Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Baku City Circuit, 2018

Why Formula 1 is falling for street races

2018 F1 season

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The number of street circuits on the F1 calendar looks set to rise as Liberty Media pursues more races in new venues.

The sport’s commercial rights holder is trying to add a race in Miami to the 2019 F1 calendar. Copenhagen is being considered for a 2020 race, though its proposed track has hit a snag as the proposed paddock complex may be too close to the nearby parliament building.

Several other potential street races have also been mooted. Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey has said future races in the USA are likely to be on street tracks.

While races on permanent circuits easily outnumber those on temporary facilities at present, that could change quickly if a trend for adding more street races becomes established. But as far as F1 teams are concerned, Liberty Media appears to be pushing at an open door when it comes to introducing more street races.

Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe believes street races add much-needed variety to the F1 calendar.

“I think bringing races to or adjacent to city centres where there’s a large population and lots of different things to do is a great idea,” he said. “You make the race into much more of a destination than simply a sporting event. That’s what gives it a lot more breadth and more fans that can come and make a much bigger weekend out of it.

“Monaco is a shining example of that but we [also] see that with Singapore, another great example. Yes it gets away from the tradition of a purist racing track like Spa and Silverstone but we need some of each.

“Part of the interest of Formula One is a wide range of interest: fans that like those sort of glamorous events, fans that love the purity of a lap around Spa, and I think we can have it all.”

The Miami race which Liberty Media is keenly pursuing would be an ideal addition to the calendar, Lowe added. “I would welcome more races in the USA. It’s a huge market in which Formula One has not really had a great presence over the years.”

The newest street circuit to join the calendar is Baku. While its inaugural race was a processional affair, the last two were much livelier.

Aspiring race promoters appear to have taken note. The proposed layouts for races in Miami and Copenhagen have clearly taken inspiration from Baku’s long straights in pursuit of similar action-packed races.

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Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monaco, 2018
Why Liberty Media’s street race agenda will give F1 a legacy problem
Mercedes’ executive director Toto Wolff is a fan of the approach. “If you look at Baku, how the circuit is laid out with the long straight, it provides spectacular racing,” he said.

Lowe is also keen on the Azerbaijan race, but warned against making every grand prix a “lottery”.

“Baku has become a really brilliant addition to the calendar, turning in an exciting race every year with all sorts of incidents and variety,” he said.

“I don’t think you want that every time, you do want some circuits where there’s a straightforward race and the quickest car is definitely going to win. Because if every race was a lottery I think people would get a bit fed up.”

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2018 F1 season

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38 comments on “Why Formula 1 is falling for street races”

  1. I love street race: Melbourne, Montreal, Spa.

    1. *races

      But it should become a ‘sell my country/city’ bonanza.
      Monaco is special (poor race, great venue, has to stay for historic/glamour reasons). But even though Singapore (at night) & Baku (surprise, surprise) turned out to be a lot better than feared, we should keep it to a minimum.
      Commercially, they could organise every race in a city centre. But that is already the domain of formula E, and not where the F1 should go.
      Racing wise a good circuit (Suzuka) and the right cars (hopefully 2019) will be the best for racing and for the fans.

      1. @coldfly I get the comparison for Formula E which I know for most is seem as a pejorative ;) but I also think that cities are a great option with the right layout in place. Furthermore, I’d rather see more Bakus than more Sochi GP, or South Korea, or other lame locations at lame tracks.

        1. Sochi is a street track, like Valencia…

    2. @coldfly Spa-Francorchamps is a permanent circuit, though, while Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve can’t really be regarded as a temporary (street) circuit as it isn’t really in use for the everyday traffic like Albert Park, Baku, Monaco, and Singapore.

      1. I thought it was clear that it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, @jerejj :-J
        All three are real circuits but used as open road (Melbourne) or bike path (Montreal) either now or in the past (Spa).

        1. @coldfly Yes, although I assumed that to be the case, I still decided to reply with the wording I did just in case, LOL.

  2. Not a fan of the modern st circuits. They are to narrow leaving even less room to overtake, even a minor mistake can end a drivers race. The facilitates are comprised because they are all temps and the atmosphere is definitely lacking, Monaco would be the only possible exception.
    But I’m arguing against the inevitable but….C’est la vie let the show go on.

