Street circuits are some of the most challenging and exciting tracks on the Formula 1 calendar. The narrow nature of street circuits means that Formula 1 drivers have little room for error, but which F1 races take place on street circuits?
F1 races that are on street circuits include Albert Park in Australia, Monaco, Baku City Circuit, Marina Bay Circuit in Singapore and the purpose built Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Saudi Arabia. Street circuits offer a unique experience for drivers, teams and fans.
Street circuits are unique in the sport because teams need to adapt their car setups and drivers need to adapt their driving styles. Below, we take a look at the different street circuits on the F1 calendar in more detail. But first, we must consider what makes an F1 track a street circuit.
What Makes An F1 Track A Street Circuit?
An F1 track is a street circuit if it is made up wholly or partly of closed off sections of public roads. As an example, the Monaco racetrack is open as a public road year round and is only closed off for the Grand Prix weekend, but some street circuits are also purpose built racetracks.
Street circuits are often extremely narrow and have close barriers on either side. There is usually limited space in the runoff areas, which means that making a mistake can have severe consequences. For example, Monaco’s tight walls have claimed many victims in the past, most recently Charles Leclerc after he claimed pole position.
Fans love a good street circuit because of the high stakes involved and the drama it can cause. Street circuits can be a great equalizer in Formula 1 as the tightness of the circuit tends to put more focus on the driver’s skill and bravery rather than the car. We saw this equalizing effect in 2021 when Mercedes struggled at the street circuits, but excelled everywhere else.
However, the cars can still make a big difference, especially if they’ve got a good amount of downforce for the variety of corners, both high and low speed. The other factor that makes street circuits so challenging is the headaches they cause for engineers in terms of setting up the car.
Most standard Formula 1 circuits are purpose built for racing, which means that they are more setup-friendly for the cars and engineers. However, street circuits are not altered or specially designed. Instead, they are simply public roads that have been closed off, which is not ideal for a Formula 1 car.
Because of the mix of low and high speed corners, along with narrow tracks, street circuits present unique challenges for the engineers that must constantly try to balance speed and power with aerodynamics and drivability.
Not Always Slower
For a long period of time Albert Park and Monaco had been the only street circuits on the Formula 1 calendar. However, soon enough more were added, such as Singapore and Baku. In the past, street circuits have been known as “slower” circuits, especially Monaco.
The tight and narrow nature of the track means that the cars have to drive significantly slower than they would on a standard racing circuit. Albert park was also not the fastest circuit on the calendar even though is a big step up in pace from Monaco.
However, once Singapore and Baku came around it proved that street circuits aren’t necessarily slower than traditional circuits. The Baku City Circuit holds the record for the highest (unofficial) speed attained during a Grand Prix weekend when Valtteri Bottas achieved a top speed of 234.9 miles per hour in 2016.
A Lot More Work
Street circuits are not only a challenge for the teams and the drivers, but also for the organizers. Street circuits require a lot more work to be put in, with the public roads having to be blocked off.
On top of that, grandstands need to be put up, and a paddock area and team garages also need to be put in place. This can lead to a huge amount of work that needs to be done by a large team of people, which of course will also cost a lot more.
The difference is that with traditional racing circuits, everything has already been built and much of it stays in place outside of the race weekend. It’s a lot less work to put everything up and take everything down each year at a permanent F1 track. For example, it takes around 6 weeks to prepare the streets of Monaco for a Grand Prix.
How Many F1 Races Are On Street Circuits?
The 7 F1 races on street circuits are:
- Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Saudi Arabia
- Albert Park Circuit, Australia
- Miami International Autodrome, USA
- Circuit de Monaco, Monaco
- Baku City Circuit, Azerbaijan
- Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Canada
- Marina Bay Circuit, Singapore
Some fans may have their doubts about some of these circuits actually being street circuits, so it’s important to outline a few caveats to this list. First, there are a few circuits that are clearly street circuits, namely Albert Park, Monaco, Baku, and Singapore. These F1 tracks consist of real roads that are used throughout the rest of the year by the general public.
A Few Caveats
The street circuits in Jeddah and Miami are both purpose built racetracks designed to race like street circuits, with narrow tracks and minimal runoff space. So, while they weren’t born out of public roads, they’re still classed as street circuits, and they largely feel like street circuits to the drivers, albeit a fair bit faster than some of the others.
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve contains aspects of street circuits, with it being on Notre Dame Island in Montreal. While the track doesn’t consist of roads used as regularly as other street circuits, it is still classed as a street track and has plenty of street characteristics.
Not Always Very Popular
There’s no set rule for how many of Formula 1’s races each season are hosted on street circuits. It completely depends on which circuits are able to land the contract with Formula 1 and stay on the calendar.
However, street circuits gained popularity ever since the spectacular Singapore Grand Prix was added to the calendar in 2008. Street circuits have now found a firm place on the Formula 1 calendar and teams, fans and drivers look forward to them each year.
Is The Canadian Grand Prix A Street Circuit?
The Gilles Villeneuve circuit in Canada is a street circuit, but it is a bit of a grey area when it comes to being a true street track. It’s a confusing situation as the circuit is a bit of a hybrid between a full on street circuit and a permanent circuit.
