Gilles Villeneuve Circuit

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Gilles Villeneuve Circuit was named in honor of Gilles Villeneuve, a Canadian driver and father to Jacques Villeneuve. The circuit was constructed on a man-made island named Ile Notre-Dame, which is located in the St Lawrence River, in Montreal. In addition to hosting the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix, the circuit hosts an event in the NASCAR Busch Series. It was also home to the Champ Car World Series Grand Prix of Montreal that was hosted here between the years 2002 to 2006.

With its location in the St Lawrence River, for most of the year, Ile Notre Dame is a quiet island that is lush and green and the fastest moving objects on its surface, are animals, cycle enthusiasts and the joggers. But for a few days each year, within this idyllic setting, the island comes alive with racing action and all its accompanying noise and frantic activity.

The Gilles Villeneuve Circuit is part street circuit, and is extremely fast, with a common problem for drivers being to misjudge the barriers that are located very close to the track. The most famous part of this track, is a wall that is located just outside the end of the last chicane, which said “Welcome to Quebec” and was later nicknamed the Quebec Wall. Three Formula 1 champions had their races brought to an abrupt end when colliding with this infamous wall, namely Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher. The wall no longer carries the name Quebec Wall, but was renamed the Wall of Champions.

In 2005, the curbs in the last chicane were made higher, and drivers complained that they were more difficult to see and that the curbs made the chicane even more difficult for drivers to navigate. The changes were extremely controversial, as they had reduced the area for general admission ticket holders, to see the race. This forces spectators to purchase grandstand tickets, to enable them to see.

Normand Legault was awarded exclusive rights, by the city of Montreal, to host two race weekends on the track. Legault is the promoter for the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix. The contract for the rights, runs from the year 2007 to the year 2011, after which there is an option to extend it from 2012 to the year 2016. The Champ Car Races have been replaced with the NASCAR Busch Series and the Grand American Road Racing Associations’ Rolex Series.

Hockenheimring

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Hockenheimring, or Hockenheimring Baden-Wurttemberg, is located near the town of Hockenheim, situated in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. This circuit is the host to the Formula One German Grand Prix, and many other racing events.

The Hockenheimring was constructed in the Rhine Valley in 1932, and was built due to the closing of the Wildpark-Circuit that was located in Karlsruhe, by German Officials. In its early years, the Hockenheimring Circuit was used for motorcycle races, but in 1936 it became a test track for Auto Union and for Mercedes-Benz. The circuit was renamed to Kurpfalzring in 1938, but the name only lasted until the year 1947 before reverting to its original name. Grand Prix motorcycle racing was held here after the war, alternating between Hockenheim and other racing circuits.

Originally, Hockenheimring consisted of an eight kilometer track, that had two long straights, with a U-turn and an outstretched eastern corner running through the forest and joining the two straights together. The Autobahn A6 separated the main part of the track from the village in 1965, and it brought about the construction of the “Motodrom” stadium and a new Hockenheimring Circuit version. Crash barriers and two chicanes were added after Jim Clark had a fatal accident in a Formula 2 race in the year 1968. An additional chicane was added in 1980, to the Ostkurve, after another driver, Patrick Depailler, lost his life.

Formula One Officials requested that the Hockenheimring circuit be shortened in 2000, as the track was 6.8 kilometers, and gave the state government of Baden-Wurttemberg an ultimatum that either the circuit must be shortened, or they would move the event to another circuit. The state government received financing and commissioned Hermann Tilke to redesign the circuit before the 2002 German Grand Prix. The redesign had most of the stadium section remain the same, except for a much tighter corner in Turn 1 and new surfacing. The circuit was shortened to the extreme, which cut off the entire forest section and replaced it with more tight corners. The tight hairpin corner that was added to follow a long straight, has presented drivers with another opportunity for overtaking. A large stand that is sponsored by Mercedes-Benz, gives the Hockenheimring Circuit a spectator capacity of 120,000. It also has a quarter-mile track that hosts drag racing, with the Nitro Olympics being the biggest event in Europe.

The German Grand Prix was hosted by the Hockenheimring Circuit for the first time in 1970, and from 1971 to 1976 the German Grand Prix was hosted by Nurburgring. During the years 1977 to 2006, the German Grand Prix moved back to the Hockenheimring Circuit, with the exception of 1985. It was decided that from 2007, starting with Nurburgring, the German Grand Prix will alternate between Nurburgring and the Hockenheimring Circuit.

Belgian Grand Prix

February 9, 2009 by  
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Belgium held its first national race in 1925. It took place at the race circuit in the Spa region, which was an area rich in racing history. The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps was constructed in 1921, used primarily for motorcycle racing until 1924, but also hosting Grand Prix racing. In 1923, a very successful 24 Hours of Le Mans was raced in France, which led to the Spa 24 Hours race to be hosted at the Spa track.

The Belgian Grand Prix is a favorite amongst both the fans and the drivers. The Spa-Francorchamps is also famous for it extremely unpredictable weather conditions. For example, it had rained for 20 Belgian Grand Prix’s consecutively. Drivers are constantly confronted with conflicting weather on different parts of the track. One side will be sunny and clear, while the other is slippery, miserable and rainy. To many F1 drivers, the Belgian Grand Prix is the most dreaded circuit on the Formula One racing calendar, due to its challenging conditions.

Antonio Ascari, took first place at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1925, and his son, Alberto, would go on to win in the years 1952 and again in 1953. Antonio Ascari was tragically killed in the French Grand Prix, after winning the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix. While leading the Belgian Grand Prix in 1939, Richard “Dick” Seaman, a British driver, lost his life. Alan Stacey was killed when a bird flew into his face, and Chris Bristow also lost his life in the same race, in 1960.

