Best F1 tracks: the greatest races on this year’s calendar
Not all race tracks are born equal. These are the ones we most look forward to on the current calendar
Not seen on the calendar since 1985, the Dutch Grand Prix only returned to F1 in 2021, but it’s already firmly in the top 10 races in our eyes. The reprofiled circuit is as old-school as they come, and the banked corners at Turn 3 and Turn 14 offer something that no other modern F1 track can.
Not only that, but the locals are among the most fanatical supporters on the planet, and the scenes when home favourite Max Verstappen took the chequered flag in 2021 were something else.Advertisement - Page continues below
The Canadian Grand Prix is another long-standing feature of the F1 calendar, circling through various locations before settling at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 1978 (though it was known as Circuit Ile Notre-Dame for a while first). Built on a man-made island, the track is surrounded by water and the local climate means rain is never too far away. And there are few things more exciting than a wet grand prix.
Many people would argue that Canada hosted the greatest modern F1 race of them all, when in 2011 Jenson Button climbed all the way from last place to the top step of the podium in a grand prix that - including stoppages for torrential rain - lasted more than four hours.
The Italian Grand Prix has taken place at Monza in every season since F1’s inception in 1950, with just one exception in 1980 when refurbishment work temporarily shifted the race to Imola. The layout has evolved tremendously in that time, but these days it’s the fastest F1 track of them all with 70 per cent of the lap spent at full throttle. In fact, Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap in F1 history here in 2020 with pole position secured at an average speed of 164.267mph. Yowzer.
These days the race has a habit of being a teeny bit processional, but you can thank the ‘DRS train’ phenomenon for that. It remains a tremendously challenging circuit and the Tifosi (local Ferrari fanatics) always turn up in their droves. Bellissimo.Advertisement - Page continues below
F1 is starting to crack the nut that is the USA, with a second race in Miami and a third coming in Las Vegas in 2023. Texas’s Circuit of the Americas is by far the best track of the trio though, with an interesting layout that gives drivers a variety of overtaking opportunities throughout the lap.
The grand prix weekend has its own unique vibe too, with all manner of A-listers in the paddock and cowboy hats for the podium finishers. Keep it weird, Austin.
Red Bull Ring, Austria
The Austrian Grand Prix has a long history in F1, and although it fell off the calendar in 2004 it returned as a permanent venue in 2014. In fact, it came to the rescue of F1 in 2020 when the shortened, Covid-hit season couldn’t begin until the summer: the Red Bull Ring hosted the opening race of the year, and then ran another race under the guise of the Styrian GP a week later.
A short track with only nine corners, the circuit always seems to deliver a great race with multiple overtaking places and variable conditions. The hillside location is utterly glorious too. It’s certainly no Miami car park…
Another relatively recent returnee, Imola’s race used to be known as the San Marino Grand Prix between 1981 and 2006. Since it regained its place on the calendar in 2020 it’s been named after the region in Italy where the track is located, hence the mouthful that is Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
It’s most famous among fans as being the place where Brazilian legend Ayrton Senna lost his life in a crash in 1994. A memorial now stands in the forest near the spot where he was killed.
Tragic history aside, the track is as fearsome as they come with a number of challenging corners and very little in the way of run-off areas, meaning tiny mistakes are punished severely. No wonder the drivers love it.
F1 has visited Brazil virtually every year since 1972, with most of the races in that time taking place at Interlagos. Overtaking in the second and third sectors of the lap is quite difficult, but you can use these to set yourself up for a move along the not-really-very-straight, er straight, through the first three corners (known as the Senna esses) or on the long run down to Turn 4.
The profile and topography of the track makes it a firm favourite with fans around the globe, and there’s been no shortage of drama here over the years. Who remembers Lewis Hamilton winning his maiden world title with an overtake on the penultimate corner of the last lap of the entire 2008 season?Advertisement - Page continues below
Suzuka is hands down one of the greatest tracks in the world, especially if you’re an F1 driver. The sequence of high-speed corners after the first hairpin is one of the most revered on the calendar, and one of the few places drivers can push their machinery to its absolute limits in ultra-light qualifying trim.
The rest of the track is tremendous too, and it’s the only circuit on the calendar that operates in a figure of eight layout with a bridge approaching the flat-out 130R corner. We can’t wait to see what the racing will be like with F1’s new regulations, where following closely through corners should be vastly easier than before…
There’s no race track on the planet quite like Spa-Francorchamps. At 7km the track is the longest on the F1 calendar, hence why only 44 laps are needed to complete a full grand prix distance of 300km. Boasting several high-speed corners and much gravel, Spa’s most famous feature is the Eau Rouge-Radillon sequence in the first sector, which F1 drivers hit at full throttle… up a blind hill. Lots of bravery required here.
Despite offering one of the greatest spectacles in the F1 world, rumour has it that Spa could lose its place on the calendar owing to its relatively low capacity and poor logistics for fans. Please don’t let it be so.Advertisement - Page continues below
Silverstone, United Kingdom
Anyone reading this outside the UK will be rolling their eyes and thinking ‘Pah, here we go with the British bias’. But Silverstone simply has to be the best F1 track on the planet: nowhere else reliably offers as much wheel-to-wheel action every single year, with at least half a dozen spots where you could realistically launch an overtake. Some tracks are doing well if they manage one, even with DRS assistance.
No, Silverstone is F1’s temple (it hosted the first ever F1 championship race in 1950), and the unpredictable British weather frequently shakes things up too. The turnout every season is phenomenal come rain or shine, and nowhere shows off F1’s physics-defying cornering speeds like Maggotts, Becketts and Chapel. Long may it remain.