Start shots special: Former F1 tracks

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Last year we scoured the image archives for classic pictures of F1 race starts at current grand prix venues.

In the last edition of the series, look back on a dozen popular former F1 circuits and how they changed before the sport eventually moved on.

Adelaide, Australia

Start, Adelaide, 1985

The Adelaide street circuit was F1’s first home in Australia. Its first and last races were won by Williams – Keke Rosberg took the honours in 1985 and Damon Hill did so ten years later.

Start, Adelaide, 1992

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Anderstorp, Sweden

Start, Anderstorp, 1973

Sweden’s Anderstorp circuit, which was partly build on a runway, hosted its first F1 race in 1973 with home hero Ronnie Peterson on pole position.

The track had a habit of producing unusual results such as the only win’s for Tyrrell’s P34 six wheeler (1976) and Brabham’s BT46B ‘fan car’ (1978). It had a few strange features as well, such as separate start and finish lines and a pit lane in which the cars entered their garages on one side and exited through the other.

Start, Anderstorp, 1978

Brands Hatch, Great Britain

Start, Brands Hatch, 1968

Brands Hatch bowed out as an F1 venue in 1986 after over two decades as one of the homes of the British and European Grands Prix. As these two pictures show its facilities were developed considerably during that time, but not quickly enough to keep pace with F1’s needs.

Start, Brands Hatch, 1985

Estoril, Portugal

Start, Estoril, 1984

Estoril saw the closest ever championship conclusion when it held its first race in 1984 and the following year was the venue for Ayrton Senna’s first F1 victory in a memorable, rain-soaked race. Its penultimate race in 1995 was the first victory for Senna’s successor at Williams, David Coulthard.

Start, Estoril, 1995

Imola, Italy

Start, Imola, 1991

he carnage at Imola during the 1994 led to it and many other F1 venues undergoing widespread changes, some of which can be seen in the picture below such as the high debris fences. Its final F1 race was in 2006, but unlike most of these former circuits it still has the necessary FIA licence to hold F1 races.

Start, Imola, 2003

Indianapolis, USA

Start, Indianapolis, 2004

Formula One cars roared down the straight on the Indianapolis oval – in the wrong direction – at the start of every United States Grand Prix between 2000 and 2007. However the penultimate visit saw a multi-car crash triggered by McLaren’s Juan Pablo Montoya, who announced his immediate retirement from F1 a few days later.

Jacarepagua, Brazil

Formation lap, Jacarepagua, 1985

Rio de Janeiro’s grand prix circuit was a flatter, less well-liked alternative to Interlagos in Sao Paulo, and held ten races before F1 moved on after 1989. That year Philippe Streiff was paralysed in a crash while testing his Tyrrell at the track.

An oval configuration was later added to the track which went on to hold CART IndyCar races. Sadly the circuit has now been torn up to be used as a site for this year’s Olympic Games.

Start, Jacarepagua, 1989

Kyalami, South Africa

Start, Kyalami, 1985

The last grand prix on the the original configuration of the Kyalami circuit took place amid rising disquiet over F1’s continued presence in South Africa under the Apartheid regime. It returned for two races on a truncated version of the circuit in 1992 and 1993.

Magny-Cours (Circuit Nevers), France

Start, Magny-Cours, 2001

Formula One has been without a French Grand Prix for eight years. Magny-Cours was the last home for France’s round of the world championship, having taken over from Paul Ricard in 1991 thanks to the support of then-president Francois Mitterand. A handful of F1 teams tested there in 2013.

Start, Magny-Cours, 2008

Paul Ricard, France

Start, Paul Ricard, 1983

The Paul Ricard circuit was shortened in 1986 after a crash during testing which claimed the life of Elio de Angelis. The fast Verrerie turns at the start of the lap were replaced by a sharp right-hander which can be seen below. The change also reduced the length of a long Mistral straight, and made for one of the shortest lap times seen in F1.

Start, Paul Ricard, 1987

Zandvoort, The Netherlands

Start, Zandvoort, 1965

The only home of the Dutch Grand Prix, Zandvoort was used for over three decades until F1 left it behind after 1985. In the sixties the cars started three-abreast on the main straight; by the eighties the narrowness of the start area was a clear shortcoming. The funnel effect caused by the pit wall pinched Clay Regazzoni into Rene Arnoux’s Renault, leaving the Williams driver without a front-left wheel.

