Formula 1 tracks are some of the best in the world when it comes to the quality of the surfaces and how they have been built. The tracks used in Formula 1 have to meet strict standards set by the FIA, and this can leave many fans wondering how F1 tracks are maintained.
F1 tracks are maintained by large teams of people doing various jobs. The track may need resurfacing, barriers might need to be rebuilt and secured, drainage needs to be up to standard, lighting and facilities need to be maintained, and lines and kerbs need to be repainted all before an F1 race.
It’s crucial that Formula 1 tracks are constantly updated and maintained. If a circuit lets its maintenance slip, the track’s quality will decline rapidly, and soon enough, Formula 1 won’t be making a return to the track. Below, we cover in detail how these tracks get maintained.
What Are F1 Tracks Made Of?
Most F1 tracks are made of asphalt, which is specifically designed to be smoother than the average road. Some circuits use similar tarmac as your average road, which can work well for Formula 1 races. Other circuits are made of concrete, with this being more common on older circuits.
Formula 1 tracks are a mixed bag when it comes to the surfaces, and each one is unique. From the public streets of Monaco to the perfectly smooth asphalt of COTA, drivers and teams face a challenge at every venue in terms of the levels of grip, degradation, and tire wear that they will experience.
The majority of F1 tracks are made of asphalt. This material, and the way that the track is surfaced, is much smoother than your average roads. It’s also designed in such a way that it gives the tires more grip, but more grip also means more tire wear.
Street circuits such as Monaco and Singapore use the tarmac that your average daily road car drives on, and this is often good enough for a Formula 1 car as long as there are no major bumps on the surface and provided it’s in top condition.
Some circuits, especially the older tracks, are made of concrete. Concrete is much smoother, meaning it gives the car less grip than abrasive asphalt, but asphalt is much easier and faster to lay.
Why Are Concrete Tracks Not Used In F1 Anymore?
Concrete racetracks are still incredibly popular in the United States, with many drivers in NASCAR and IndyCar preferring concrete tracks over asphalt tracks. There are two main benefits to having concrete tracks over asphalt ones.
The first benefit is that it usually lasts longer than asphalt. This means there is much less maintenance required and the surface of the track lasts much longer than that of an asphalt racetrack.
The other benefit that concrete tracks have is that they provide more consistent grip levels than asphalt. This is mainly because of the fact that the concrete does not heat up or cool down as quickly as the asphalt tracks do. Track surface temperatures have a huge impact on the amount of grip the drivers get from their tires.
However, asphalt is more abrasive and gives the car more grip, even if that grip changes a lot with temperature. The tires used in Formula 1 need to reach higher temperatures to provide the driver with grip, so a track that allows drivers to heat their tires up faster is often preferred.
Are F1 Tracks Permanent?
F1 tracks are usually permanent, although there are some temporary street tracks. It can cost $200 million or more to build one, and so it’s a major investment. It would also cost millions to deconstruct it, which is why most racetracks, not just F1 tracks, are permanent.
One Formula 1 track that’s been forgotten is the Valencia street circuit, which hosted five races between 2008 and 2012. The circuit was not maintained and never truly offered much good racing. Rather than being taken apart or repurposed, the circuit was abandoned and has simply been left to deteriorate ever since.
No matter how great a circuit is, if it’s not properly maintained and looked after, it will eventually be abandoned. Once the circuit has been abandoned, though, there’s no going back. Like the Valencia street circuit, the tracks become overgrown, tarmac cracks and crumbles, and safety barriers rust and fall apart.
If a company or country decides to build a Formula 1 track, they need to be absolutely sure of it because it will become a permanent feature. Even if the track is not in use anymore and generates no money, there likely won’t be anyone who will pay millions of dollars to destroy it or rebuild it.
