Night races are relatively new to Formula 1, but they have made a regular appearance on the calendar ever since the first one was held in Singapore in 2008. Formula 1 races are sometimes hosted at night and sometimes during the day, so it’s reasonable to wonder what F1 races are at night.
The 4 F1 races that are at night are:
- Abu Dhabi
Formula 1 might be looking to add even more night races in the future, but there will always be circuits that are limited to hosting races during the day. Below, we take a deep dive into the night races in F1, and we discuss how night racing affects the drivers.
Which F1 Races Are Held At Night?
There are only 4 races on the F1 calendar that are held at night. These are special events, and the fact that they are not a common occurrence is what makes them so unique in the sport. Having just a select number of night races prevents them from becoming boring for the fans.
Night races are something special in Formula 1 because they present the drivers with a unique challenge. Formula 1 cars do not have headlights, so it’s crucial for the race venue to have extremely powerful floodlights that are bright enough to light up the entire race track.
Formula 1’s night races present a unique aesthetic that’s different from any other form of motorsport. It’s rare to see these cars at nighttime, especially when they are going at full speed. There’s often a lot more that the spectators can see, such as the sparks underneath the cars, the ERS warning lights on top of the cars, and the harvesting lights at the back of the cars.
Hosting a night race is also a challenge on the circuit itself as they need to ensure that their facilities, marshals, and organization are all up to scratch. With the limited visibility at night, even with all the right tools in place, it’s already much more difficult than a race that is held during daylight hours.
Bahrain has been on the Formula 1 calendar since 2004 and it has been a frequent season opener for the F1 season. However, the race used to be hosted during the daytime. Despite Bahrain being in the Middle East, they got away with hosting the Grand Prix just before the summer months came around which meant that the temperature was still relatively cool.
There were a couple of occasions where the heat truly got to the drivers and teams, and we often saw engine failures and drivers struggling in the intense desert heat. This is not a good thing, especially with the limit on the number of engines that drivers have during the season.
For the 10-year anniversary of the Bahrain Grand Prix, the race was hosted at night. The 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix was the first at the circuit to be hosted at nighttime, and only the third Formula 1 night race venue in the history of the sport.
Ever since then, the race has been hosted at night, and many of the drivers, teams, and spectators agree that it is now a much better race. Thanks to the strong floodlights that were installed all around the Bahrain circuit, the cars look truly unique.
The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is a new addition to the Formula 1 calendar, making its debut in 2021. This race was planned to be a night race from the start. The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix has seen its fair share of controversies though, with many in the Formula 1 community disliking the narrow and high-speed nature of the track.
Singapore had the honor of hosting the first ever Formula 1 night race in the history of the sport. Formula 1 had raced in Singapore previously at the Thomson Road circuit, but the Marina Bay Street Circuit was set out just for modern Formula 1 cars, and it was also lined with high-power floodlights.
The floodlights are so strong that they can light up the entire track, making it visible from the surrounding skyscrapers. Formula 1 would only race on a track if the visibility was excellent, so the Singapore Grand Prix organizers faced the challenge of making it look like it was daytime, but at night in the city streets.
In 2008 the first ever F1 night race was held. Drivers did not have any issues with the visibility, and the tight, twisty street circuit became a staple of the Formula 1 calendar, as well as a firm favorite among fans and drivers.
The idea behind the Singapore night race first came about because of the climate in the country. Singapore is known for hot and humid weather, and hosting the race at nighttime would provide a little bit of relief for the drivers – despite it still being one of the most physically challenging races on the calendar.
The Yas Marina Circuit has become famous for being the finale of the Formula 1 season. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has hosted the final race of the season multiple times ever since it was first introduced onto the Formula 1 calendar in 2009.
However, there’s something unique about the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and it’s not just a standard night race. The race starts at dusk and finishes at nighttime. The late afternoon start still provides drivers with enough sunlight to see and gives the sense of a daytime race. As the race goes on though, the floodlights come on and the drivers eventually finish the race at nighttime.
This provides the driver with a unique challenge though. Since the race starts at dusk the drivers often have to battle with the sunset. Even though the track is built in such a way that the sun does not shine directly into the drivers’ eyes, adapting to the fading light is still difficult.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been known for its theatrics, with a hotel running across the circuit that provides its very own light show, a miniature harbor in the final sector close to the hotel, and lots of fireworks after the Grand Prix as it’s usually where the World Champion is crowned.
The first race of the 2022 season was a night race in Abu Dhabi
Hosting a night race in F1 is a challenge for the venues
Night races make for great entertainment, as fans see the cars in a new light
The final race of the season at Abu Dhabi is at night
When Was The First Night Race In F1?
The first ever night race in F1 was at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. F1 had never hosted a night race before because F1 cars do not have headlights. This makes it extremely challenging for a night race to be held as powerful and expensive floodlights need to be placed all around the track.
