Remembering F1’s Past: Circuits lost to F1


With the German Grand Prix missing from the 2015 Formula 1 schedule, and the country not hosting a race for the first time since 1960, The Checkered Flag have looked into other racetracks that have fallen by the wayside that were much loved by fans and drivers alike.

France is the most noticeable circuit absent from the Formula 1 calendar, with a number of circuits hosting a Grand Prix, the last of which was Magny Cours back in 2008, a race won by the Ferrari of Felipe Massa ahead of team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

Before Magny Cours, Paul Ricard hosted the French Grand Prix, although its history is tainted by the tragic death of Elio de Angelis at the circuit during testing in 1986. The 1989 race was also marked by the first corner crash that saw March driver Mauricio Gugelmin fly over cars in front of him, although thankfully everyone walked away unscathed.

The 1990 race at Paul Ricard almost saw Ivan Capelli take a win for the March team, before ultimately coming up shot when his pit-stop-free race gamble meant he was at the mercy of Alain Prost’s Ferrari.

The Dijon circuit also hosted Grand Prix, with the French track hosting perhaps one of the most exciting conclusions to a race in 1979, when Rene Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve battled spectacularly for the runners-up spot behind winner Jean-Pierre Jabouille. Villeneuve ultimately came out ahead, with the Ferrari and Renault drivers banging wheels regularly on the final lap.

Another historic circuit in France is Reims-Gueux, which hosted nine Grand Prix in the 1950s and 1960s. The 1961 race is remembered for Giancarlo Baghetti taking his first (and only) Grand Prix victory on his Formula 1 debut for Ferrari.

Crossing over the channel to the United Kingdom, despite only hosting one Grand Prix back in 1993, Donington Park was one of the most well received venues to find its way onto the schedule. The track witnessed one of the most amazing opening laps in Formula 1 history when Ayrton Senna went from fifth to first, passing Michael Schumacher, Karl Wendlinger, Damon Hill and arch-rival Alain Prost en-route to a dominant victory in unsettled conditions.

Another British circuit with a rich history of Formula 1 racing was Brands Hatch, who hosted its last Grand Prix back in 1986, with Nigel Mansell claiming a famous victory ahead of his then-Williams-Honda team-mate Nelson Piquet. The circuit hosted fourteen Grand Prix before Silverstone was given a permanent contract to host the British Grand Prix, which it still has to this day.

The San Marino Grand Prix dropped off the calendar at the end of 2006 (Credit: LAT Photographic)
The San Marino Grand Prix dropped off the calendar at the end of 2006 (Credit: LAT Photographic)

One of the racetracks that is constantly talked about is Imola. The Italian circuit hosted twenty-six San Marino Grand Prix races between 1981 and 2006 (as well as the 1980 Italian Grand Prix), although the history of the circuit will always be tainted by the dark weekend in 1994 where both Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna were fatally injured, resulting in a number of changes to the circuit to make it safer.

The 2005 San Marino Grand Prix however will be remembered in far happier circumstances, with Fernando Alonso holding off the challenge of Michael Schumacher in one of the best instances of defensive driving you will see. It was almost a carbon copy the following year in 2006, with Schumacher this time holding off Alonso for the victory.

The Netherlands held thirty Grand Prix at Zandvoort between 1952 and 1985, with the Tarzan corner, the circuit’s first corner, proving to be the its standout corner. Despite its tricky nature, Gilles Villeneuve showed just how brave he was in a Formula 1 car to sensationally pass Alan Jones around the outside of Tarzan in 1979.

Portugal was another country to drop off the calendar, with the Estoril circuit hosting its final race in 1996. The race was won by Jacques Villeneuve after first off passing the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher around the fast final corner, and then hunting down Damon Hill to take the victory and insure the championship battle went on to the final round of the season in Japan.

The Estoril circuit also saw Ayrton Senna’s maiden Grand Prix victory in 1985 in atrocious conditions, beating everyone apart from Michele Alboreto by over a lap, and even the Ferrari driver was a minute behind the Lotus at the end.

Felipe Massa won three times at Istanbul Park (Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Media)
Felipe Massa won three times at Istanbul Park (Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Media)

A more recent circuit that saw exciting races was Istanbul Park in Turkey, which ran between 2005 and 2011. It was a great racetrack, with in particular the triple-apex turn eight proving popular with drivers and spectators alike. The 2010 race will be remembered for the collision between the two Red Bull Racing drivers of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber that cost them a potential 1-2 finish, a result that ultimately went to McLaren, with Lewis Hamilton beating Jenson Button.

The Kyalami circuit in South Africa last hosted a Grand Prix back in 1993, a race won by the Williams-Renault of Alain Prost, his first victory for the team on his way to that season’s World Championship. The initial stages of the race were exciting, with Prost forcing his way past both Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna before pulling away for the victory.

The United States has seen many venues host Grand Prix, with Long Beach and Watkins Glen in particular proving popular. Watkins Glen hosted twenty United States Grand Prix between 1961 and 1980 before falling off the calendar, while Long Beach hosted eight Formula 1 races between 1976 and 1983 before it too disappeared from the schedule.

More recently, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted races on a road course inside its more famous oval, with the last of these coming in 2007 when Lewis Hamilton held off the challenge of McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso for the victory. This circuit is also part of infamy however, when only six cars started the 2005 race after safety concerns with the Michelin tyres.

Adelaide last hosted a Grand Prix in 1995, a race won by Damon Hill (Credit: LAT Photographic/Williams F1)
Adelaide last hosted a Grand Prix in 1995, a race won by Damon Hill (Credit: LAT Photographic/Williams F1)

Another popular track was the Adelaide street circuit in Australia that ran between 1985 and 1995. The track was the scene of the shortest Formula 1 race in history in 1991, when the race was declared after just fourteen laps due to persistent heavy rain and multiple crashes.

It also saw Ayrton Senna’s final F1 win in 1993 and Nigel Mansell’s final F1 win in 1994, but its most memorable moment was during 1986 when Mansell’s tyre exploded down the Brabham Straight when on course to win the championship. Alain Prost took advantage to take the race victory and the title.

The lost of the German Grand Prix, expecially with the German Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS team at the front of the field and German driver Sebastian Vettel winning four consecutive World Championships between 2010 and 2013, is both alarming and disappointing.

Both the Nurburgring and Hockenheim tracks have been struggling financially in recent years, so it should not be as big a shock as it has been. With some luck a race in Germany will return in 2016, but should this not happen, then we could end up with two more historic and popular racetracks disappearing permanently from the calendar and being remembered as great racetracks of the past.

  • racing14de

    Nice Post – I like Melbourne a lot, but i really miss Adelaide – the season ending there was always special to watch…

  • GaryFoster2

    You forgot Mosport. Host of the Canadian Grands Prix from 1961-77.  It was (is) a great venue for motor sorts.

  • Craig Boon

    Reims-Gieux is still well worth a visit and only 2 1/2 hours from Calais! http://octanephotos.co.uk/2015/02/2015-visit-to-reims-gieux-historic-circuit/