F1 circuits history part 11: 1990-3

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Ayrton Senna, McLaren-Ford, Interlagos, 1993In the early 1990s several tracks appeared on the F1 calendar that have remained a part of F1 ever since: the revised Interlagos circuit in Brazil, the Catalunya track in Spain, and France’s Circuit de Nevers in Magny-Cours, which has remained for 2008 despite the opposition of Bernie Ecclestone.

Other tracks came and went: the street track at Phoenix in America was dropped after three races, and the revised Kyalami circuit in South Africa saw only two events.

Read more about the history of F1 tracks below.


The Brazilian Grand Prix returned to Ayrton Senna?s home town of Sao Paulo in 1990, on a shortened version of the circuit last used in 1980. The fast opening turn was gone, replace by an S-bend that transferred the cars onto another part of the circuit. But the character of the original track remained much the same.

The vast numbers of Senna?s countrymen that turned out to watch the first race at the new track were disappointed as the Brazilian?s arch-rival Alain Prost won the race. Senna led early on, but lost time following a collision with Saturo Nakajima.

Interlagos remains much the same today, although the sixth turn Ferradura has been re-profiled. The entire circuit was resurfaced this year, removing many of the punishing bumps that drivers had complained about, allowing them to run lower ride heights and cut lap times even further.

The weather can throw up surprises, too. Very wet Sundays created dramatic races in 1993, 1996 and 2003. In the latter deep water running across the track at turn three pitched driver after driver into the barrier ?ǣ including Juan Pablo Montoya and Michael Schumacher.

Flaws such as this and the general condition of the infrastructure have led some people to question why Interlagos remains on the F1 calendar when venues such as Silverstone are constantly criticised by Bernie Ecclestone for the quality of their facilities. But its status as one of F1?s best modern tracks is hard to dispute.

Read about other F1 fans’ experience of watching races at the Aut???dromo Jos?? Carlos Pace, Interlagos


The final United States Grand Prix was held at Pheonix in 1991. It was the first race of the season, held on a revised circuit to reduce the frequency of right-angle bends, and yet still the locals were uninterested. A nearby ostrich race reportedly drew a larger crowd.

After that the United States Grand Prix was off the calendar until 2000.


The French Grand Prix changed homes in 1991 from Paul Ricard to Magny-Cours. It was believed that many of President Mitterand?s supporters did rather well out of the building contracts to improve the former club circuit in the Nevers region.

It was notable for having a few oddly-placed chicanes, including one immediately after the Adelaide hairpin that was removed after the inaugural 1991 event. That first race was something of a hit, with home hero Prost and Nigel Mansell scrapping for the lead, but since then Magny-Cours has produced some largely forgettable races.

This is largely due to the fact that modern F1 cars struggle to follow each other closely through the fast opening bends (Grande Courbe and Estoril) to be able to make a pass into Adelaide. Passing anyway else on the circuit is virtually unheard of, though Fernando Alonso put a stunning move on Nick Heidfeld at the fast Imola chicane in last year?s race.

Read about other F1 fans’ experience of watching races at the Circuit de Nevers, Magny-Cours


The ultra-fast Silverstone finally came to an end in 1991, with substantial reconstruction work leaving no corner of the track untouched. But though it was no longer feasible to have a totally high-speed circuit, the circuit owners did their best to reserve some quick bends.

Becketts was transformed into a wickedly rapid five-part complex. Stowe was slightly extended to insert a slow corner before Club. The new stadium section on the site of the old Woodcote chicane was less popular, the general feeling being that it was too slow.

The track would continue to change over the following years, however, and gradually evolved into the track we know today.

Read about other F1 fans’ experience of watching races at Silverstone

Circuit de Catalunya

A brand new circuit in Montmelo near Barcelona was built to host the Spanish Grand Prix in 1991. The Circuit de Catalunya has become very well know to the teams as not only has it hosted the race every year, but it is one of the most popular venues for testing as well, and tens of thousands of kilometres are covered there by F1 teams each year.

That first race in 1991 gave us the epic sight of Mansell and Senna flying down the main straight side by side, edging ever closer to each other?s cars, each daring the other to back down.

Catalunya, however, began to suffer from the same problem as Magny-Cours. As F1 cars became more aerodynamically efficient it was no longer possible for them to go through the final fast corner on the circuit close enough for them to overtake at the end of the straight.

Despite being a relatively new circuit Catalunya needed tweaking within a matter of years to improve safety in the wake of the 1994 fatalities.

Read about other F1 fans’ experience of watching races at the Circuit de Catalunya


Kyalami in South Africa, once one of the most popular venues in Formula 1, returned to the sport after a seven-year absence in 1992. But this was now a vastly different circuit that shared only two bends with the original track ?ǣ if you look at the north-eastern corner of the circuit you can see a portion of the original track within the apex of one of the bends.

Although the new circuit was far slower than the old it would probably be considered fairly quick in 2008, given the fairly limited amount of run-off it appears to have.

New Kyalami was dropped after two races and F1 has not raced in Africa since. The track is still there, having grown an extra chicane, and it hosted one of the few GP Masters events to take place back in 2005.

Donington Park

Donington Park circuit owner Tom Wheatcroft realised his dream of holding a Formula 1 Grand Prix at the circuit in 1993, when it hosted the European Grand Prix. An extra loop was built on the club circuit, which had held many pre-war Grands Prix, to make the lap long enough for F1 cars.

The race has gone down in history as a classic. Senna weaved past four cars to take the lead on the first lap, then embarrassed the greatly superior Williams cars by winning as he pleased.

More on the 1990-1993 F1 seasons

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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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2 comments on “F1 circuits history part 11: 1990-3”

  1. He won the race lapping a 3rd placed Alain Prost in the process, and only left Damon Hill unlapped, right ahead of him, to block their possible change of places, that would favour Prost’s championship campaign (even knowing that that was only the 3rd round, Hill was a clear number two that year)

  2. the grand prix loop at Donington Park was actually built so the track could host Motorcycle Grands Prix, not with Formula 1 in mind.

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