón!
Of course ‘Lole’ (Reutemann) never won his home race but the nation’s most famous son Juan Manuel Fangio did four times across 1954-57.
But the true king of the No.15 track configuration was surely Nelson Piquet, who silenced the Lole fans in 1981 when he, or more pertinently Brabham designer Gordon Murray, deployed the outrageous and wonderful hydro-pneumatic suspension system. – Sam Smith
Last hosted F1 in 1984
If we’re going to get all dreamy with an addition to the F1 schedule, why not a track which was the brainchild of a wrestler, developed in conjunction with a journalist and two grand prix winners and that hosted one of the best battles in motor racing history. It’s got to be Dijon-Prenois.
The beautiful flowing circuit held F1 races between 1974 and 1984, but has always struggled for funding and slipped off the calendar. However, with some investment, the track’s brilliant mix of high- and low-speed corners and a long straight could form the basis of a superb French Grand Prix.
The nearby city of Dijon is used to holding big events with a Gastronomic Fair each year attracting 200,000 people, so the facilities are there. Despite still holding racing – mostly historic now – the track needs a lick of paint and some updated safety bits. But after that, it would be ready to go. However, don’t expect wheel-banging in modern F1 cars to the same extent as Gilles Villeneuve and Rene Arnoux famously achieved… – Jack Benyon
Last hosted F1 in 2008
Is it me or has F1 had fewer wet races in recent years than in the past? One sure-fire way to solve that would be to head to Fuji towards the end of the year. The only issue here is, no matter how creative you get with a calendar, a pair of Japanese rounds at Fuji and Suzuka would be a stretch for F1 in the same year.
That massive calendar issue aside, Fuji has many of the ingredients to make a great F1 race. Its long straight would help with the current overtaking conundrum, and with the World Endurance Championship visiting annually, it has top facilities. And it’s much easier to get to than Suzuka thanks to its proximity to Tokyo, one hour and 25 minutes from Haneda Airport.
With Mount Fuji in the background, epic pictures won’t be a struggle, and Turns 4-9 would be absolutely breathtaking with the downforce modern F1 cars produce.
There are probably more fitting tracks to worry about reintroducing to the calendar, but Fuji is an F1-ready facility that would bring some weather challenges and a stunning lap in terms of scenery and corners. – JB
Last hosted F1 in 2019 and 2013
I can’t tell you exactly why I have such an affinity for two circuits that seem unremarkable in modern times. Maybe it’s the role they’ve played in some races that stick out in my memory.
If I think of the Nurburgring, I think of Kimi Raikkonen crashing out dramatically in 2005, or Markus Winkelhock leading the chaotic 2007 race.
For Hockenheim, it’s Jenson Button’s 2004 charge, including his fight with Fernando Alonso, the “Fernando is faster than you” Felipe Massa/Ferrari exchange, and the bonkers rain-hit 2019 race.
Neither track is what they once were. But they have their own charm and challenges.
The respective histories are what makes them truly great. Which, coupled with Germany’s importance to modern F1, is why I really think either of these should be on the calendar.
The decline of F1’s presence in Germany has been a gradual and sorry one. From Michael Schumacher to Sebastian Vettel, to Nico Rosberg and Mercedes, Germans are not short of success to be proud of.
In the eyes of the latest two generations of fans, Germany is a major powerhouse with no grand prix to celebrate. – Scott Mitchell
Last hosted F1 in 2006
Though Ferrari hasn’t exactly waned in popularity, the growing pressure to take F1 to new territories means it’s nearly a decade and a half now since sneaking a second Italian GP each year onto the calendar was standard practice. Which is understandable, but a shame because I think it’s time to reconsider just how good a track Imola is.
I certainly didn’t appreciate it enough when it was on the calendar, too often dismissing it as the place where an F1 season got predictable after the relative chaos of the early flyaways (a reputation not really supported by reality, but one that lodged in my late-teenage mind).
It’s a track where DRS might actually be just right for allowing a little bit passing than in the old days without making things too easy, just increasing the tension. Its chicanes are fast, high-kerbed and challenging, and its swoops and plunges would be wonderfully dramatic in the ultra-fast current cars. – MB
Last hosted F1 in 2011
The gold standard of Tilkedromes, the Turkish GP venue was never very popular with spectators but the drivers loved it.
Think Istanbul Park, and you immediately think of the blandly-named but spectacular Turn 8 left-hander. A fast, triple-apex corner 680 metres in length, this instantly established itself as one of the great corners on the grand prix calendar. Drivers would spend around 8.5s in the turn at average speeds often well in excess of 160mph with a peak g-force of around 5G.
This was a true test of man and machine, stressing both to the maximum and rewarding commitment and precision. What’s more, things could go wrong here, as Sebastian Vettel learned when he crashed after spinning at the exit of the corner during practice in 2011.
