24 Other Tracks F1 Could Theoretically Use To Fill Out The 2020 Calendar – WTF1

24 Other Tracks F1 Could Theoretically Use To Fill Out The 2020 Calendar

If and when the 2020 season finally gets started, it’ll almost certainly be with a calendar that looks dramatically different to the planned one. Postponed races will be slotted back in, existing dates for later races rejigged, and in all probability, the length of the season extended into December.

However, although Ross Brawn reckons that a July start is possible and could lead to a 19-race season, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the races will be held at current Formula 1 venues. Some race organisers may not want to reschedule their grand prix. Others might not be able to afford it. Local governments may have restrictions which prevent large sporting events from taking place. Climactic conditions may mean that it’s not feasible for some races to be held in October or November.

That’s why the FIA’s decision to award two circuits in Portgual – Estoril and Portimao – Grade 1 status. If a race track has Grade 1 status, it means that the FIA see the circuit as good enough (in terms of facilities, infrastructure, safety, track layout, and so on) to host Formula 1 races. The winter weather in Portugal is usually fairly mild, the speculation is that one of those circuits could end up hosting a GP if needed, hence the timing of their promotion to Grade 1.

That got us wondering. Which other race tracks around the world currently hold Grade 1 status? Could any of them be drafted in as a last-minute venue for a 2020 F1 race on a revised calendar? Using the list on the FIA website, we thought it’d be fun to have a look through and see whether or not we could get any surprise additions this year.

Imola last hosted the San Marino GP in 2006 and although it was known for being a superb track, overtaking there was – to put it mildly – a little bit of a struggle. The track was revamped in 2007 to improve matters and the circuit owners have been trying to get the track back on the calendar.

Is it viable?
Purely from a track perspective, yes – and we’d absolutely love to see F1 there again. But as one of the countries hardest hit by the global situation, it seems unlikely that anyone will be trying to add more Italian events.

Built in 2008, Portimao hosted a couple of F1 tests and looked likely to join in the F1 calendar. However, the track suffered financially during the recession and many of the planned surrounding facilities were never built. It’s a shame as the undulating layout is a hit with many of those who’ve driven it, with many fast corners and a long main straight which should be good for racing.

Is it viable?
Absolutely – and the fact that the FIA recently awarded it Grade 1 status should be an indication that it’s a serious option to fill a slot on this year’s revised calendar. Portugal’s generally mild winters means there’s a degree of flexibility, too.

Another track in Portugal that recently received Grade 1 status, Estoril differs from Portimao in that the circuit actually hosted the Portuguese GP from 1984-1996. The layout (which has only changed slightly since F1 last visited) wasn’t the greatest and outside of the odd moment, it didn’t always produce the most exciting races.

Is it viable?
Sort of. If F1 is really struggling for tracks to hold races at this year and if the organisers are willing, then yeah, F1 could return to Estoril. But the track is a little bit rough around the edges and if F1 wanted to hold a Portuguese GP, Algarve would probably get the nod ahead of Estoril.

The home of the Indian GP for three years between 2011 and 2013 was actually a superb track and made for some decent racing – even if Sebastian Vettel dominated all three events. It fell off the calendar for logistical, financial, and political reasons and has hosted very few major events since. Earlier this year, the track was closed due to a land dispute.

Is it feasible?
Absolutely not. As cool as it would be to see F1 back in India, it’s not going to happen anytime soon – and certainly not at this track at such short notice. Even if the track hadn’t been closed, it’d probably need a bit of a revamp to be ready for F1 – the back straight recently developed a bit of a jump

The Hermann Tilke-designed Buriram circuit opened in 2014 and has attracted major series like Super GT and MotoGP. Unlike many modern circuits, it has a nice simple layout with just 11 proper corners and although it’s nor particularly, there are enough straights to allow for F1 cars to overtake each other.

Is it viable?
Perhaps – it’s exactly the sort of location that seems like it could slot into a revised calendar. And with British-Thai driver Alex Albon racing for a top team, there might be a bit more interest in making it happen than before, though. Weather-wise, it’d be possible to stage a race there late in the year, assuming the global situation has calmed down there by then, but it’s hard to imagine F1 looking to host more races in South East Asia other than the ones that are already on the calendar.

