Top Gear’s Top 9: Formula One track fails
F1 is riding high right now, but these nine venues made a mess of playing host
These days Korea’s car industry is putting the European old guard to shame, but it’s hardly renowned as a motorsport destination. The Korean GP held from 2010-2013 didn’t help matters. The Korea International Circuit was barely finished in time for the inaugural race, and was used so little inbetween races that teams apparently found rotting food from the previous race when they arrived back a year later. There were plans to build a city around the circuit – like a sort of back-to-front Monaco, but it never happened and only four of the initial seven contracted races were ever held. F1 hasn’t been back in a decade.Advertisement - Page continues below
European GP, Valencia
The now-derelict Valencia street circuit was so boring that in 2009, not a single on-track overtake was recorded at the European GP. Usually that only happens at Monaco, which is at least exciting during qualifying. Finally, F1 woke up from this utter snorefest and binned it from the calendar for 2013. Have you missed it since? Thought not.
Another mid-2010s Tilkedrome that failed to become an F1 household name was the Indian GP at the Buddh International Circuit. Lasting only from 2011 to 2013, the Indian GP venue had wider corner entries to promote overtaking and a long straight for DRS passes, but drew criticism for the costs involved racing in a nation with such disparities in the wealth of its citizens. When the government refused to subsidise the event and F1 demanded steep hosting fees, the writing was on the wall, and the $250 million facility was dropped from the F1 calendar.Advertisement - Page continues below
Only run in 1984, the Dallas GP was one of F1’s many false starts in establishing itself a true base in the USA. Many of the drivers detested the near 40-degree heat, the flaking track surface and the lack of proper run-off areas, and as little as half an hour before the race start, part of the circuit was repaired with quick-drying cement. It was taken off the calendar for 1985, replaced by the Australian GP.
…which never existed. Vietnam was supposed to debut in F1 in April 2020, but the Hanoi street circuit (obviously) never got its moment in the limelight due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Things were rescheduled for 2021, but then dropped after a high-ranking official on the race organisation committee was arrested on charges of corruption. As such, the dubious 23-corner circuit has never seen Lewis, Max and co. take to its streets. Whoops.
US GP, Indianapolis
Forever infamous due to the 2005 US Grand Prix when all the Michelin tyre-shod teams returned to the pits after the warm-up lap and did not take the start, because of safety concerns about tyre failures in the banked high-speed final corner. This was a major F1 fail on the world stage: if a chicane had been added to the corner all would have been well, but F1 tied itself in a right old knot and destroyed its reputation in the motorsport-mad US for over a decade.
Caesar’s Palace GP
Yep, we’re back to the USA once again for another Formula One shambles on American soil. Though the Caesar’s Palace GP took place from 1981-1984, only two of those races featured F1 cars and drivers before Formula One ditched the venue and left it to the CART Series. The repetitive and deathly-dull track was laid out in the car park of the eponymous casino in Las Vegas, with the drivers despising the heat, and spectators staying away in their droves. Hopefully the Vegas GP will be a whole lot better…Advertisement - Page continues below
Japanese GP, Fuji
Between 2007 and 2008, the Japanese GP snubbed the magnificent Suzuka circuit and visited Fuji Speedway instead. This was a mistake. Travel arrangements for the fans were horrendous and some of the grandstands didn’t even have a clear view of the track, which led to law suits. Plus, price-gouging by catering suppliers at the event meant fans couldn’t even afford a snack to take their mind off the miserable weather and the racing that they couldn’t see.
F1 has only raced at Qatar once so far – close to the climax of the controversial 2021 season. It was dropped in 2022 not because the race was rubbish, but because Qatar was busy readying itself for the 2022 FIFA World Cup of football for men.
But the race in 2021 was rubbish. Zero crowd atmosphere, no memorable corners, and the only overtakes were DRS-dependent swoops down the main straight. Plus, does F1 really need yet another desert-based race in a country with zero motoring heritage and a dubious human rights record? No, of course not. But it’s got one anyway.Advertisement - Page continues below