It also produced some good races and unforgettable incidents – most famously the clash between Vettel and Mark Webber while Red Bull ran first and second in the 2010 race.
Istanbul Park ticks the all the boxes for a grand prix track, including those for spectacle, challenge and storylines. – ES
Last hosted F1 in 1993
“Welcome to the searing heat of Kyalami…”
Kids of the early 1980s will recognise that phrase from Murray Walker – who with typical enthusiasm would set the scene for what usually turned out to be a memorable afternoon at the ‘My home’ (in Zulu) circuit in the Gauteng province of Johannesburg.
Crowthorne Corner, Sunset and Barbecue Bend were all challenges but it was the fearsome Jukskei Sweep where the ‘men and boys’ theory was usually played out, especially with twitching 1200bhp turbocharged cars purring at 5500 feet of altitude.
Jukskei, named after a local river, could bite back viciously. Ask Piercarlo Ghinzani, who in the words of the much-missed Clive James ‘atomised his Osella’, which ‘went up like Vesuvius’ during a morning warm-up shunt in 1984.
It was a track that rewarded bravery and commitment, which is why the likes of Ronnie Peterson, Gilles Villeneuve, Jody Scheckter and Nigel Mansell triumphed there.
The practicalities of returning the track to its original 2.55-mile length would admittedly not be easy. Much of the original start and finish straight was built over and topography reprofiled, meaning this is more a wish than a practical proposition. – SS
Last hosted F1 in 1983
Long Beach, California about 20 miles south of LA. A tough, down-to-earth but financially viable place, with the USA’s second-biggest port and sitting on top of an oil field. You get the idea just from that: sunshine, prosperity but no airs and graces, oil workers and dockers as well as big city slickers. Glamorous but gritty. My kind of town – well, city actually.
Chris Pook’s kind of town too, a Long Beach-resident Brit who back in the ‘70s thought that the city’s streets would make a great ‘Monaco in California’ sort of track, winding its way past the port in which the Queen Mary sits in permanent dock, diving down the sort of streets you’d normally associate with a car chase in an American cop show, cresting rises where the cars go light, with bumpy slow corners where they get sideways under power. But, because it’s America, streets way wider than Monaco’s, so with a decent flow and the possibility of racing wheel-to-wheel.
It hosted a Tony Brise-starring F5000 race in 1975 and the following year welcomed the unfamiliar gloss of F1, which would return every year up to ’83 (remember Keke Rosberg’s early lap 360-degree spin when trying to pass Patrick Tambay?) before F1 priced itself out of Long Beach’s range and was replaced by IndyCar – which still races on a recognisable version of the track. – Mark Hughes
Last hosted F1 in 2008
Has ever a circuit so little deserved its bad reputation as Magny-Cours? Complaints about its remote location were fair, but the dull, tedious track of conventional wisdom simply didn’t exist.
The Adelaide Hairpin at the end of the long back straight was a superb overtaking spot, and produced plenty of incidents as Michael Schumacher’s clash with Ayrton Senna in 1992 proved. In the 18 world championship races here, there was always wheel-to-wheel action there.
As for the driving challenge, Magny-Cours has a bit of everything, as you’d expect for a circuit that named most of its corners after other circuits. The fast left-hand Grande Courbe leading into the right-hand of Estoril at the start of the lap was spectacular.
There were brisk changes of direction at the Nurburgring and Imola flicks, while the seemingly innocuous right-hander at the end of the lap allowed Ayrton Senna to spin across the line to set a pole position time in 1991. In its revised form, this section allowed Rubens Barrichello to steal third place from Jarno Trulli at the end of the 2004 French Grand Prix.
A real challenge for the drivers and a circuit where things happen. An underrated (relatively) modern classic. – ES
Last hosted F1 in 2017
I’ve always loved Sepang. For ‘proper’ tracks, I think it’s arguably the best Hermann Tilke did for Formula 1. It’s certainly at least vying with Circuit of the Americas and Istanbul Park for the spot.
Sepang is a tricky circuit, from the fast entry to an ever-tightening Turn 1 through the sweeps of the middle sector and the looooooong straights and final hairpin of sector three. The straights are the only source of respite. Especially in a challenging climate.
There’s also the fact that, Malaysia being what it is, every race felt like it had the capacity to change dramatically with a sudden monsoon.
It is also regrettable that only half of Mercedes’ championship dominance could be enjoyed with a race in title sponsor Petronas’s home country.
Unfortunately, as the F1 calendar ballooned, the Malaysian GP struggled to attract a big audience. No doubt the arrival of Singapore’s night-time street race hurt Sepang’s appeal in Southeastern Asia: attendance remained north of 100,000 initially, but then slipped to unsustainable levels.
Maybe a revival and a return to its early-year slot would help. ‘Australia then Malaysia’ – that just feels right to start the season. – SM
Have we missed any of your favourite former grand prix venues? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter at @wearetherace.