Madrid to join F1 calendar in 2026, putting Catalunya’s future in doubt

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Formula 1 has confirmed it will race at a new 5.47-kilometre street circuit in Madrid from 2026.

The development casts doubt on the future of F1’s current Spanish Grand Prix venue, the Circuit de Catalunya, whose contract runs until 2026.

The Barcelona circuit has hosted the Spanish round of the championship every year since 1991 and was until recently a frequently-used testing venue.

But the Ifema Madrid group behind a new street circuit in Madrid has won F1 over with its plan to host a race in the country’s capital. They have secured a 10-year deal to host F1 races.

Plans have been reveals for a track featuring 20 corners based around the Ifema Exhibition Centre. Laps are projected to take around 92 seconds, though this estimate rests on the performance of F1’s new cars and power units which are due to be introduced the same year Madrid returns to the calendar.

“Madrid is an incredible city with amazing sporting and cultural heritage, and today’s announcement begins an exciting new chapter for F1 in Spain,” said F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali. “I would like to thank the team at Ifema Madrid, the Regional Government of Madrid and the city’s mayor for putting together a fantastic proposal.

“It truly epitomises Formula 1’s vision to create a multi-day spectacle of sport and entertainment that delivers maximum value for fans and embraces innovation and sustainability.”

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F1 trumpeted the accessibility of its new addition to the calendar. It projects 90% of fans will be able to reach the venue using public transport. The venue’s capacity will be around 110,000 to begin with and the promoter plans to increase that to 140,000 over its first five yars on the calendar.

F1 raced at the permanent Jarama circuit north of the city from 1968. Its last race in Madrid took place in 1981. Prior to that F1 visited two other Spanish street circuits, both in Barcelona: Pedralbes, which held a pair of rounds in the fifties, and Montjuic Park, used four times between 1969 and 1975.

Jarama was the first of three permanent tracks to take over the race. The series next visited Jerez in Cadiz between 1986 and 1990 before the event moved to Barcelona.

An F1 spokesperson said the series remains in discussions with the long-time host of the Spanish Grand Prix about its future. The Circuit de Catalunya has invested in upgrades and improvements to the configuration of its track in recent years.

Spain has previously held multiple grands prix in a season using the European Grand Prix title for its second race. This first happened at Jerez in 1994 and 1997, then for five consecutives years at a little-loved street circuit in Valencia, last used in 2012.

Catalunya’s contract to host the Spanish Grand Prix was last extended in 2021.

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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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57 comments on “Madrid to join F1 calendar in 2026, putting Catalunya’s future in doubt”

  1. To be honest the track layout doesn’t look very interesting, a lot of 90 degree corners and chicanes. Reminiscent of Sochi. The elongated corner in the far side of the circuit would be good, but it’s preceded by a very slow corner and it’s not as if the drivers will have the joy of lifting off into that corner.

    That’s the problem with street tracks, there’s not a lot of room to move when it comes to the layout and design.

    By the way Barcelona doesn’t always produce great races so maybe it’s not such a big loss.

  2. Good.
    Circuit de Catalunya hasn’t really been interesting for a long time in F1. It’s a decent driver’s circuit and naturally very useful for testing – but in terms of racing, it simply isn’t a match for modern F1.
    F1 outgrew it quite a while ago, just like many other venues similarly originally designed for cars with much, much less aero performance.
    Modern F1 machinery has vastly different circuit requirements to produce interesting and challenging races. “Race” being the most important term here.

    As always, there’s great value in bringing a new venue to the calendar. The ‘unknown’ factor is high until teams build up their data banks, and that generally equates to a more interesting event for the first couple of years.
    Let’s just hope the teams don’t ruin it too soon with all their excess data collection, management and risk aversion.