On one hand, part of the circuit is open year round and you are able to use it in various ways, with it only being blocked off for the Grand Prix weekend. You can drive around in a road car, cycle, or jog around the circuit. In this sense, the Gilles Villeneuve circuit is a street circuit, and it meets the criteria.
On the other hand, the Gilles Villeneuve circuit is permanent and remains partly closed. In addition, the island which the circuit is built on is not used as often as you might expect. The Gilles Villeneuve Circuit is therefore a bit of a hybrid between a street circuit and a traditional permanent circuit.
Which F1 Races In 2022 Are On Street Circuits?
There are a total of 7 street circuits on the 2022 Formula 1 calendar. This includes the Gilles Villeneuve circuit in Canada, and both the purpose built tracks in Jeddah and Miami, along with the ‘proper’ street circuits of Monaco, Baku, Singapore and Australia.
Street circuits have mostly gained traction in the past decade or so, with the majority of them being added in the past ten years. The success of the Marina Bay circuit in Singapore could arguably have been the catalyst for this new surge in street circuits.
Many teams, drivers and fans look forward to street circuits in particular. For fans, it’s often a drama-filled event full of action. For teams, it can be an extreme challenge in terms of getting their cars set up correctly. And for drivers, it’s a good opportunity to test out their skills and bravery against the competition. Let’s take a closer look at each of the street circuits in 2022.
Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Saudi Arabia
The Jeddah Corniche circuit was brand new for 2021 and had only finished construction about a week before Formula 1 was scheduled to race there. It was branded as the fastest ever street circuit in Formula 1, and it definitely is. Although purpose built as a permanent racetrack, it has many aspects of a street circuit and is branded as one.
The Jeddah circuit is tight, narrow, and extremely fast. Many drivers, teams and fans complained that the circuit was too dangerous for Formula 1, with the high speeds and the blind corners causing blind spots on the circuit that could lead to very dangerous scenarios. In the end we didn’t see any major incidents at the 2021 GP, but there were some close calls.
Albert Park, Australia
Albert Park might look like a traditional circuit, but it is very much a street circuit. Throughout the year the circuit is used by road cars and cyclists on a daily basis. It’s closed off during a Formula 1 weekend and attracts massive crowds when it comes to the Grand Prix.
Albert Park has been on the Formula 1 calendar since 1996 and it has been featured as the season opener for multiple seasons. In the recent past, races at Albert Park were the first time that we got to see each season’s brand new cars in action.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case in 2020 or 2021 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Albert Park is back on the calendar for 2022 with an upgraded circuit and a brand new layout.
Miami International Autodrome, USA
The Miami circuit is the third street race on the 2022 F1 calendar, and it’s the second purpose built street track. While not a traditional street circuit by any means, the Miami track is built to be just like one. With narrow sections and minimal runoff, the Miami track is essentially a purpose built street circuit.
Circuit de Monaco, Monaco
The Monaco Grand Prix is the oldest circuit on the Formula 1 calendar, as it first opened in 1929. It first hosted an F1 Grand Prix in F1’s first year – 1950. Back then the cars were much smaller, making the Monaco Grand Prix much livelier than it is today in terms of overtaking.
Formula 1 cars have since outgrown the streets of Monaco, and the current two meter width of the cars makes overtaking nearly impossible on this circuit. Many people have argued that the circuit should be dropped from the calendar because of this reason, as altering it would be a far more costly and difficult option.
However, Monaco can still provide us with plenty of drama and excitement, and its historic place on the F1 calendar means it’s likely to stay there.
Baku City Circuit, Azerbaijan
The Baku City Circuit is a relatively new circuit to the F1 calendar, being added in 2016. The first reception of the circuit’s design was disappointment, with many fans believing that the race would offer nothing in terms of excitement.
The Castle section was especially questionable as the cars would “train” through this section. However, from the very moment that Formula 1 set foot in Baku, we have seen nothing but excitement on this circuit. From drama between Vettel and Hamilton in 2017 to the manic last lap we saw in 2021, there arguably hasn’t been a boring race at Baku.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Canada
We have already mentioned the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and how it may or may not be a street circuit, but we’ve included it here anyway. The circuit certainly offers lots of good racing, but it also just acts much like a street circuit, and it is definitely a fan favorite.
Marina Bay Circuit, Singapore
The Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore was a revolutionary circuit for Formula 1. The first Singapore Grand Prix was held in 2008 and from this very moment it provided a lot of excitement and great racing.
At the time, the Marina Bay Street Circuit was the fastest street circuit on the calendar. However, what made it really special was that it was that it was Formula 1’s first ever night race. This laid the foundation for future night races, with the likes of Bahrain and Abu Dhabi following in later years.
Just like Albert Park, we haven’t seen a Singapore Grand Prix since 2019 as the Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to the sport returning to the country in 2020 and 2021. However, the Marina Bay Circuit returns in 2022.
There are 7 F1 races on street circuits in 2022. Some of these tracks are true street circuits that are used as public roads throughout the year, while others are purpose built street tracks that are simply designed to emulate the look and feel of a true F1 street circuit.