Start, Zandvoort, 1979

Zolder, Belgium

Start, Zolder, 1978

When F1 cars outgrew the original, ultra-fast Spa-Francorchamps, Zolder stepped in to host the Belgian Grand Prix. The venue gained notoriety after Gilles Villeneuve was killed during qualifying in 1982. A year later F1 raced at the revised Spa for the first time, and after a farewell visit to Zolder in 1984 it never returned.

Over to you

What are your memories of these tracks? Did you see F1 race at any of them?

Have your say in the comments.

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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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18 comments on “Start shots special: Former F1 tracks”

  1. I remember seeing an even earlier shot of a start at Rio. Thought it was always beautiful with the lush mountains/hills in the background. It’s too bad it has been demolished for the something that will most likely be used for 2 weeks and never again.

  2. For half a second I wondered why Ralf Schumacher’s helmet had a black element on it for the 2003 San Marino grand prix, but then I remembered that’s the race where the Schumachers qualified 1st and 2nd, then left the circuit to spend time with their mother before she passed, then flew back to Imola for the race. That lap 1 fight felt very surreal, knowing that they had just lost their mother and were now fighting on track.

    I was already a Michael Schumacher fan at this point, but I gained a lot of respect for them as professionals and people that weekend.

  3. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    6th January 2016, 13:07

    Of those circuits I find myself pining for only one: Brands Hatch.

    It is, and I will hear no arguments on this point, one of the top five racetracks in the world. Its sinuous flow of extremely high-speed corners that traverse hills and cambers can only be matched by the layout that is in my opinion the best in the world: Suzuka.

    However, as F1 became ever more grippy, the prospect for any meaningful wheel-to-wheel combat became remote, especially with absence of any major braking zone. Whilst I would love to see a modern F1 demonstration run on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, I will concede that Grand Prix racing has outgrown the layout and the safety. That said, it is a shame, now that DTM and European F3 no longer race on the circuit, that the only international series on the calender is the GT3 Blancpain Sprint Series.

    1. @william-brierty I thoroughly agree. It is one of the best there, although I do think it’s a closer competition (with Mount Panorama and Watkins Glen also vying for a place at the top of my list.) And I also agree that it’s no longer suitable for F1 – and I would not even want it to be, nobody should touch it anymore. Just look at what the poor Hermanos Rodriguez became just to be able to lure F1 again.

      But as for the actual wheel to wheel battles at Brands, Senna and Rosberg still made it look interesting only one year prior to its axe… ;)

      1. Let’s not forget mosport and oulton park either. Both are amazing flowing tracks with lots of elevation changes which is becoming a rare thing on modern race tracks. Also mosport’s turn 2 is a bit like the turn one in brands hatch. Except faster, scarier and a lore more dangerous. Oulton has its fast corners too and it’s old knickerbrook corner was probably one of the most dangerous in the whole sport. While the new track has been somewhat neutered with chicanes it is still very enjoyable to drive if you compare it to something like zolder for example which has been ruined with the chicanes imho.

    2. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you say – Brands Hatch is a wonderful racetrack with character, a rich history, terrific vantage points & lots of opportunities to get close to the action. Part of me would love to see modern F1 race there again, but it would be ruined in the process, especially if Bernie & Tilke went anywhere near it!

      1. The thought of Tilke butchering Brands Hatch sends chills down my spine!

  4. The track I really miss the most is the old Österreichring. The A1ring as it now is ok but is a pale shadow of it’s former self.

    I was lucky enough to go there for the Grand Prix in 76 and couple of times in the 80’s.

    Watching F1 cars hurtle through the 76 version of Hella Licht and the Bosch Kurve is forever imprinted on my mind. The closest we have to it today is Spa.

    1. Yes, the Österreichring was an unbelieveable masterpiece – in fact, I’m working on it as we speak, creating the circuit for Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix 4.

      It was magnificent, no wonder Alain Prost said that all tracks can be changed, but the Österreichring should remain the same.

      As I’ve said below a YouTube video of a race there, the fact that even its chopped up version is a stand-out from the current calendar is a testament to both the grandeur of the original circuit and the blandness of the current crop of tracks.

  5. Oh, how badly that 1989 start at Jacarepagua turned out to be, haha. :)

    No kerb-hopping in Adelaide with single-seaters.

