The Bathurst 1000 is a famous race that is held annually at the Mount Panorama racetrack in New South Wales, Australia. The circuit is often referred to as Bathurst, however it is actually called Mount Panorama Racing Circuit. But could F1 ever race at Bathurst?
F1 could not race at Bathurst in its current condition. The Mount Panorama racetrack in Bathurst is rated FIA Grade 3 which means that it lacks the necessary Grade 1 requirements to host a Formula 1 race. The barriers around the circuit are solid concrete and there is not enough runoff space.
Many Australian Formula 1 fans have called for Bathurst to replace Albert Park on the F1 calendar. However, this will likely never happen in the future as drastic changes would need to be made, and we take a look at some of these changes in detail below.
Why Can’t F1 Race At Bathurst?
F1 can’t race at Bathurst as the Mount Panorama circuit is only FIA Grade 3. For F1 to race at Bathurst major changes would need to be made to the track layout, runoff areas, and safety barriers to take it up to FIA Grade 1, the required grade for a track to be able to host an F1 race.
There are several important reasons a Formula 1 race can’t be hosted at Bathurst. These are important to consider, and although the circuit can be changed and adapted to better suit Formula 1 cars, it’s highly unlikely that it would happen.
In order to make the necessary changes to the circuit, the Mount Panorama organizers would probably need to invest over $50 million. This is mainly because of the nature of the circuit and that it is outdated in terms of its FIA safety standards.
Bathurst is an old school, dangerous and fast paced racetrack, and these normally don’t survive in F1. The Nordschleife was taken away, Spa was redesigned, and there are many more examples of circuits that were either removed from the calendar or altered in one way or another.
The first element to consider as to why Formula 1 likely won’t make its way to Bathurst anytime soon is the speed of the circuit. Bathurst, despite being a narrow and twisty street circuit, has an incredibly fast average speed.
V8 Supercars can have an average speed of 110 miles per hour or more around a lap. Formula 1 cars would be much faster, and the section at the top of the mountain would be the most dangerous. Formula 1 cars would likely be running at average speeds of around 150 miles per hour, and one mistake could cause a serious crash.
In 2008 Paul Radisich had a horrific crash in the V8 Supercar series that ended his career. He was only going 130 miles per hour, and he went through a gravel trap on his way to the barriers as well. In comparison, a Formula 1 car could easily be doing close to 200 miles per hour going into the same corner.
Nature Of The Circuit
The Mount Panorama circuit is a tight, narrow, and twisty street circuit with an undulating “Mountain” section. The circuit itself is exciting for drivers and fans alike, and it presents a real challenge for the drivers and teams.
The circuit is dangerous and exhilarating, and unfortunately that’s not what F1 wants. In order to host a race here, the concrete barriers would need to be replaced with tire barriers, the hills on the side of the circuit (the iconic landmark of the Mount Panorama circuit) would need to be filled in to create gravel traps, and the circuit itself would likely need a redesign and resurface.
All in all, hosting Formula 1 would ruin the old school nature of the Mount Panorama racetrack, much like it did with Spa. While Formula 1 circuits look stunning, they’re not as exciting as they used to be because they need to have the maximum safety requirements in place.
In order to make the Mount Panorama racetrack safer, there are a few different things that would need to be changed. Overall, the track would need to be upgraded from its current FIA Grade 3 rating to FIA Grade 1 in order to host a Formula 1 race.
The gravel traps would need a serious upgrade to be able to handle Formula 1 cars, and some sections of the circuit would need to be revised to slow the cars down, especially when coming down the mountain section.
Overall, the safety of modern-day Formula 1 circuits is top priority for the FIA, and they won’t consider a circuit that doesn’t come close to their standards. It would cost an eye-watering amount of money for the circuit to be adapted, all of which Mount Panorama circuit would need to generate back in ticket sales.
The Mount Panorama circuit is too narrow to host a Formula 1 race, and this is another thing that would need to be changed. Even V8 Supercars, which are much smaller than F1 cars, often hit the barriers or lose their wing mirrors.
