Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia

December 24th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

One of the more recent F1 specific tracks joining, the calendar in 1999, and seeing the return of Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari after his leg injury sustained at the British Grand Prix. He spent the entire race trying to go ‘slowly’ so that he could help his then team mate Eddie ‘Irv the swerve’ Irvine in the title chase. Even doing so, he made everyone else look like amateurs and somehow found a way to ‘not’ win the race.

Such is Formula One that on April 8, 2007, shortly before the 2007 Malaysian Grand Prix, Formula One president Bernie Ecclestone was quoted in stating that the circuit was getting “shabby” and “a bit tired” from the lack of care, describing it as “an old house that needs a bit of redecorating”. Cheek!

The circuit also sees action from MotoGP and Japanese Super GT racing.

By Phil Clark

Nürburgring, Germany

December 24th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

The Green Hell

Home to the ‘second’ German Grand Prix for recent years (Hockenheim being the other), the new safer emasculated track did not warrant being called the Nürburgring, according to local fans. Opened in 1984, the 5.1km circuit saw a flagship inaugural event offering a veritable smorgasbord of F1 talent driving identical Mercedes 190E 2.3-16. The line-up was Jack Brabham, Phil Hill, Denny Hulme, James Hunt, Jacques Laffite, Niki Lauda, Carlos Reutemann, Keke Rosberg, Jody Scheckter, Manfred Schurti, Ayrton Senna and John Watson. Ayrton won, followed by Lauda and Reutemann.

In recent years, both the ‘Ring and the Hockenheim events have been losing money due to high and rising license fees charged by Bernie Ecclestone and low attendance due to high ticket prices. Starting with the 2007 Formula 1 season, Hockenheim and Nürburgring will alternate for hosting of the German GP.

By Phil Clark

Circuito Permanente de Jerez, Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

October 15th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

Scene of another F1 championship decider in 1997 between Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve, the Red Baron tried to pull another stunt like he did with Damon Hill in 1994. This time it was he who had to retire and Monsieur Villeneuve won the championship. Check out this cartoon, penned one week prior to the race

Not a circuit with any significant historic motor racing roots, the track however is located in the famous sherry-producing region of southern Spain. It opened in 1985 but due to the remote location affecting spectator turnout, the 4.4km circuit lost the rights to host F1 to Barcelona. MotoGP, however, remains a stalwart of the circuit.

By Phil Clark

Autodromo Enzo E Dino Ferrari, Imola, Italy

October 15th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

With a significantly weighty and historic name like that (due to its proximity to the Ferrari factory), this 4.96km circuit has always tried to maintain a presence on the F1 calendar. Effectively a second Italian Grand Prix in all but name, it was cheekily called the ‘San Marino Grand Prix’ instead, being the name of a nearby small municipality.

Opened in 1954 and first hosting motorcycle racing, F1 visited on and off from 1963. 1994 however will be remembered for many years to come, due to the tragic loss of F1 ace Ayrton Senna and newcomer Roland Ratzenberger in the same weekend. The world was stunned, and safety for cars and circuits gained an increased focus, ultimately saving numerous lives since.

By Phil Clark

Autodromo de Estoril, Portugal

October 15th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

Built near the beach resort of Estoril in 1972, this 4.3km track saw some race action in its infancy but fell into disrepair until 1984 when it was re-developed. In that same year it witnessed the closest ever championship finish of an F1 season, as Niki Lauda edged out McLaren team-mate Alain Prost by just 1/2 a point. Yes just 1/2 a point!

The circuit also provided another spectacle in 1996 when rookie Jacque Villeneuve passed Michael Schumacher ’round the outside’, on a corner where overtaking is just simply not done, mein heir. Although not on the F1 GP calendar now, it regularly sees teams winter testing and also hosts rounds of DTM, A1GP and MotoGP.

By Phil Clark

Eastern Creek, Sydney, NSW, Australia

October 15th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

Eastern Creek

Built and owned by the New South Wales Government to host the 1991 Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, Eastern Creek Raceway is 3.93 km in length. In addition to racing of the two wheeled variety, the circuit regularly features rounds of the V8 Supercars as well as A1GP. Road racing is run anti-clockwise (just to give the neck muscles a break from the usual circulation routine).

By Phil Clark

Bahrain International Circuit

October 8th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

Another green fields (read ‘white sands’) purpose-built development to secure the ‘Bernie and Max Formula 1 show’ in this part of the globe. The 5.4 km Hermann ‘the German’ Tilke-designed circuit only cost NZ$200m to build, and has fittingly recently received an award from the FIA for Centre of Excellence. At that price I should think so too.

Opened in 2004 for the F1 GP, the local Sheikh had originally asked for a 1-year extension from Bernie because it wasn’t quite ready. Following the obvious ‘No’, they just managed to get it ship shape for the weekend. I think the paint was still wet and apparently they sprayed glue on some of the sand around the circuit so that it wouldn’t blow onto the track. You just can’t make up stuff like that.

By Phil Clark

Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace (“Interlagos”), Sao Paulo, Brazil

October 8th, 2007 by Darren Cottingham

Built in 1936 on ground considered unusable for housing they promptly thought it would make a jolly nice place to build a race circuit instead. Interlagos was a magnificent facility in its original form, with the 7.8km circuit following a tortuous course, winding back on itself in a natural bowl in the smog-filled suburbs of Sao Paulo. The current 4.3km design was developed in 1990 to regain the Brazilian Grand Prix and runs in an anti-clockwise direction, which is quite rare outside the USA.

After the death of Ayrton Senna in 1994, Rubens Barrichello became the focus of the passionate crowd. Unfortunately for him, it proved to be his nemesis on virtually each and every occasion. And in Brazil, when your hero goes out of the race its ‘home time’, so the crowd leaves before the race finishes. Now that’s loyalty.

By Phil Clark

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