    I miss Brands Hatch, the original Imola and the original Kyalami. Kyalami especially was a beast. I still feel there never was (and probably never will be) a circuit that conveyed a sense of speed quite like the original Kyalami’s Barbeque and Jukskei corners – and downhill main straight – did.

    Zandvoort was also a frenetic place in its original design – a high-speed blast, like Brands Hatch and Spa.

  6. As I was only beginning to consciously process what was going on on the TV during the latter half of the 80ies, I do fondly remember Adelaide and Paul Ricard as tracks that led to more entertaining races, and I do remember feeling uncomfortable about Imola ever since the ´89-crash of Berger, seriously being worried about my then favourite driver, not getting an answer to the “Is he still alive?”-question. I don´t really remember Jacarepagua, though.
    The truncated Kyalami-track notably featured the only time Prost, Senna and Schumacher went directly wheel to wheel in a threeway fight (1993, first stint), the historical dimension of this of course unknown at the time, and the battle unfortunately cut short due to retirements. A good race to rewatch the opening laps and then fall asleep to later on with the soothing homey sound of some F1.

    Thanks to modern gaming tracks like Brands Hatch and Zandvoort are explorable for late-born people, too, and they feel great. However, this list makes me wonder whether Tilke deserves his bad reputation. The additions pre-Tilke, but post mid-80ies already were quite a lot less thrilling than older tracks, Magny Cours or the Indy-infield-course being showcased here. Estoril wasn´t that great, Kyalami wasn´t that great, the Nürburgring-GP-track obviously nowhere near the excitement of the Nordschleife, and there were things like Aida… the streamlining of tracks set in way before Tilke, and it may as well be completely outside the possibilities given to him to help it much.

    1. @crammond Indeed, the classical era of race track design ended with the construction of the Österreichring in 1969. Paul Ricard was conceived barely a year later and was as different as chalk and cheese.

      There were a few exceptions , such as the Spa and Donington Park re-designs, but in general, the Ricard set a new standard not only in terms of safety features and hospitality (modern boxes, for example), but also – sadly – in terms of layout design. Gone were the heavy cambers, the steep elevation changes, the increasing radius corners and the dominance of high-speed corners as a rule. Paul Ricard introduced the low-to-medium speed corners as the dominant layout feature with next to no elevation change or banking and quite some decreasing radius thrown in between. Circuits built between 1970 and the mid-1990s basically copied that formula.

      Compare that with the likes of Interlagos, Zandvoort, Silverstone, Oulton Park, Watkins Glen, Phillip Island, VIR, Lime Rock Park, Laguna Seca, Brands Hatch, Mosport, Kyalami, Suzuka, Mont Tremblant, Fuji and the list goes on and on… You can easily spot the difference.

  7. Estoril was awful, the layout was uninspiring at best, in a way it was modern but it was also not modern enough, no character. Indianapolis was an odd one yet, the track had one interesting element.

  8. Love seeing Clark, Hill, Ginther and Gurney at the the drivers waiting for the start at Zandvoort 1965, all looking right, waiting for the flag to drop…

  9. In terms of driving sims/games, Imola in Assetto Corsa might be one of my favorites, as was Magny-Cours in GP4 and GTR2. They’re both flowing tracks with a great variety of challenging and interesting corners. Which, sadly, is part of the reason why they weren’t so great as F1 tracks – especially in the aero-heavy 2000s.

  10. Another former F1 circuit that has mostly been forgotten by most people is the No. 15 variant of the Buenos Aires Autodrome, the one used from 1974-1981. That was a truly great circuit- most people unfortunately remember the crap ’90s version that was innapropriate for F1 racing. The first two corners were two nearly flat out and slightly banked right-left S curves, and then onto a flat-out loop that went around a lake, where the cars were flat out for 45 seconds. Here’s a link: (this one is onboard)

    A current F1 circuit that has also been truncated is Interlagos. The original 4.9 mile Interlagos circuit had a whole lot of very fast corners, including the first two corners, both of which were nearly flat out and very steeply banked.
    Here is a link to the first lap of the ’79 race:

  11. great article bringing back lots of memories, especially from Estoril where I attended my first few GP

    couple of corrections

    Rio – Streiff’s tragic accident was in an AGS, not a Tyrrell

    Indy – My recollection is that after the 2006 race Montoya announced he was moving to NASCAR in 2007 and then separately Ron Dennis effectively fired him?

  12. Indianapolis? Come on, delete that and put in some photographs of the grand-daddy Classic of them all, Watkins Glen

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