    1. a minor mistake can end a drivers race

      I’d argue that is compelling (provided, of course, drivers are in a position to make mistakes if the circumstances allow them to push)

  3. Street races are also what makes F1 really green. Hybrid technology cannot compensate for all the pollution created by the thousands of cars that bring the spectators to some of the traditional venues + the traffic jams are annoying (I think I spent an hour at Hockenheim just to get out of the car park). Modern and effective public transport is a much better solution and a lot of big cities have it.

    1. But there is no good reason why a more remote track cannot have it too – allowing for space and will to invest into that – see the Shanghai track that has great access by public transport @girts.

      You are right, that it IS an advantage that there already is public transport there to bring people to a street circuit though.

      1. @bascb You are absolutely right but obviously cities are more likely to have an extensive rail network / underground that is able to service a large amount of people at once (Shanghai track is located in an urban area, too). I am not sure if e.g. Spa could ever be part of such a network. That said, I agree that street circuits are not necessarily the only solution in this regard.

        1. Well, yeah @girts. But remember, when the Chinese track was built, it was miles away from anything in reclaimed marshland. Then they built the track and connected it to public transport and now it is surrounded by an urban area (probably what the promotors hoped to have happen in Korea!).

          Now surely Spa is not likely to ever get that – it is rather more fit to for a tourist destination than an urban area. But it IS the plan to make Zandvoort work, if at all. And it could be made to work for a track like Austin or It kind of works for Monza too. And it certainly works for the Mexican track already. So you don’t need to have a street track to make that work.

    2. there is no such thing as green racing. It is either pollution or not.
      Its either transportation or not. Formula 1 is for entertainment. Not for saving the planet.

  4. pastaman (@)
    20th June 2018, 12:19

    This article feels like deja vu

    1. @pastaman Precisely, and that’s because this is basically nothing but a ‘rehash’ of an earlier article posted not too long ago.

      1. This is pretty much the opposite of a rehash—on the contrary, it has original, fresh reporting with quotes from two major figures in the paddock on a topic that generates a lot of discussion for fans and is crucial to the future of the sport. Perhaps the lede is buried a bit, but it’s newsworthy because it provides evidence that Liberty has solid support from the teams in its agenda of pursuing more street races—and that they are couching that support not in commercial terms, but also from a racing standpoint.

        Of course, two quoted sources is not a comprehensive survey, but I also don’t think Dieter would write the sentence, “But as far as F1 teams are concerned, Liberty Media appears to be pushing at an open door when it comes to introducing more street races,” without a solid sense of the feeling amongst the teams from many other conversations. We’ve heard from Liberty and now Tilke state their case for street races, and we know Lewis loves Miami, but this is an angle I haven’t seen covered elsewhere.

        1. Well put, I’d say it further develops the story; we knew liberty was eager, but indeed, didn’t know the buy-in from the paddock, nor did we have this solid reasoning for why (one can disagree, but it’s at least not just because).

  5. I am a fan who started to watch F1 in the 70s.

    I have to say that the suggestion of a balance between street and traditional circuits is absolutely the right approach. I love SPA as an example of a race worth watching and one that the drivers seem to appreciate. It is also a venue that a simple mistake can mean the spectacular end of your race (as we have seen in recent races), which is what most complain about when discussing street circuits.

    As a veteran viewer though I do have one opinion slightly different from many of my peers. For heavens sake please drop Monaco – yes it is historic, but so is the McLaren that James Hunt won the world championship in, that doesn’t mean the car should still be racing. F1 has outgrown the car and I’m sorry, but it has wholly outgrown Monaco. Baku have shown how a street circuit should deliver in the last 2 years and is one of my modern favourites already.

    Anyway – its just an opinion :)

  6. I totally agree with what Paddy Lowe says – there should be some traditional venues for purists, but there also should be much more destination street races than now. Last year I was at Monza – and I’m never coming back – looooong tiresome walks, overcrowded trains, toilets, food stands, and not much to do at the venue – man, I was completely exhausted when I got back to my hotel, but for all the wrong reasons. It was such a miserable experience, I decided I will never ever again go to a race unless it’s a street track. For comparison, the year before I was in Baku. The race was crap, but since it was in the middle of the city, the pill was easy to swallow. I rejoined a group of friends just minutes after leaving the premise, and we went on partying, visiting cultural places and restaurants right next to the track.

    1. @zimkazimka I’ve only been to permanent circuits so far, with Monza being one of them (the other two being Hungaroring and Yas Marina Circuit), and I’d consider going to either one of those again especially the latter, but I’d be willing to go to Monza again as well.