Home of the French Grand Prix from 1991 until 2008, Magny-Cours had a fantastic (and slightly quirky) layout, but the positives end there. Not only was it generally quite bad for racing, but the pit lane facilities were quite cramped by moderns standards and circuit accessibility wasn’t great.

Is it viable?
Possibly – Formula 2 tested there as recently as 2018 – but if F1 can get a French Grand Prix in 2020, chances are it’ll be held at Paul Ricard, with its better facilities and likely warmer weather. Seeing a modern F1 car tackle Magny-Cours’ high-speed chicanes would be mega, but don’t bank on it.

No, not the street track that hosted the European GP from 2008-2012, but the tight and twisty permanent circuit that traditionally hosts the MotoGP season finale. It’s been a popular F1 testing venue over the years but has never really threatened to host a full-blown grand prix. That’s a good thing, too – in terms of overtaking opportunities, it makes the Hungaroring look like Bahrain.

Is it viable?
Yeah, it probably is, for similar reasons to the Portuguese tracks: the mild winter temperatures would be a help if European races need to be held late in the year. If not exciting, a one-off race there would be at least be an interesting historical curio.

Another track built in the late 2000s, Aragon has a lot to like about it – long straights, different layout options, elevation changes, and a couple of interesting corners – including one that’s a bit like Laguna Seca’s corkscrew.

Is it viable?
It could be, yeah – it’s a modern circuit that would promise reasonable weather and good racing. If Barcelona can’t reschedule, this’d surely be the next best place for a Spanish race.

A popular venue for GT and endurance racing, the Dubai Autodrome sprung up in the mid-2000s and is… well… a little bit of a soulless and unremarkable circuit, although the first half of the lap looks like it’d be pretty fast in an F1 car.

Is it viable?
Very much so. As well as being a modern facility, it has the added bonus of only being an hour’s drive away from Abu Dhabi, so if races do have to be held behind closed doors, it would be fairly simple to have the two races on back to back weekends, minimising travel for the teams and other F1 personnel.

Amazingly, Ferrari’s own in-house test track has a Grade 1 licence, which is presumably a legacy of the days when Ferrari would test there day in, day out. It’s a cool circuit with a real mix of corners and a Suzuka-style crossover, with lap times that’d be well under a minute.

Is it viable?
I’d put the possibility of a grand prix at Fiorano on roughly the same level of plausibility as I would Jacques Villeneuve making an F1 comeback with a car he designed himself that uses an Xbox controller instead of a steering wheel. In other words, it’s almost certainly going to happen.

It almost seems like sacrilege that in 2007 and 2008, the Japanese GP was held at Fuji and not Suzuka. Sure, Fuji is a pretty decent circuit – thanks to the long straight and tendency for rain – but it’s not quite Suzuka level, is it?

Is it viable?
The weather is probably the only thing that goes against it. A remarkable number of high-profile events – WEC, Super GT, two of the four races F1 has held there – have been seriously affected by biblical rain. Although the track is more than capable of hosting an entertaining grand prix, it’s probably not worth the risk of going there, only for it to end up with cancelled sessions or a shortened race because it’s got too wet.

Is there any recent F1 circuit that’s missed more than Istanbul Park? Home of the Turkish GP from 2005-2011, the track had everything you could want from a Formula 1 circuit – and the quadruple apex Turn 8 was a classic from the first time a car drove around it.

Is it viable?
The track hasn’t hosted a major event in six years and although the circuit is still operational for track days etc, it’d need some investment if it was to actually put on proper motorsport again – let alone F1.

It’s a shame that F1 never took to South Korea as the track, used from 2010-2013, actually had a pretty interesting and challenging layout. The track is still used for regional series and so everything is still in reasonable condition – although some areas would probably be a bit bumpy in an F1 car.

Is it viable?
Unlikely. It’s a long way to go for an awkward race and the circuit owners didn’t seem too unhappy about severing ties with F1 in the first place.

One of the newest tracks on the list, Kuwait’s first permanent motorsport venue was designed by Hermann Tilke and only opened in 2019. The layout looks pretty spectacular, with three long straights separated by what seems to be a never-ending series of fast corners – there are barely any straights to speak of from Turn 2 until Turn 19.

Is it viable?
Why not? Being located in the Middle East should guarantee decent winter weather and means it could be combined with other races in the region to help reduce travel.