How F1 Tracks Deteriorate
When you see a brand new Formula 1 track, it looks beautiful. There are state of the art facilities, smooth tarmac, brightly colored kerbs, and shiny crash barriers. It’s hard to imagine what the track would look like if it was not maintained properly, but there are plenty of examples all around the world.
The first part of the track that will likely go bad is the asphalt itself. Depending on the location of the track, having the sun beating down on the asphalt all day will heat it up to extreme temperatures. In the winter, colder weather will also damage the asphalt, especially if it’s not looked after.
The safety barriers will also begin to deteriorate as the weather conditions move tire barriers around and the Armco barriers rust through the changing seasons. Finally, the painted lines will begin to fade and the paint will start peeling off the kerbs. The grandstands will rust and crumble, paint will begin to peel off any building and facilities, and cracks will begin to show up on their walls.
KEY POINTS• Most F1 tracks are made of asphalt, while some older ones have concrete surfaces
• Almost every F1 track is a permanent racetrack, with the exception of some street circuits
• F1 tracks need regular maintenance or they will deteriorate rapidly
How Are F1 Tracks Maintained?
F1 tracks are maintained through a strict set of procedures. They first have to be cleaned, with drainage being crucial for this. The lights have to be tested and repaired, marshal posts need to be checked and repaired, safety barriers secured, and grass areas need to be trimmed.
Maintaining a Formula 1 track is not an easy task. While we might only see the track once a year, there’s a lot happening behind the scenes in the following 12 months to ensure that the track remains up to the strict standards that Formula 1 sets for them.
The most important part of maintaining a Formula 1 track when it’s not in use is to keep it clean. Drainage is the most important factor here, as the circuit needs to be swept and drained to prevent the water from causing any long-term damage to the asphalt.
The Sides Of The Track
The lighting systems on the side of the circuit need to be tested and repaired if they are faulty. Marshal posts need to be checked and repaired. The safety barriers have to be secured, especially if there have been other motorsport series racing on the same track. Any grass around the circuit needs to be trimmed every couple of weeks, and gravel needs to be swept back into gravel traps.
The facilities are just as important. From grandstands to pit buildings, keeping these areas in order will ensure that money keeps coming into the track. The track needs to be a safe and comfortable place for the fans, drivers, and teams to keep them coming back.
Maintenance During Race Weekends
Maintenance doesn’t stop when the Formula 1 circus arrives. The track needs to be kept up to standard during the course of the weekend too. Oftentimes the track will be swept overnight to clear any dust or standing water off of it, especially if there are no Formula 2 and Formula 3 cars running in between F1 sessions.
In some cases, the track surface can show wear when Formula 1 cars get onto the circuit. This means that a quick fix is needed in order for the race weekend to continue. In this case, the specific part of the track that is causing problems needs to be resurfaced.
Damage Between F1 Sessions
If there are any support races while Formula 1 is in town, there’s always a chance of something going wrong. If a car crashes into the barriers, they will need to be repaired before any racing can continue. As we saw at the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, this can sometimes cause the start of a Formula 1 session to be delayed. Safety is the top priority, and fixing the barrier cannot be rushed.
There’s also the risk of an engine failure causing some oil to spill onto the track. The session will be stopped, and the marshals will pour a special powder over the oil spill to soak it up, after which they sweep the leftover powder away. This section of the track will still be slippery, but it’s much better than driving through a puddle of motor oil!
KEY POINTS• F1 tracks need regular maintenance, from track resurfacing to repainting parts of the circuit
• Off-track facilities need maintenance too, along with things like grass cutting and barrier replacing
• F1 tracks are also maintained during race weekends
Who Is Responsible For F1 Track Maintenance?
The owners of the circuit are the ones responsible for maintaining F1 tracks. The maintenance is performed by workers hired to make sure that everything is in the best shape that it possibly can be in, both before an F1 race weekend and during it in between sessions.
Track maintenance can be expensive, especially when it comes to Formula 1 standards. The owners of the track have to pay millions of dollars to keep their tracks maintained and ensure that it’s ready for Formula 1 cars to race on again in 12 months’ time.