    2. It’s really difficult to please everyone. So far I’ve been to Interlagos, Monza, Hungaroring, Red Bull Ring (A1 Ring), Spa and Suzuka. From all of these tracks, Interlagos is the one with the easiest access by public transport – Suzuka is also pretty good with train access, but staying in Suzuka is very expensive. However, in my opinion, there is nothing like a weekend in a track that is far from urban centers. The possibility of camping in the surroundings of some european tracks is what really makes everything special. You are far away from everything that is related to big cities, and you are basically immersed in this F1 atmosphere. You can do a barbecue with your friends, get to meet nice people from different countries, and of course, watch a race on sunday. Of course, people might not like camping or dirty toilettes – we are 7 billion on this planet – but a race at the city center is for me really unattractive (exception made to Sao Paulo, in my home country).

      1. I totally see how you can enjoy this if you are in a group of similar minded people. All the walking, trains, toilets, etc. – all of that immediately become part of an adventure if you can laugh along with your friends, who all came with the same goal – to see the race. But unfortunately, NONE of my friends have an interest in Formula 1 or motorsport in general. In this sense, a city race is a savior, when you can split up for four hours and then go on partying immediately afterward, without getting irritated and exhausted.

    3. I have been to Hockenheim several times now, and I think it is pretty good, provided you can live with a camping-weekend, where there are a lot of (aging) fans who still pine for M.Schumacher, with music of the their younger years, and loads of beer (not to mention vans stuffed with fridge+big boxes for loud music), mixed with equally loud but slightly more mixed JostheBoss!!!+Max Verstappen fans – note that most are, at heart, friendly. But, apart from drink etc., in between racing, you do have to find your own fun.

      Last year we instead went to Austria with the family, had a hotel in the mountains for a week, closed off with the GP – was great; need a car, but very relaxed, and Red Bull had it pretty well organised, not a bore at all.

  7. Wasn’t there already an article very similar to this one about this particular topic posted on this site relatively recently? This is basically nothing but a rehash of an old(er) article, so what was the point to post this, LOL?

  8. RogerRichards
    20th June 2018, 14:54

    they should go look at how this approach worked out for champcar.

    they started moving away from traditional/permanent venues in favour of street circuits and all it did is turn the fanbase off & helped lead to that series decline & closure after 2007.

    series officials went on about how they wanted a nice mix & balance but it always felt skewed in favor of some truly awful street circuits (anyone remember san jose?).

  9. @keithcollantine
    You both make a great observation, as always guys, but what is your personal preference??

    I’m spilt to be honest, personal experiences:
    Suzuka: hard to get to unless you are in F1 and can stay at Suzuka (few can) so we travelled each day from Nagoya- this was at least one hour each day, first one was two hours, but this was worth it to see such a great F1 circuit.

    Melbourne: can stay at the Crown where the drivers stay and its 10min in a taxi or Uber to the circuit. Last few years stayed walking distance to the track. Its easy but Albert Park isn’t the greatest for F1 (Adelaide is better).

    Monaco: Race isn’t great normally on TV but this place is simply amazing to see live – TV doesn’t give it justice! We walked 10 min each day to & from track. Easy access for less than most people think.

    Singapore: Amazing & expensive. Probably the ultimate “City & F1 race” you will get, we walked to the track each day and that was great, not awesome viewing from T3 but Ok. A must visit though- awesome country to see :)

    Catalunya: Barcelona is a beautiful city but as an F1 fan I just wanted to get to the track, and that’s not easy. Good example of great track but terrible access- locals are hopeless with directions. A mate of mine dished out for the F1 Experience only to find zero Taxi’s or Transfers when he was done- 50 miles from his hotel- not so nice an experience ! A guy from Red Bull saved him and got him home!

    So from my experience street v circuits has pros & cons- depends on what F1F’s want?

    1. @garns interesting observations; that bit about friend w. F1 Experience – that’s really bad! Glad Red Bull was better at PR than Barcelona!

      1. @bosyber – Yes not great is it. It was 10pm at night as well and he did think he may have been spending the night at the circuit!! Maybe Liberty should look to see if they improve fans transport to and from the circuit if its remote- people will pay for than convivence.

