F1 circuits history part 10: 1985-9

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In the late 1980s it often seemed like good tracks were dropped for safety reasons, and less good tracks found their way onto the calendar because money talked.

How else could you explain a circuit like the awful Phoenix street track holding three Grands Prix? Or why the slow and dull Hungaroring remains on the calendar today?

This period also saw some entertaining F1 venues, including Suzuka, the popular Adelaide street circuit and Mexico’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.


The Australian Grand Prix was first held as a around of the Formula 1 World Championship in 1985 at a street circuit in Adelaide. Keke Rosberg won the inaugural race, the last victory of his career.

The track was constructed from a combination of streets plus a purpose-built section. Although the track was tight and punishing like a typical street circuit, it also had an extremely fast street – Dequetteville Terrace – at the end of which was a tight hairpin just perfect for overtaking.

Adelaide was the scene of high drama in its 11-race lifespan. Alain Prost snatched the world championship from Nigel Mansell in the ’86 race when his rival’s tyre failed. In 1994 Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher clashed controversially, Schumacher taking the title.

It also saw two of the wettest F1 races ever. In 1989 Thierry Boutsen won in streaming wet conditions that were so bad Alain Prost refused to race, and Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet were both eliminated in crashes where they ploughed into the rear of lapped cars having failed to see them.

In 1991 it was even worse and the race was abandoned after 14 laps, Senna declared the winner of the shortest F1 race ever.

The last F1 race at Adelaide was in 1995. Hill won with a lead of two laps after the tough track caused a host of retirements.

After that the Australian Grand Prix moved to its current home at Albert Park in Melbourne. The enormous 250,000-plus crowds that used to turn out for the Grand Prix now watch the V8 Supercars race there instead.

Jerez de la Frontera

After Jarama was dropped in 1981 there was no Spanish Grand Prix until 1986. The tight Jerez circuit was not ideal for the turbo-powered cars, and poor promotion meant there was only a small crowd, but the race was a classic. Nigel Mansell chased Ayrton Senna to the flag, failing to pass him by just 0.016s at the chequered flag.

Most of the other races at the track were not as memorable, then in 1990 a terrible crash befell Martin Donnelly in practice, the Lotus driver smashing into the barriers at the fast corner near the pits. He made a slow recovery, meanwhile the Spanish Grand Prix moved to the Circuit de Catalunya in 1991. But Jerez would return later.


The modern harbour chicane was first installed on the Monte-Carlo circuit in 1986, the old, fast left-right flick being deemed too dangerous.


An innovation on the 1986 was a race in the Eastern Bloc of Soviet countries. F1 raced at the purpose-built Hungaroring which proved tight, twisty and dusty. In that first race Piquet stole the show by passing Senna at the first corner in fantastic style around the outside with his Williams in a huge opposite-lock slide.

The track was less spectacular and in its original former was even twistier than it is today.

Paul Ricard

In testing at Paul Ricard in 1986 Elio de Angeis perished in an awful crash on the fast left-right sweep at the start of the lap.

In response the circuit was abruptly shortened, cutting out the fast chicane and reducing the long Mistral straight in length as well, but it would only remain on the calendar until 1990.

Alain Prost won the final race at his home track, just as he did in 1988 after a thrilling battle with team mate Ayrton Senna.

Mexico City

The Mexican Grand Prix returned in 1986 on a slightly revised Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. The first corner was changed from a sweeping right into a right-left-riight chicane that proved a good overtaking spot. The hairpin at the far end of the circuit was also changed – and the fearsome Peraltada 180-degree bend remained.

Several driver suffered huge accidents at the corner through the years – Derek Warwick, Philippe Alliot, and Senna, the latter flipping his McLaren one year. Opposition to the track on safety grounds grew among the drivers and it was finally dropped after the 1992 race.

That event was won by Nigel Mansell, who also won the last ever F1 races at Kyalami and Brands Hatch (in 1985 and 1986 respectively).

The track remains in use for Champ Car events. Until recently they had detoured through a baseball field built within the Peraltada, and now they use the full corner albeit preceded by a chicane.

A1 Grand Prix raced there last year as well, and actually used the full Peraltada with no chicane. Say what you like about that series – there is at least one thing in its favour.


In 1987 Silverstone became the permanent home of the British Grand Prix, Brands Hatch being dropped. The old Woodcote chicane was replaced with a new, slower corner.


After a ten-year break the Japanese Grand Prix returned in 1987. The Honda-owned Suzuka Circuit took over from Fuji Speedway as the host, but it was the Ferrari of Gerhard Berger that won the inaugural event.

The track was designed by John Hugenholz, who also created another of F1’s great tracks at Zandvoort.

It was most famous for hosting the championship-deciding battles between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna from 1988-90. They kept it clean in ’88, Senna battling to pass Prost and win the race and championship. But in ’89 Prost took Senna off and in ’90 Senna returned the favour.

The chicane at the end of the lap was tweaked once or twice. The corner before that – the ultra-fast 130R, was eased in 2003 after Allan McNish’s enormous crash the year before. Michael Schumacher also crashed at the corner in 1991, chipping a bone in his neck which went undiagnosed for some time.

Suzuka was dropped after the 2006 race as the revised Fuji returned to the F1 calendar last year. But it will return to the calendar in 2009 as the two circuits will share the Japanese Grand Prix.


F1’s search for an American home finally took it to Phoenix, Arizona, where it used a fairly unimaginative street courses from 1989-91 before leaving the USA without a race for nine years.

This configuration was used for the first two years, dominated by right-angled bends. The first race, held in hot June sun, was a gruelling car breaker. Only six cars were still running after 75 laps and two hours of racing, including Christian Danner’s Rial in an improbable fourth.

Even though Phoenix-born Eddie Cheever made it onto the podium the local audience never really took to the race, which was hardly surprising given how poor the track was.

Photo: HondaRacingF1.com

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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8 comments on “F1 circuits history part 10: 1985-9”

  1. Hungary should go… Still can’t believe that a track like Silverstone is an endangered species and Hungaroring keeps its place without even a suggestion to be dropped for some better track …

  2. Why did Adelaide get replaced by Melbourne?

    To be honest I think Adelaide would get more overtaking and it’s a more punishing and interesting layout than Melbourne, not that Melbourne isn’t any good, I just think Adelaide is better.

    1. The one word that explains most things in Formula 1.


  3. Casino Square
    4th August 2009, 16:57

    Anyone notice the mini Jerez karting circuit beside the main track?

    1. Where exactly on the map is it?

  4. hey lee, why think that adelaide is better than melbourne,for me is melburne better then adelaide because is very dificult track then adelaide, and bigger then adelaide and beatiful backgrounds sea and park, if adelaide so good why 1995 no stay in calendar anymore

  5. milos are you crazy hungaroring is legendary, nelson ayrton alain nigel love that track are you from serbia?hungaroring hot wetter little forest, pit babes dont mess with hungaroring bernie, dont touch hungaroring grettins from dalmacia

  6. phoenix is no good for overtaking but good strert circiut better than singapore

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