It Varies Between Tracks
There’s very little clear information on the specifics of the maintenance of Formula 1 tracks, and again, each circuit is unique and will have its own processes and systems in place. The owners of the circuit, though, will likely hire professionals in their local area to conduct maintenance on the track.
From electricians to painters and plumbers, Formula 1 tracks create jobs for many different people all around the world when it comes to maintenance. The high maintenance requirements mean that circuits need to be able to hire the best professionals they can find to work on their tracks.
How Much Does It Cost To Maintain An F1 Track?
It likely costs millions of dollars per year to maintain an F1 track on a regular basis. This is on top of the fees circuits have to pay for hosting, which can exceed $20 million per year. These costs are necessary as F1 tracks must be in top condition in order to safely host a race.
It’s unclear exactly how much is spent on a racetrack when it comes to maintenance. However, considering the high standards that the tracks need to meet to host a Formula 1 race, there is no doubt that F1 track owners spend millions of dollars every year in order to maintain their circuits. On top of the maintenance, circuits have to pay millions in hosting fees each season.
The Benefits Of Regular Maintenance
Ultimately, tracks would not last very long if they didn’t make any money from hosting Formula 1 races. There are various benefits that circuits get from keeping their tracks maintained and hosting races, including ticket sales, bringing in tourists, and supporting local businesses.
If the tracks did not make their money back from hosting Formula 1, they would simply host races for other motorsport series such as MotoGP and WEC. Formula 1 might be the more expensive option, but it also brings in the most money.
How Often Are F1 Tracks Resurfaced?
F1 tracks get resurfaced every 10 to 15 years, assuming regular maintenance has been performed over time. Specific sections of the track can be resurfaced rather than doing the whole thing, while some tracks need to be completely resurfaced before F1 returns to race there.
Among all the temperature changes that it goes through each year, an F1 track’s asphalt surface also takes a lot of pressure from the cars, especially if the track is used for other motorsport series such as WEC or sports car racing throughout the year. Most tracks do host events other than F1, so they’re subject to a lot of traffic.
Every 10-15 Years Is Best
The asphalt can eventually begin to crack and crumble, causing trouble for the cars. The general rule is that the track needs to be resurfaced every 10 to 15 years, which is if it has been maintained properly and there hasn’t been standing water lying around for extended periods of time.
In some cases, the track can be resurfaced in specific areas, and this is easy to spot because the newly resurfaced area will be much darker than the rest of the asphalt, which is more faded.
Some tracks may need to be completely resurfaced. This has to be done a couple of months before they plan on hosting the Grand Prix to ensure that the track is ready and has gone through the necessary testing to ensure that it complies with the strict FIA Grade 1 regulations.
Challenges Of A Resurfaced Track
In Formula 1, a newly resurfaced track presents the drivers with unique challenges. When the track has been resurfaced, some of the oils release onto the track when it heats up, causing the surface of the track to become slippery. When the tires slide, they begin to overheat and wear out quicker, meaning drivers must adapt their driving styles.
This effect is exaggerated in the rain too. When it rains, the oil and moisture create a track surface that’s more like ice. The perfect example of this was at the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix, as the Istanbul Park Circuit was newly resurfaced, and cars were already struggling for grip when it started to rain. This led to a very slippery track surface.
KEY POINTS• F1 track owners are responsible for the circuit’s maintenance
• They will have teams of people performing all sorts of maintenance throughout the year
• This can cost millions of dollars, but it’s necessary to keep the track in good condition
• F1 tracks may be resurfaced every 10-15 years
F1 tracks get maintained through a lot of hard work on the part of the owners to ensure that everything is up to FIA standards. The asphalt, the safety barriers, the lights, the marshal posts, and many other aspects all have to be regularly maintained to ensure that the tracks are as safe as can be.
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