  3. Looks like F1 found a way to make us appreciate the Circuit de Catalunya some more after all.

    1. Maybe they’ll run it in the heat of summer to make Qatar look better.

  4. I sttrugle to see overtaking areas … plus I see a good number of 90-degree corners … Doesn’t compare to the Circuit de Catalunya. I wonder whether there will be races in both circuits in 2026 …

  5. So they are replacing a track had struggled with overtaking for a long time, but since they had opened up the last 2 corners again was at least a challenge to the drivers….. with another street track….. that the modern cars are too big for.
    Once again it feels like they sacrificing fans viewing experience and racing quality with money and spectacle…. which if you think about it is daft…….. especially with Portimao not far away which is a spectacular track for spectacle AND racing.

    1. the fact F1 hasn’t returned to Portimao is a travesty

      1. Craig Circuits on even somewhat remote locations aren’t a long-term thing.

      2. Any circuit requires a body to agree to host the event. F1 isn’t going to Portimao unless someone stumps up a hosting fee. These fees are, I suspect, way above true market rates because of the involvement in so many governmental organisations who pay/subsidise for them.

        So there’s no real movement to go to these circuits because to get a return on investment you’ve got to take an enormous risk. Without the boom of the last few years Silverstone, one of the only private ventures left in F1, was on real shaky grounds.

    2. It looks like F1 will become a gimmick at best in the future. We are at a point now with Liberty that it is an actual choice and strategy to go this route. This means polls and trying to reflect or influence them are something of the past as they have made up their mind. All (the sport and its integrity) down the drain for shareholder value. Soon we will have champions like Mario, Waluigi, Bowser or Princess Peach.

      Engine manufacturer teams won’t mind as they see F1 as Marketing tool at Board room level. Same goes for companies like RedBull. The only teams that could have stopped this are pure race teams like Williams and (to a somewhat lesser degree ever since they introduced road cars) McLaren.

  6. I am sure he irony is not lost on some who would have read the article and comments about which tracks would people like to be seen removed.

  7. Booo! (nothing against Madrid as a city).

  8. Another boring street circuit.

  9. Oh for the love of….. I guess any previous lessons as to why moving to these half-baked street tracks was gleefully tossed out the window

    1. “as to why moving to these half-baked street tracks is a bad idea” that should have been.

  10. There’s not a lot I would miss at Catalunya. It’s had some iconic moments such as Senna and Mansell in 1991, and Schumacher’s win in 96 in the rain, but when all is said and done it is one of F1’s weaker events. There is one thing about it that I’ll lament the loss of, though; it’s an older ‘modern’ circuit and as such really brings out the best in F1 cars, and by therefore the best in drivers. When a driver is in full flow here and the car is letting them throw it around with abandon, the result is still entertaining, especially now they’ve restored the last two corners to their former glory. That will simply not be replicated by yet another city circuit where the emphasis is on the location rather than the layout.

  11. I went to IFEMA for the F1 exhibition. A very boring and remote part of the city. It’s a cheep and cheerful way of running a street race: plenty of facilities and easy to close streets, but none of the benefits of a permanent circuit or the benefits of having a street race in a famous city centre. I’m not excited about this move at all.

    1. Another article says city part of layout is only 1.5 of 5.4 km, sure doesn’t look like that ratio in this depiction.

  12. IFEMA Madrid had pencilled a few different layouts and this is the one they go with? Looks like Dallas but somehow worse.

  13. As expected for a while & as having both Montmelo & Madrid is unlikely, the former will likely to lose out for good.
    The track configuration looks decently okay, although I wish some parts were slighter in radius.
    I guess they’re simply limited with runoff space & existing road portions.

    1. 01 ‘As expected’ / ‘As I expected’

  14. Coventry Climax
    23rd January 2024, 11:04

    Eh… lefthand or righthand?
    I can’t seem to find that in the picture.
    Same as where the little star in front of the disclaimer points to.

    On the other hand, who cares, yet another street circuit is a bad idea anyway. Apart from the racing itself, instead of the sports supporting their habitat, namely circuits, it’s killing it.