After deciding Spa was too dangerous in 1972 Belgian officials made the decision to alternate the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix between the Nivelles and Zolder circuits. Unable to sustain the Belgian Grand Prix at the Nivelles circuit, the race track eventually faded out, and Zolder was used in the following years. However, the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix returned to Spa-Francorchamps in 1985, where it has remained. Michael Schumacher made his debut at Spa-Francorchamps in the year of 1991 and returned in 1992 to win his first race in Formula One. He also surpassed the all-time record of Alain Prost, by securing his 52nd Grand Prix win at the Belgian Grand Prix.

The Spa-Francorchamps Circuit is completed in 44 laps, with a total race length of 306.94 kilometers. The FIA announced in 2006, that Belgium would not be part of their race schedule for that year, as major work to repair the track, had been started. The Belgian Grand Prix returned to the schedule in 2007 with Kimi Räikkönen taking first place. The year 2008 saw a controversial win by Filipe Massa, after Lewis Hamilton received a drive-through penalty which negated his first place position. Kimi Räikkönen took first place again in 2009.

Istanbul Park

February 9, 2009 by  
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Istanbul Park blends in seamlessly among 10 thousand of years of antiquity. Respectful of the country’s past, yet bold enough to represent the future of Formula One. The circuit was constructed during 2005 and is unique in that the cars run in an anti-clockwise direction around the circuit, making the Turkish Grand Prix only the third race on the F1 Grand Prix calendar to do so (with the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola and the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace at Interlagos being the other two). This spectacular 5.378 kilometer track was designed by famed German architect Herman Tilke, the same man who created the memorable tracks at Sepang, Bahrain and Shanghai.

The track at Istanbul Park has an average width of 15 meters, ranging from 14 to 21.5 meters, and covering over 2.215 million square meters total. There are a total of 14 corners including six right and eight left turns, the sharpest with a radius of merely 15 meters. The circuit runs over four different ground levels with a start/finish straight over 650 meters in length. The total race distance of the Turkish Grand Prix is 309.356 kilometers spread out over 58 laps.

Turn 8 in particular has achieved legendary status in a short amount of time. The corner is a fast, sweeping corner with four apexes, similar to a multi-apex sections of the old Nürburgring. Spectators and drivers alike raved about Turn 8, comparing it to legendary corners such as Eau Rouge and 130R. The circuit itself has already been compared to Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. Another notable corner is Turn 1, a sharp downhill left-hander immediately after the front straight. This corner has been nicknamed by some as the “Turkish Corkscrew” in comparison to infamous “Corkscrew” at Laguna Seca. Both the 2006 F1 and MotoGP races at the circuit featured mutliple incidents at this corner.

Logistically speaking, Istanbul Park currently has a total capacity for 155,000 spectators, which are accommodated in 10 grandstands and 5 unnumbered and grassed general admission areas. Istanbul Park is located on the Asian side of Istanbul, approximately 90 kilometers from the centre of the city.

The Main Grandstand at Istanbul Park is located on the Pits Straight directly opposite the start/finish line and pit-boxes. It presents you with an excellent view of the Pits Straight, including the build-up to and the start of the race, the checkered flag at the finish of the race, as well as a view of the racing teams and their pit activities. The western side of the grandstand is situated opposite the podium, offering spectators great views of the podium celebrations after the race. The start line is located towards the middle of the grandstand. The F1 Village is also located behind this grandstand, which is easily accessible from this grandstand. Three bigscreen TV’s are located along this great grandstand, enabling spectators to follow the entire race and not lose track of the procedures.

Overall the five general admission areas provide for excellent viewing and offer good value for money admission. Istanbul Park is a naturally hilly circuit featuring a variety of steep mounds, which makes the viewing in the general admission areas good. But as always there are no seats and you must be there early to get a good spot, which you stand to lose should you have to visit a toilet or leave to buy food.

Hungarian Grand Prix

February 9, 2009 by  
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The first Hungarian Grand Prix was held in 1936 at a track in Nepliget near central Budapest, and it was well supported by both constructors and fans. Unfortunately, it was the last Grand Prix that the country would see for fifty years. Political upheaval and subsequent war meant that the attention of the Hungarian public and government were turned elsewhere and that it was unsafe to hold a Grand Prix in the country during that time. Despite the untimely start of the Hungarian Grand Prix, it has been a favourite on the Hungarian calendar since 1986 during which time it was noted for being the first race to take place behind the Iron Curtain. It has been held at the twisting Hungaroring track near Budapest ever since being re-established that year, and is today one of the main features on the racing calendar.

The 4.38 kilometre (2.72 mile) track is very narrow and twisty. It is generally used during the dry season and the Hungarian Grand Prix has only had rain on one occasion, in 2006. Because it is often under-utilized, the track tends to be dusty which further adds to its difficulty. Drivers often end up stuck behind one another with little opportunity to pass. Because of this, a good race strategy is key to winning, although some drivers have managed to overtake during the course of some races. Efforts were made to increase the width of the track in 2003 so that more overtaking was possible but the track continues to be an interesting challenge for most Formula One drivers. Because of its relatively short distance, it is lapped 70 times which results in an overall race length of 306.66 kilometres (190.55 miles).

The current track wins record holder is Michael Schumacher who has four Hungarian Grand Prix wins under his belt. The constructor with the most wins is Williams which has enjoyed 7 successes at the track. The track has been the location of a number of notable occasions, including Jenson Button taking first place for Honda, moving up from 14th place on the grid in 2006.

Subsequent wins have been: Lewis Hamilton (2007 and 2009); and Heikki Kovalainen (2008) – both driving for McLaren-Mercedes. The 2010 Hungarian Grand Prix is set to take place from 30 July to 1 August, and it has also been confirmed that this world-class racing facility plans to be part of the F1 racing calendar at least until 2016.

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