Another new circuit, the Kymi Ring in Finland only opened in August last year and is supposed to host a MotoGP round this year. The circuit has also expressed an interest hosting what would be a very long overdue Finnish GP in F1.

Is it viable?
Probably not. Weather-wise, there’s a fairly small window where it’d be warm enough for a race there to be feasible and other existing races which have been postponed would surely have priority. One to watch for the future, though…

Another circuit in the Gulf which has been operating quietly and consistently since it opened in 2004, hosting series as diverse as MotoGP, World Touring Cars and GP2 Asia. It’s a dreadful track layout but in terms of facilities, it’s all there – it could even host a race at night if desired.

Is it viable?
Absolutely. Throw in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, plus the other Grade 1 circuits in the region (Kuwait and Dubai) and it’s very easy to visualise the F1 circus going out to the Middle East for six weeks or so and squeezing in five races.

Another new circuit which only opened in 2019, the Tilke-designed Igora Drive (located in north-west Russia near the border with Finland) is part of a proper motorsport complex which already added DTM, W Series, and World Rallycross to its 2020 schedule before everything went crazy. It’s also fairly short for a modern circuit – at just over four kilometres, it’s shorter than every circuit on the current F1 calendar bar Monaco.

Is it viable?
Yes, but potentially only if Sochi decides to drop out. It’s been reported that the circuit could take over as host of the Russian GP as soon as next year, but hosting a race so far north so late in the year might be a bit of a risk in a shortened and condensed calendar.

This forgettable circuit opened in 2012 and has hosted quite a few major series – Renault World Series, DTM, and the GT1 World Championship to name just some

Is it viable?
If, for some reason, F1 really needs to hold a Russian Grand Prix this year, and both Sochi and Igora Drive are unable to do so, then maybe. But can you really see that situation happening?

Italy has so many epic tracks and Mugello is up there with the best of them. F1 had a test there in 2012 and the drivers loved its flowing turns, which have long been a favourite with their two-wheeled equivalents as the home of the Italian round of the MotoGP championship.

Is it viable?
Theoretically, yes, but once again it’s not the track itself that means it’s unlikely. Any F1 races in Italy will probably be at Monza or Imola before Mugello is considered – and that’s assuming the country wants to host any races this year at all, given how it’s been so badly hit by Covid-19.

Hockenheim has been the on-and-off host of the German GP for the last few years and when its contract ran out in 2018, it looked like that would be that – only Mercedes’ decision to bankroll the race saw it go ahead in 2019, producing an all-time classic in the process.

Is it viable?
Yeah, if it was needed and if the costs of putting on an emergency, one-off event were reasonable, it’s not hard to see the possibility of the German GP clinging to life with one more race.

The Nurburgring GP circuit hasn’t hosted F1 since 2013, which is a bloody shame. Yes, Hockenheim is probably better for racing, but we really miss the old-school feel of the Nurburgring, with its fast, sweeping bends and dramatic elevation changes.

Is it viable?
With no German GP on the calendar this year, it’s probably not on the FIA’s radar – Hockenheim would be a more logical choice if needed.

The best Tilke circuit (don’t @ me), the Malaysian GP dropped off the calendar after the 2017 race due to the huge costs associated with hosting the race and the lack of fans attending due to the popularity of the nearby Singapore event.

Is it viable?
Yeah. But, like Buriram, it’s unlikely F1 will attempt to include any more races in South East Asia than necessary – especially one that appears to have washed its hands of the sport.

Jerez last held a Grand Prix in 1997, but it’s layout isn’t best suited to single-seater racing and in F1 terms, it’s worked better as a test venue in recent years.

Is it viable?
As with other tracks on the Iberian peninsula, the prospect of winter sun means that it could easily host a race in October or November. Like Valencia, it probably wouldn’t be the best race, but it’d certainly be better than nothing.

IMS produced decent races during its eight-year stint as home of the US GP from 2000-2007, although the moment the farcical 2005 race took place, its days were clearly numbered. It wasn’t the best-loved F1 venue in the first place.

Is it viable?
No, probably not. Although new owner Roger Penske is open to the possibility of F1 returning, this year the track will be too busy trying to squeeze in the other major events that have been postponed – the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 – before it considers adding an F1 weekend into the mix. In addition, the Grade 1 certification was issued for the old road course layout, which has since changed quite a bit and may need to be reevaluated.

Top image (c) XPB Images

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