  10. From a drivers perspective: Street tracks are boring. Places like Sochi, Baku and Singapore have a bunch 90 degree corners with some straights. Other than walls being close in some places, drivers don’t have much opportunity to make difference. Car performance is key here. Drivers do like Monaco, because it’s not 90 degrees and walls are close absolutely everywhere (rather than say Sochi)
    Verdict: purpose build tracks like Spa, Silverstone, Interlagos, Sepang, Suzuka, COTA and even Bahrain provide a challenge to drivers with technical sections, flowing sections, elevation differences and lots of corners that require trailbraking where a driver can make a difference. Even more streettracks probably isn’t that enticing from a drivers perspective.

    From a fan/spectacle perspective: Monaco, Baku, Melbourne and Singapore are pure street circuits and need either rain or crashes to be interesting. Baku and Singapore are a bit wider than the others but normally, without rain or safety cars it’s quite boring racing to watch. Canada is more of a hybrid track that tends to produce good racing because you can fight into T1/T2, the hairpin and the final chicane (in addition to just DRS cruising past cars on the back straight,which is lame imho). None of the other street tracks really have that.
    Verdict: We already have about 25% street races on the calendar. That’ss more than enough ‘variation’ to me, especially with most of them being depended on outside factors like safety cars. Granted, some permanent tracks like Hungary, Barcelona, Paul Ricard and Abu Dhabi suck, but let’s replace those with challeging tracks!

    From a Liberty Media standpoint: Governments are less and less willing to fund F1’s enourmous fee’s and providing cars driving by castles and sky-lines and having fans spending their money in the city as they are there, provides governments with a more defensable reason to through public fuding at it. To me, F1 is a commercial endevour and should mostly be paying for itself. Yes, it puts a country on the map and a bit of fuding is justified, but not $25m+ annually (or $65m+ as is the case in Melbourne)
    Verdict: I get why Liberty is doing it, and I get why governments would fall for it, but it isn’t sustainable imho. I think F1 should lower the fee’s by 50% or more and instead take a portion of the ticket sales. That way both the promoter and Liberty are in it together and the better they do, the more they make. There’s even potential to make more than they do now, simply because a fee is a capped figure.

  11. If one looks back at the history of motor racing one will find plenty of street races as well. One important difference from what we get the impression Liberty are targeting though is that a lot of them aren’t fully city-centre venues in downtown (a la the last years of what became of CART) but instead involve parts on e.g. country roads (Spa, Reims, le Mans, Pescara etc).

    So while I think street races may well be a good thing, I hope some of the new races get held outside of town (needn’t be too far outside of town, but I wouldn’t want to see a year of driving in a pattern full of 90-degree turns between blocks. Or on a parking lot).

    (if anyone like Bhutan wants to get on the map Bahrain-style please make good use your mountains! Maybe at least throw in a scaled-up Eau Rouge or something like that on a made/modified-for-F1 highway)

  12. Why Formula 1 is falling for street races:
    1 – after India, Turkey, Korea, there were probably few people/companies/cities willing to invest into building an expensive venue to hold a expensive event during a couple of years.
    2 – street races, with its provisional facilities, were suitable to divert (in a bad and a not so bad sense) funds from municipal bodies.
    3 – as GPs apparently became less and less a racing event and more a event that involves cars, easy access to less motivated audiences – casual viewers, celebrities – is privileged.

  13. Here in the states for me. To hell with a Miami street race, and it’s proposed racing between stop signs, and traffic lights. Give me a race on the 4.0 mile road course, like Road America anytime.

  14. For me a lot of the more recent issues with purpose built circuits is track limits and the seeming lack of a challenge the modern layout presents (at least from a spectators point of view). With the removal of gravel tracks and more recently some grass, circuits have become more like car parks with white lines. Combine that with a lack of mid race rulings and you often end up with a bitter taste in the mouth by the finish. Street circuits offer little ambiguity, you run wide and you’ll likely damage your race, if not end it. Some of the European circuits offer to some extent a compromise, such as imola.
    Add stricter, less ambiguous track limits, or harsher penalties from running wide and (finances aside) purpose built circuits can be seen in a more favourable light again.

  15. So, many pro’s and con’s. My view ; why are so many good existing tracks banned because of inadequate run-off area when that’s not a problem (apparently) in a city track ?

    1. Good point.

  16. makes sense if you want to make money short term and milk the cow before it becomes just another spec series (much cheaper). then eventually sell it off

  17. If the things continue moving towards the same direction, in a bunch of year we are adapting normal roads to create F1 tracks… or what is the same, going back to the origins and doing what was done in 1950, but with better safety standards.

    Love it!

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