Ultimate Formula 1 tracks are a tale as old as time. Various versions have been conceived by drivers and fans alike on multiple occasions throughout the years, with the goal being to create the ultimate fantasy F1 circuit.
The concept is simple: take a selection of the greatest corners from the greatest tracks, link them together with a few straights, make sure there are enough overtaking zones and boom: you’ve got the best track in the world. In theory, anyway.
I wondered what it’d be like if you did the complete opposite. Instead of a circuit including Eau Rouge, Copse, and The Esses at Suzuka, what if you took the worst aspects of circuits on the current F1 calendar and mashed them together to create a track that nobody in their right mind would wish existed?
It took a bit of thinking: what would actually make a bad circuit? My initial thought was to simply bung together a load of slow corners with no overtaking opportunities. The problem is that the kind of race such a track generates would take on an appeal all of its own – take the unique appeal and challenge of Monaco, for instance, or even the Hungaroring.
No. I figured that the worst kind of track would not only feature a load of boring and uninteresting corners, but still needed to have some overtaking opportunities – albeit ones that are either insanely difficult or laughably easy. Nothing is more frustrating than a DRS zone that doesn’t need to be there, or a potential passing area completely ruined by an unnecessary sequence of corners that only serves to spread the field apart.
After compiling a list of some of F1’s most underwhelming turns and corner sequences, I spent some time trying to arrange them into a layout. After a few adjustments, and removing and adding more corners in order to create a circuit which actually links up, I was done. So please, join me as we go on a tour of the circuit that will leave you longing to watch a race at Paul Ricard. If you need a visual reference, there’s a full track map at the bottom of the article.
The Start/Finish Line
The start of a race is always a chance for thing to be mixed up, for drivers to gain or lose multiple places. The only place where that isn’t really true in Monaco, so that’s where we’re starting.
I feel like the first corner should at least provide some opportunities, so I’ve decided to start the lap with Sochi’s Turn 2. Of course, the horrible thing about that corner is the huge amount of run-off on the exit, the bollard that drivers who go off there are supposed to drive around, and the slight kink left after it which often seems to cause confusion, incidents, and plenty of stewards investigations.
Turns 2 and 3
Here are a couple of turns that I’ve put in to annoy commentators and fans more than the drivers because they’re both numbered corners which aren’t really corners. Turn 2 is Turn 15 from Bahrain – the slight kink right that is really just part of the exit of the final proper corner – while Turn 3 is Turn 2 from the Red Bull Ring, the gentle left sweep on the run up the hill which is nothing to an F1 car (but is very much a corner on a MotoGP bike, hence why it’s recognised with a number).
The Back Straight
Now we’re on to the longest straight on the circuit. You can’t judge a straight line as inherently good or bad, but you can judge whether or not a DRS zone is decent. So I wondered: what is the worst DRS zone in F1? The answer surely has to be the one on the Kemmel straight at Spa. If ever a section of track didn’t need a DRS zone, it’s that one.
This is where the bulk of the overtaking is likely to happen on this fantasy circuit, so have fun trying to enjoy awful DRS passes that are impossible to defend from and which are completed long before the next corner.
Turns 4 to 8
On the rare occasion that a battle does reach the braking zone for the next corner, I wondered what would be the worst way to kill that fight. Macau’s permanently yellow-flagged Melco hairpin would be ideal, but that’s not an F1 circuit. How about Baku’s ridiculously narrow castle section? Yeah, that’ll do. There’s surely no way drivers will contemplate going side by side through a corner where it’s almost completely impossible, and the risk of ending up in the wall after trying to brake on the dusty, off-line section piece of tarmac on the inside would be astronomical.
A quick flick left through the Singapore Sling – once a clumsy chicane with lethal kerbs, now just a nothing corner that’s barely worth talking about.
After a short straight, drivers head into Turn 10, modelled on the final corner at Shanghai – a turn I’ve always found incredibly frustrating and difficult to get right on sims.
Turns 11 to 14
Any hopes of getting a run out of Turn 10 will be quashed as we enter Turns 4-7 from Paul Ricard – a nice fiddly section to break up any flow that might have accidentally been generated by the previous corners.
We’re into a fast section of track now, but we’re trying to kill any overtaking opportunities by sticking Turn 19 from COTA at the end of a short straight. As well as being a tough place to overtake, it’ll also generate plenty of track limits investigations and controversies, something we all love talking about. Being quite a quick corner, the dirty air from the cars will also cause any following drivers to drop back, once again ending any hopes of passing on the following straight.
I use the term ‘straight’ loosely because I’ve actually gone with Monaco’s tunnel section, mainly because it’s a fast piece of race track where DRS is banned from being used, once again making it tough to overtake.
Turns 17 to 19
Tough to overtake, but not impossible, because I’ve stuck in the clumsy, off-cambered Turn 11-13 chicane from Abu Dhabi. Mind you, with the narrowness of the Monaco tunnel heading into such a tight corner, sending one up the inside and making it stick without running off the circuit and getting some sort of penalty will be incredibly tough.
Turns 20 and 21
We’re keeping the speed nice and slow here with a couple more uninspiring 90-degree corners – Turns 13 and 14 from Sochi.
Turns 22 to 24
By now, you’re wishing the cars could speed up and visually, it looks like that will be possible as ahead of you lies a sweeping right-hander. But nope, I’m going to deny you, because now it’s time for the woeful chicane that closes out the lap at Barcelona and ruins the nice fast corners.
This ends perhaps the most hateful section of the circuit – an endless stream of slow corners which prevent F1 cars from being able to do what they do best.
Not far from the end of the lap now, the penultimate corner of the Hungaroring leads into a short straight as the overheated tyres cry enough.
The circuit switches back on itself with another hairpin. Hairpins can be interesting in their own right, so I’ve chosen the slightly forgettable, weird squared-off double-apex… thing… that is Turn 6 at Mexico.
Turns 27 to 29
Imagine. You’re chasing down another car for the lead on the last lap of the race. You’ve got through almost the entire lap and you’ve stayed close to them, through the fast left of Turn 15, through the tunnel, and through the Mickey Mouse slow corners of the Abu Dhabi/Sochi/Barcelona section. You’ve somehow kept your tyre temperatures low enough to get enough traction for a decent run out of Turn 26 onto a straight. You’ve got once chance to make a move.
The problem is, the last corner sequence is based on Turns 5 to 7 from Abu Dhabi – the reasonably quick chicane before the hairpin which has ruined more overtaking opportunities than team orders in the Ferrari garage. Game over.
And that’s it. That’s the lap. You pull out of the final hairpin and onto the Monaco pit straight, forced to be put through the entire ordeal again.
Here’s the complete circuit map.
Is this the worst possible circuit? Maybe, maybe not – you might have a different idea of what it might look like. Either way, it’d be impossible to tell without actually building the thing in real life and hosting races there. Besides, if it was actually to scale and you took things like elevation changes into account, it probably wouldn’t even be possible.
But this is a fantasy circuit, so we can forget about things like that. It’s probably best to forget about this circuit, too, so please excuse me while I go and watch some onboard laps of Suzuka to cleanse my mind. I suggest you do the same.