The organizers of the Singapore Grand Prix had specially designed floodlights put in place all around the Marina Bay Street Circuit. 1,600 of these custom-built floodlights were put in place around the circuit with each of them being up to 4 times more powerful than the lights found at a standard sports stadium.
Getting The Lighting Right
The other challenge was that the floodlights had to be positioned in such a way that they do not cause glare on the drivers’ visors while driving. There was also the issue of glare and reflections that had to be addressed when it came to the trackside cameras for the global live broadcast.
The race was a success though, and the Marina Bay Circuit quickly became a fan favorite. The Singapore Grand Prix has remained on the Formula 1 calendar ever since, with the exception of the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Are F1 Night Races More Challenging For Drivers?
F1 night races present a new challenge for the drivers. This was a worry for many people when the first Formula 1 night race came around in 2008, but the drivers ultimately were able to complete the race and have been showing their skills at night races ever since.
Visibility is normally not an issue due to the incredibly powerful floodlights that have been put up around the circuits. When looking at the circuit from a helicopter or a nearby skyscraper it is clear that visibility on the track is great. In fact, drivers can often see better than during the daytime because of the perfectly positioned light sources.
When asked about the challenges that they face when driving at night races, most drivers say that it doesn’t make much of a difference to them whether they race during the day or at night. For the most part, it’s a bigger difference for the spectators watching at the track and on TV.
The only real challenge that drivers could face is a shift in their routines. Drivers are normally programmed to race at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, but night races mean they have to race much later on a Sunday than they are used to. This means they need to prepare at different times of the day, but realistically it doesn’t affect them much.
Why Does F1 Race At Night?
F1 races at night primarily because it adds something different to the calendar of races. In some countries, the heat during the day time means it’s only really feasible to race at night. However, there is an entertainment factor too, as the cars look incredible under the floodlights.
Formula 1 night races have become more and more common in recent years. Ever since the first night race held in 2008, there have been new night races added, and even some daytime races converted to night races, such as the Bahrain Grand Prix for example.
Other Racing Series
We don’t see much European racing taking place at night. We often see nighttime races in endurance series such as the World Endurance Championship (WEC). However, the difference is that these cars have headlights, and they are able to see where they are going without massive floodlights around the track.
The majority of European circuits are very long and do not have floodlights around them like the state-of-the-art Middle Eastern circuits or the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore. This would make it impossible for Formula 1 to host night races at these venues in their current states.
The first main reason Formula 1 sometimes races at night is because of the climate. This is the reason the first ever Formula 1 night race was brought in at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. Due to the hot and humid climate in the country, the organizers decided it would be best to host the race at nighttime.
Other night races are also held in areas that have hotter climates. The Middle Eastern races are in the desert, and despite not being held in the summer months, they can still easily reach more than 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) in ambient air temperature.
These temperatures put a lot of strain on the drivers and on the cars, which is an unnecessary risk to take in the budget-focused environment of modern F1. Teams don’t want to push their engines too hard at the start of the season, and in areas where the climate is very warm, racing at night can help to alleviate the concerns that some of the engineers might have.
Despite racing at nighttime, the Singapore Grand Prix is still considered to be the most physically demanding and draining event of the year. The hot and humid conditions are only slightly better during the evening, and drivers often end the toughest race of the year exhausted.
Another reason Formula 1 races are held at night is because of the spectacle. For decades we have seen Formula 1 cars racing during the daytime, and seeing them racing at night is something unique that we don’t get to experience often.
F1 cars look different at night, with liveries coming alive under the floodlights and sparks lighting up the track
For the entire Formula 1 community, including the teams and the drivers, a night race is a special event. Night races have often been reserved for special occasions such as the season finale or the season opener. But regardless of when the night races occur, they are truly spectacular to watch.
Why Doesn’t F1 Race At Night All The Time?
F1 doesn’t race at night all the time because night races require incredibly expensive facilities, and most race tracks are unable to provide the required features such as the powerful floodlights around their circuit in order to host a night race safely.
If you consider the likes of Spa and Monza, placing enough floodlights to light up the entire circuit would require millions of dollars in investments, which is money that these race tracks simply do not have. With that said, there is nothing wrong with racing during the daytime.
If Formula 1 were to increase the number of night races on the calendar they would lose that special and unique feeling that they have brought to the Formula 1 community for so many years. It would take away from the marvel of Formula 1 night races.
It is best for Formula 1 to keep the number of night races low to ensure that they remain special events rather than simply becoming another gimmick of the Formula 1 calendar that is used to shake things up.
The night races on the current Formula 1 calendar are Bahrain, Jeddah, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi. Night races are unique because of the fact that there are so few of them. The track needs to have 4,000+ custom-made flood lights all around the circuit to ensure visibility is high.