In a similar incident, a Formula 1 car could lose a wheel tether or break its suspension, leaving the stationary car in the middle of the circuit. This might sound like Monaco, but Monaco has better systems in place to remove cars that have crashed.
Another downside to the narrow circuit is that we’d probably see some boring races. It might be exciting to watch the cars flying around Mount Panorama, but following another car and overtaking would be extremely difficult if Formula 1 went to Bathurst.
Location Of The Circuit
Another important element that Formula 1 considers when choosing a track for their calendar is the location of the circuit. Unfortunately, the Mount Panorama circuit in Australia is relatively remote, which is a deal breaker for Formula 1.
Since Formula 1 is a series that travels all around the world, logistics is an important factor that they must consider with the races that they go to. The circuits need to be easily accessible, and they can’t be too far from an airport or harbor.
Formula 1 has a lot of equipment, cars, and staff to transport, which is difficult to do if you need to travel a long way from an airport to get to the circuit. This factor is another downfall for the Mount Panorama circuit in terms of ever hosting F1.
What Would It Take For F1 To Race At Bathurst?
In order for Bathurst to host a Formula 1 race they would need to upgrade their circuit and make some big changes. The overall aim would be to upgrade the circuit from FIA Grade 3 standard to FIA Grade 1 standard.
This would require the Mount Panorama circuit to invest millions of dollars into redesigning the circuit and resurfacing the tarmac. The current layout of the track also just does not suit Formula 1 cars and it would make it too difficult and dangerous for them to drive on.
Several of the barriers on top of the mountain section would need to be removed and replaced with tire barriers or TECPRO barriers. The current concrete barriers would destroy a Formula 1 car and it would put the driver’s life at risk since the cars would be traveling close to 200 miles per hour into the mountain section.
Dealing With The Narrow Circuit
One of the biggest concerns is the mountain section and just how narrow it is, especially with Formula 1 cars in mind. If one car were to crash up there, the entire race would need to be stopped just to remove the car.
Bathurst would likely need to take a page out of Monaco’s book and build several exit roads on each of the corners for cars that suffer reliability issues and have to stop. They would also need a couple of cranes in different areas that can lift the cars off the circuit and out of the way.
This would be a challenge considering how the mountain section can be quite steep and uneven in some sections. The same goes for debris. Formula 1 cars are extremely fragile, and a brush with the barriers could cause a front wing to fly onto the track. With the fast, almost blind corners, marshals would need to wait for a safety car or a red flag to clear debris off the circuit.
Ultimately, marshals would struggle to remove stricken Formula 1 cars, and it may be a race where we would see multiple red flags. This is another factor that needs to be considered if Bathurst wants to host a Formula 1 race in the future, but given that the Bathurst 1000 is still going strong, along with plenty of other racing events, it’s unlikely that it’s even being considered.
Bathurst F1 Lap Record
The unofficial Bathurst lap record is held by a Formula 1 car. It was set by Jenson Button in a McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 in 2011. He set a lap time of 1:48.8 in his McLaren during a Vodafone promo, but the fastest official lap is about 10 seconds slower than this, and not in an F1 car.
The official lap record at Bathurst is 1:59.2, which was set during the 2018 Challenge Bathurst sprint by Chris Mies in a GT3 Spec Audi R8 Ultra. There is a massive difference in lap time between the two cars, and it’s clear that the F1 car could have gone faster.
Since it was a promotional event, Button wasn’t pushing the car to its full potential as he would have during an official race event or during qualifying for example. With a car that is set up correctly for the circuit, it could go even faster.
On top of that, modern day Formula 1 cars are much faster than the previous generations. 2011 Formula 1 cars lacked the downforce and top speed of the current cars, due to the regulations of that season. A modern Formula 1 car probably be up to 10 seconds faster around Bathurst.
F1 could only ever race at Bathurst if the circuit was upgraded from FIA Grade 3 to FIA Grade 1. This would take significant investment, and it is unlikely that this would ever happen. The Mount Panorama circuit is just too fast and too narrow for F1 cars.
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