    1. It’s time to move to sports cars, where the endurance nature prevents them from organizing street races.

      1. Coventry Climax
        23rd January 2024, 17:58

        You may very well be right!

  15. Another street circuit mcheeeeeewww

  16. For crying out…another street race?! F1 is turning into FE.
    They should limit the number of street races to 5…no, 3…no 1. Monaco is enough. The rest should be old-school rural race tracks in the middle of nowhere. The father from nightclubs, celebrities and social media money, the better. That’s my dream F1.

    1. Well said!

    2. Funny, FE has said they are moving away from city circuits in favor of real circuits recently. F1 should keep Monaco definitely, maybe one or two more at most.

      USA has so many great circuits, but F1 won’t use any of them and opt for Vegas and Miami. Who are they catering to, not the real fans. F1/FIA need to get over themselves, the demand for “Pits of F1 caliber” is not doing F1 any favors.

      F1 at Road Atlanta… oh hell yes,
      Mid Ohio… a dream,
      Road America… sweet,
      Watkins long course, Just historic,
      Laguna Seca, not much finer racing anywhere… the list goes on.

      I’m sure the same can be said of great tracks in other places around the world. F1’s need to build and scrap tracks has gotten out of hand the last 20 years.

    3. I totally agree but it is not going to happen.

      In the future 65% will be street circuits according to the long term Liberty strategy for their entertainment franchise. It attracts the casual city visitor that spends on tickets and merchandise. And the city is willing to take up bills track owners struggled with. They will add fan boost, sprinklers, reversed grids and the like to improve the spectacle and drive more casual visitors to the F1 show. The small group actually loving the sport is cast aside since they do not deliver the revenue Liberty is after. It’s a matter of numbers, nothing personal.

  17. This is a political move too, since the Spanish GP in Spain is supported by the Catalan goverment, and Madrid is the opposition.

    1. “Supported”, well however, they are the kind of friends that make you wish you had more enemies instead

      1. @34rthl1ng Madrid’s worse.

        1. That’s quite a different story. The Catalan government “supports” the Spanish government but if fact they are making things very complicated for them. The Madrid regional government, on the other hand, is fiercely in the opposition against the Spanish Government. That has nothing to do with which one you happen to like or dislike the most.

          1. Which reminds me of the recent comment from Carlos Sainz Sr. (proud madrileño) caught on camera when joking with Stephan Peterhansel and other Dakar drivers: “Our 4zzh0l3 President -cuz he’s an 4zzh0l3-…”

  18. Ah, yes, finally a city circuit… about time, right?

  19. To be fair this looks like a hybrid circuit as less than half of the course exists today, so I assume the remainder will be purpose built. Also that Valdebebas Curve area looks vaguely Suzuka sector 1-esque. Call me an optimist.

  20. F1 hasn’t learned a single thing from the Tilke experience.
    The same mistakes are made but now with streettrack.
    Managing directors not learning a single thing from experiences.

    It’s very sad to see history repeat itsself over and over,

  21. At least it looks a bit more interesting than the obsession with long straights lately. Calling it now, it will be a fantastic and amazing race, it will showcase how incredible Formula 1 is and be a testament to how hard everyone works to put on such an awesome event. Or in the worst case it will be an example of how statistically not every race in F1 can be exciting and they’ll look into how the event can be improved for future years (with no changes.)

    By the way the html title for the page is “Barcelona loses Spanish GP to Madrid street circuit from 2027”

  22. How can they have a 10-year contract for a racetrack that isn’t built and inspected yet?

    1. track probably wouldn’t be built with any less.

