Since its inception, over 70 tracks have hosted a Formula One Grand Prix, and there’s a considerable split between fans over which one is the best; Silverstone? Spa-Francorchamps? Monza? Suzuka? Everyone has a personal favourite, and it is something that shall be debated forever.
Since the Formula One World Championship era began in 1950, more than 70 circuits have hosted at least one Grand Prix.
Some, like Spa-Francorchamps, Silverstone and Monza, stand out as true jewels in the sport’s crown, while recent venues like Baku, Sakhir, Singapore and COTA have emerged as excellent venues for modern Formula One cars.
The present F1 cars are extraordinary things. They have more aero, grip and power than any single-seater racing car before them. In the flesh, they can do spectacular things, but being larger than almost any F1 car before, and being just that fast, they are perhaps not as exciting on some circuits as their predecessors.
Thus, as I rank my top 10 best F1 race tracks, I have taken into consideration the following criteria:
- The historical significance of the track
- Quality of racing
- Level of challenge that a circuit presents to the drivers
(We fully expect you to have a personal version of this list, so make sure to drop your rankings in the comments down below.)
So without further ado, let’s get into the best F1 tracks.
Also Read – 10 worst Formula One tracks of all time
|10||Red Bull Ring||Austria|
|9||Circuit Gilles Villeneuve||Canada|
|6||Circuit of The Americas||the USA|
Best F1 Tracks – Honourable Mention
Circuit de Monaco, Monaco
It is the last old-styled street circuit remaining in the modern F1 calendar. The roads it runs on were designed primarily for everyday traffic, with many elevation changes and tight corners as well as a tunnel making it one of the most demanding tracks in Formula One. Moreover, it’s quite evident that the circuit is totally unsuitable for modern F1 cars.
Despite having the lowest average speed of all F1 tracks, the Monaco circuit is a dangerous place to race due to its narrow lanes, while it is the only Grand Prix that doesn’t adhere to the FIA’s mandated 305-kilometre minimum race distance for F1 races. There’s little to no room for modern safety features; the straights aren’t long enough and the races are usually dull processions.
But races are held every single year, simply because it’s Monaco.
Best F1 Tracks – Top 10 Countdown!
#10 Red Bull Ring, Austria
One way or another, the track layout (almost identical to the present one) somehow survived until 1987, when it hosted its last race. A decade later, F1 cars returned to Austria to find a very different layout waiting for them. Renamed the “A1 Ring”, the new track was shorter, slower and a more sterile version of the previous beast that once stood in that very place.
Somehow, though, the little seven-corner circuit worked. It was Herman Tilke’s first full-circuit design, and one of his best to date. F1 then took an 11-year hiatus before returning to the rebranded “Red Bull Ring” in 2014.
#9 Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Canada
Perched upon the man-made Île Notre-Dame in the St. Lawrence River, Montreal, the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is one of the most loved modern Formula One venues. Since its first-ever use in 1978, no other circuit has hosted the Canadian GP to date.
In a way, the Montreal circuit is proof that you don’t need a “perfect” mix of corner types and artificial overtaking zones; its beauty lies in its simplicity. Although the circuit had some complex layouts in the past, the present layout is essentially two hairpins connected by a few chicanes and some long straights. It doesn’t sound like much, but it works.
Not many tracks in the current calendar produce entertaining races more consistently than Montreal. Overtaking has always been possible (much simpler, in fact, thanks to DRS in recent years) and close racing is almost guaranteed even with the 2021-spec cars.
While the 2020 and 2021 editions of the Canadian GP had to be cancelled due to the COVID pandemic, the organisers did pen a 10-year agreement that will see the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve host the Canadian GP at least till 2024.
#8 Monza, Italy
The Temple of Speed. Monza is a different kettle of fish, and with the modern V6 cars getting faster each year, taming this beast is easier said than done.
I’ve been following Formula One since 2003, and back in the day, the average speed of a car around the Monza track fluctuated between 235km/h and 245km/h. Fast forward to 2021, and Lewis Hamilton’s pole lap was at an average speed of 264.362km/h — the fastest average speed to ever be recorded in F1 history.
The track first came to life back in 1922, and the first layout then incorporated a banked oval, and although the oval has been re-profiled as a safety measure, the rest was almost identical to the circuit we see today.
A number of chicanes and some corners have been re-profiled throughout history, but drivers from every era of the sport have negotiated the iconic corners like Curva Grande, Lesmos, the Ascari chicane and Parabolica.
Despite its historical significance, Monza doesn’t match up to a circuit like Spa-Francorchamps in terms of sheer beauty and challenge. Thus, Monza sits 8th on this list.
#7 Imola, Italy
L’autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, or often referred to as “Imola” after the town where it is located, hosted the Italian Grand Prix for the first time in 1980. The following year, however, it was awarded its own race, the San Marino Grand Prix (named after the nearby country as there was already an Italian GP in the calendar). From 1981-2006, Imola exclusively hosted the San Marino GP.
Imola, in all honesty, will always be remembered for that dark weekend in 1994, when Rubens Barrichello fractured his ribs and leg in Friday practice, before in qualifying the very next day we lost Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger, and in Sunday’s race, three-time World Champion Aryton Senna went on straight at Tamburello and died. Major modifications were made to the circuit, and when F1 left in 2006, it left behind a very different-looking Imola, to say the least.