    2. Why would they build a racetrack without a racing series to use it?
      It’s perfectly normal for new circuits to have a commercial contract long before regulatory approval is granted – firstly because the FIA can only approve circuits that actually exist, and secondly because the circuit owner/promoter is working with two separate entities, completely independent of each other. Liberty do the commercial stuff in F1, and the FIA do the regulatory stuff (in most major motorsports series).
      All (temporary) street circuits operate this way, as do any permanent circuits being constructed primarily for F1 – because without a commercial contract in place, funding isn’t forthcoming and the project dies a very fast death.
      It’s cheaper and easier to tear up a contract than a racing circuit…

  23. Does this necessarily mean there will be no more F1 races at Montmeló after 2025?

  24. Although unofficial yet, the circuit de Catalunya is set to disappear from the F1 calendar. Not that it’s a sexy or challenging track but it has been the place for pre-season testing and car reveal for a long time. I’ll souvenir the cold February mornings watching the car fly past the track, circum-navigating the 5-kilometer track and surrounding. I will always remenber clocking the Brawn GP times with shock in 2009.

    1. Catalunya has lots of technical challenges which is why it is tough to pass; as a driver, i love it. Definitely not the best track for racing. Awesome for preseason, with the many ways it challenges a car and driver. We must enjoy the final couple of Catalunya races with the proper ending turns back in play.

  25. That final sector. 90 left, 90 right. Everyone who likes Abu Dhabi will fall in love instantly…

  26. Yawn, street track. Catalunya suddenly seems amazing!

  27. ah yes. A chicane into a chicane into a chicane.

    1. Could not agree more or add anything to this comment.

  28. Another street track. I don’t like the trend of every new circuit added seemingly needing to be a street track, It’s just starting to get very boring.

    It’s especially annoying given how many far better permanent circuits are sitting around not been used for F1. Sepang, Istanbul, Portimao, Mugello, Nurburgring, Magny-Cours & IMS to name a few.

    Circuit De Catalunya may not always be great from a racing standpoint but at least it is a fun circuit to watch the cars circulating with a nice mix of medium/high speed corners which gives it a nice flow & it’s actually really challenge the cars & drivers due to the high load through many of the corners. And while not important at all it’s also pretty fun to drive around in the gaming world.

    1. Government involvement in the process of hosting Grand Prix pushes hosting fees above true market values. That means without governmental support it’s very difficult to imagine racing going back to those circuits. There’s only a few truly private ventures in F1. It also makes it very difficult for rival motorsport series to ever compete with Formula 1.

  29. All kinds of great circuits they could race it but they choose to do this? Not a fan.

  30. So let me get this straight. They have removed the most horrible part of the race track last year and now Barcelona is under jeopardy to be removed from the calendar and replaced with some street circuit. This better be Singapore levels of fun to drive or Jeddah levels of fun to drive.

  31. First half Monza, second half Abu Dhabi

  32. Barcelona is one of the more boring tracks in the last decades… Out with it! Welcome Madrid!

  33. Oh come one, If were gonna do a street race in Madrid, at least use the Top Gear Madrid street circuit!

  34. “There’s no business like Show business”
    The slow decline of F1 continues $$$$
    Least I can remember and watch on YT fond memories of watching it 88-21 RIP F1

  35. This aggressive move towards increasing street track makes me wonder if F1 want to get rid of all sort of engineering excellence without being explicit about it.

    Engines are simplified and everything is in a budget cap moving forward so that brought a bunch of big names to F1. So that’s one aspect closed off.

    Secondly even the current aero regulations are very simplified and have limited scope for development. Having said that teams with good aerodynamic excellence like RB don’t shine as much in street tracks due to their primary dependence on low speed corners and dependency on mechanics of the cars which include things like suspension. Monaco saw 6 cars in 2 tenths (even tho it’s a 70s track, that’s very little difference).

    Basically more street tracks means it reduces dependency on having a good aerodynamic platform. It becomes more mechanical and with standard and simplified suspensions the margin of gain becomes very small.

    F1 is effectively moving towards a spec series without being explicit about it.

    Ferrari might be competitive if we add a few more street tracks afterall..

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