Formula One returned to Imola after 14 years, albeit as an alternative due to the pandemic-curtailed 2020 season. But after the quality of racing it produced, Imola retained its place for this year and the next season as well.
#6 Circuit of The Americas, the USA
Another Hermann Tilke-designed circuit to make it onto this list is the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in the United States of America. The 5.5-kilometre long track is one of the modern greats, producing quality races every single year. Comprising two long straights and 20 turns with a balance of high and low-speed corners, overtaking and following cars closely has never been an issue in Austin.
Moreover, following the debacle of the 2005 US Grand Prix that raised major doubts over the future of Formula One racing in the country, the COTA track in Austin, Texas has so far put all those demons to bed.
Despite the present spec cars peaking, the quality of racing and entertainment has slowly helped regain all those viewers, with talks over a second and third US Grand Prix in the same calendar year going on. With the new breed of cars coming in from 2022, the racing will only get better.
#5 Marina Bay, Singapore
One of my personal favourites, the Marina Bay circuit in Singapore was the first-ever venue to host a race under the floodlights. The 5.083km-long street circuit is similar in style to the Circuit de Monaco or the Valencia Street Circuit, but it provides the toughest of tests than any other F1 circuit.
This circuit combines the heat and humidity of Malaysia (Sepang), the floodlights of Bahrain (Sakhir), and the tight streets and unforgiving narrow lanes of Monaco — certainly the toughest race on the calendar for both the driver and the car.
Following a crazy and unexpected inaugural Grand Prix that saw two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso take the chequered flag—which he was stripped of later—there was harsh criticism and complaints from the drivers due to the track’s bumpy nature and its infamous “Singapore Sling”.
Since then, the track has seen the re-profiling of its corners thrice in thirteen years. Notably, the “Singapore Sling” chicane was removed in 2013. Then, in 2015, Turns 11-13 were re-profiled, and later in 2017, Turns 16 and 17 were re-profiled as well.
#4 Silverstone, United Kingdom
The Silverstone Circuit hosted its first Formula One World Championship race in 1950, and since then, it has hosted the British Grand Prix a total of 47 times. The venue for the British GP rotated amongst Silverstone, Aintree and Brands Hatch from 1955 to 1986 before it settled permanently with Silverstone from 1987 onwards.
The land upon which the circuit lies started life as RAF Silverstone, a training base for British air crews flying the Wellington bomber. Opened in 1943, it was used until the end of World War II. When hostilities ceased, the aircraft departed and the airfield’s perimeter road was put into service as a race track.
The track has seen major modifications being made to its characteristics over the years in the name of safety. Fortunately, its primary characters, like the Maggots-Beckett-Chapel section, stand out as one of the best fast-corner sequences in the world.
The fast & flowing Silverstone Circuit still remains a favourite of drivers and fans alike.
#3 Interlagos, Brazil
O Autódromo José Carlos Pace, or more commonly known as Interlagos, held the first-ever Brazilian Grand Prix in 1973, with hometown hero Emerson Fittipaldi emerging victorious, much to the delight of the scores of Brazilians who packed the grandstands.
However, that version of the track was one of the most tightly-packed circuits F1 had ever seen—at a stretch over 8 kilometres in length—and was left behind more due to F1’s demanding safety standards, with the final race held in 1980.
Ten years later, the new, cut-down version of the circuit, hosted its first race. The new layout retained much of the old, undulating layout, including the unique kinked pit straight and the famous Senna S section. There’s no better joy than to watch F1 cars hug the outside kerbs as they navigate the Senna S section on the run-up to Turn 4.
Interlagos is one of F1’s few remaining jewels, and one that we hope will continue to entertain us for years to come.
#2 Suzuka, Japan
The first two Japanese Grands Prix in 76′ and 77′ were held at the Fuji Speedway before Japan was taken off the calendar for nearly a decade. Formula One made its comeback in Japan in 1987 with the newly-inaugurated Suzuka track, which hosted F1 Grands Prix exclusively for 20 years, earning the tag of being one of the most challenging F1 circuits.
With time, Suzuka became a favourite of fans and drivers alike. Moreover, scheduling it towards the later stages of the season has led to 13 World Champions having been crowned there, with some calls more controversial than others. In 1989, case in point, Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost collided at the chicane, and Prost took the title. The following year, they clashed again, and this time the title went to Senna.
Suzuka is one of those rare tracks that has stood the test of time. It punishes mistakes, which is a rarity in the modern era, while corners like the Spoon, 130R and the Esses section are some of the standout highlights of this magnificent track.
#1 Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
The modern Spa-Francorchamps circuit bears only a passing resemblance to the old 14.1-km beast where cars would blast around the Belgium countryside. Antonio Ascari, father of 1952 and 1953 Belgium GP winner Alberto Ascari, won the inaugural Belgian Grand Prix.
Moreover, another element that adds to the track’s difficulty is the unpredictable weather. At one stage in its history, it had rained at the Belgium GP for twenty years in a row. Often, drivers confront a part of the track that is clear and sunny with another stretch being rainy and slippery.
Although the new track layout—which came out in 1983—was much shorter than its predecessor, it retained many famous corners and chicanes, including Eau Rouge, Blanchimont and La Source, while adding others later on like Pouhan and Raidillon.